The Federal Trade Commission announced some additional coordinated enforcement actions against companies that promised fraudulent debt relief help and interest rate reductions.
In actions that had been under seal, the FTC announced these additional companies have been targets of their sweep.
These additional companies relied on the same violations of the Do Not Call registry and sold programs and services to consumers by charging advance fees for debt relief help or masking the sale under the guise the consumer was really purchasing something like a product or cheap tablet computer.
Regardless of the rouse, these debt relief companies ran into the same basic problems. They failed to provide refunds to customers that had not received the benefits or services promised, and the companies made grand claims for services the consumers could have performed themselves.
The debt relief service was not explained clearly that the companies would simply call the customer service number on the back of the credit card and ask the consumers' credit card companies for an interest rate reduction or apply for new cards in the consumers' name and do a balance transfer for a temporary period of time.
How You Can Avoid Being Scammed by Similar Companies
The lesson to be learned from all of these actions is that any company that tells you they can lower your interest rates for a fee should be suspect. Any consumer considering using such a service should, at the very least, checkout the debt relief company thoroughly using this guide. And use this guide to checkout any company to see if they are legit.
The best protection from being scammed by a debt relief company is an educated and aware consumer. People who do not bother to check the claims or promises of a company before giving over their payment or personal information must accept some responsibility for setting themselves up to be victimized by illegitimate debt relief companies.
Debt experts like myself and regulators like the FTC and groups like the BBB typically get involved after someone has been scammed and it would be much better for people to avoid the scam to begin with.
Here is how the following companies allegedly took advantage of unsuspecting consumers.
Ambrosia Web Design
The FTC took action against Ambrosia Web Design, AWD, Concord Financial Advisors, CAM Services Direct, AFB, Western GPS, Chris Ambrosia, LeRoy Castine, aka Lee Castine.
In this suit filed the FTC alleged that since at least August 2011, Defendants, directly or through their agents or intermediaries, have telemarketed credit card interest rate reduction services to consumers throughout the United States. During these calls, Defendants claim to have the ability to substantially reduce consumers' credit card interest rates. Defendants claim that they can obtain very low interest rates for consumers, even as low as zero percent, and that the reduced interest rate will save consumers a substantial amount of money in interest payments. Defendants promise consumers that they will save a specific amount in interest payments, typically $2500 or more. At the time Defendants make these promises to consumers, Defendants have little or no information about the consumers' creditworthiness or credit history.
Defendants promise many consumers a full or partial refund if Defendants are unable to obtain the promised interest rate reductions or dollar savings. In sales presentations to other consumers, Defendants do not make specific promises regarding refunds, but they also do not affirmatively tell these consumers that Defendants have a no-refund, no-cancellation policy. When consumers later attempt to obtain refunds, cancel participation, or dispute the charges with their credit card issuers, Defendants then claim that they have a no-refund, no-cancellation policy.
During the sales presentations, Defendants often claim to be affiliated with a U.S. government program. They tell consumers there is a federal stimulus program in place to help consumers get out of debt and that Defendants' credit card interest rate reduction services are part of the program. Defendants tell some consumers that they are part of or working with the u.s. government.
Defendants' descriptions of the actual services they will provide to get the lower interest rate for consumers are inconsistent. Sometimes Defendants simply promise to lower consumers' rates without specifying how they will do it. In other instances, they specifically claim they will get new, lower interest rate credit cards for consumers and transfer consumers' existing balances to the new cards, without telling consumers whether Defendants will issue the new cards or third parties will issue them.
In still other instances, Defendants tell consumers that they will negotiate with the issuers of consumers' existing credit cards to obtain a lower interest rate on existing accounts.
Sometimes Defendants claim to have special relationships with credit card companies, or special methods or experience, that enable them to obtain better interest rates than consumers could obtain on their own.
Defendants charge an up front, advance fee ranging from $495 to $2495 for their services. In the initial sales presentation, Defendants ask for consumers' credit card account information, including account numbers. Defendants use this information to immediately charge the fee to consumers' existing credit cards, before providing any services. Defendants often do not tell consumers that they intend to use the account information to immediately charge a fee. Consumers believe Defendants are requesting the information simply to verify the consumer's debts and perform services. In some instances, Defendants do not disclose the fee at all, or claim that there will be no fee. In other instances, Defendants mention the fee, but tell consumers that they will pay the fee at some later point. In yet other instances, Defendants are simply silent about when they will charge the fee. Although some consumers understand that their credit cards will be charged immediately, many do not.
After consumers agree to participate in the program, in many instances Defendants send forms that require consumers to list all of their credit card account information, as well as other sensitive personal information such as date of birth and Social Security Number. A Service Agreement is often included in the forms for consumers to sign. The Service Agreement repeats Defendants' guarantee that they will obtain a certain dollar savings for consumers or provide a full or partial refund.
After consumers agree to Defendants' services, and Defendants charge their advance fee, Defendants often do not deliver on their promises. Consumers have great difficulty eVen contacting Defendants to check on their accounts. If Defendants provide any service at all, they apply for third-party credit cards on behalf of consumers or initiate a three-way telephone call with consumers' credit card issuers and ask for an interest rate reduction. Often Defendants do not obtain any interest rate reduction for consumers using these methods. On the occasions when Defendants do obtain a lower interest rate, the lower rate is often not sufficient to produce the promised savings.
In some instances, consumers try to cancel their participation in the program immediately. These consumers often are unable to reach a representative, or they are told by Defendants that there is a no-refund, no-cancellation policy. When these consumers later dispute the charge with their credit card issuer, Defendants often respond to the disputes by falsely claiming that they disclosed a no-refund, no-cancellation policy to consumers, or that they provided services that they did not provide.
Whether consumers try to cancel, or ask for refunds because Defendants have failed to provide the promised results, Defendants rarely provide refunds unless consumers complain to law enforcement agencies or the Better Business Bureau. Defendants either do not return consumers' calls, promise refunds that never come, or refuse the refunds outright. - Source
WV Universal Management
The FTC also disclosed action they took against WV Universal Management, Global Financial Assist, Lending Production, Willy Plancher, and Valbona Toska.
The FTC in their complaint stated that since at least December 2011, Defendants have tele-marketed credit card interest rate reduction services to consumers nationwide in the United States. In many instances, Defendants telemarketing calls are initiated using a telemarketing service that delivers prerecorded voice messages, known as "voice broadcasting" or "robocalling." The prerecorded messages often offer consumers the purported opportunity to secure substantially lower credit card interest rates and instruct consumers to press a number on their phone to be connected to a live representative, When consumers press the number, they are connected to a live representative who works for Defendants. Defendants also market their program via the Internet on a website, www.treasureyoursuccess.corn.
During telemarketing calls, Defendants claim to have the ability to reduce substantially consumers' credit card interest rates. In many instances, Defendants claim that they can obtain very low interest rates, such as 3.0 percent, for consumers. Defendants also often claim that their interest rate reduction services will provide substantial savings to consumers, typically at least $2500, in a short period of time, and will enable consumers to pay off their debt much faster, typically three to five times faster.
Defendants typically take information from consumers regarding their credit card accounts along with other personal information such as Social Security numbers.
Defendants charge consumers a fee ranging from $593.93 to $1593.93 for their services. Defendants typically place this charge on consumers' credit cards during or immediately following the telemarketing calls. During the call, however, Defendants represent that the fee will not be charged until the consumer has achieved the promised savings or, on other occasions, until the consumer has signed a written contract. In fact, in numerous instances, Defendants have charged their fee to the consumer's credit card even though the consumer has not signed, or even received, the written contract. Some consumers who were charged had not even orally agreed to the transaction.
After the call and after they have charged their fee to the consumer's account, Defendants sometimes send consumers a written contract and forms to complete and return listing, again, all of the consumer's credit card account information and other sensitive personal information such, as date of birth and Social Security number. They may also, or instead, send consumers a tablet computer purportedly to record and keep track of their financial situation as Defendants improve it. In fact, if the consumer receives a tablet computer„ it is of very low quality and frequently doesn't work.
In numerous instances, Defendants fail to provide consumers with the significant reductions in credit card interest rates and minimum savings that were promised during the initial telephone calls, and they typically fail to provide any reduction in consumers' credit card interest rates, or any savings, at all. Consequently, consumers are not able to pay their credit card debts faster than they could have without Defendants' service.
Despite Defendants failure to deliver on the promises made to consumers, Defendants rarely refund the fee charged to consumers for purchasing Defendants' credit card interest rate reduction services. Consumers who discover that Defendants have placed a charge on their credit card accounts before providing any service and who call to cancel are often promised a refund but do not receive one. - Source
The FTC also filed suit against A+ Financial Center, Accelerated Financial Centers, Accelerated Accounting Services, Christopher Miano, and Dana Miano. The FTC claim was this network of players was engaged in similar behavior to dupe consumers into paying for needless debt relief services.
The complaint stated that since at least November 2009, Defendants have been engaged in a telemarketing scheme in which Defendants, either directly or through one or more intermediaries, have been responsible for placing hundreds of thousands of illegal telemarketing calls - most of which start with illegal prerecorded robocalls - to consumers al1 across the country to sell phony credit card interest rate reduction services.
During these calls, consumers typically hear a prerecorded message from a female voice who often says her name is "Rachel." "Rachel's" message offers consumers the opportunity to substantially lower their credit card interest rates and instincts them to press a number on their phone to be connected to a live representative for further details. When the consumer presses the number on their telephone keypad, the consumer is connected to a live representative who works for Defendants.The representative, however, tells the consumer he or she works for "Creditcard Services," which tricks m any consumers into thinking that Defendants have some affiliation with the consumer's bank or credit card company.
After gaining the consumer's trust with this deception, Defendants' live representative obtains credit card information from the consumer that the representative then uses to determine whether the consumer has enough available credit to cover a fee ranging from $495 to $1,595 and, if so, to charge the consumer's credit card that fee. In exchange for this upfront fee, Defendants' live representative guarantees the consumer that: (a) Defendants will be able to substantially reduce the interest rates on the consumer's credit cards, often promising rates as 1ow as 6% or even 0%., (b) using Defendants' services will save the consumer thousands of dollars of interest; (c) the amount of interest the consumer will save with lowered interest rates will exceed the amount of Defendants' fee; and (d) the consumer will be able to get out of debt three to five times faster with Defendants' help.
Defendants' claims are inherently deceptive because most banks will not agree to lower a consumer's interest rates at a1l or, at most, will only agree to a very modest reduction in interest rate that falls far short of the significantly low interest rates Defendants guarantee in their calls.
After collecting their up-front fee from the consumer, Defendants sometimes undertake a few rudimentary efforts to make it seem like they are attempting to reduce the consumer's credit card interest rates, such as setting up calls with the consumer's banks to ask for a lower interest rate or advising the consumer to open a new credit card with an introductory interest rate and then transfer existing balances to the new card. These tactics, however, rarely succeed in obtaining any reduction in interest rates for the consumer, let alone the significant and long-tenn reductions and savings that Defendants promise in their initial call. In short, most consumers who pay Defendants' hefty up-front fee end up with little to show for it, as they save little to no money, are unable to get out of debt any faster, and do not receive the lowered credit card interest rates Defendants promised them. - Source