The Florida Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Trade Commission make a pretty effective pair when it comes to putting an end to companies and operations taking advantage of consumers. Just a day after the regulator and state’s attorney general teamed up to sue a company behind medical alert robocalls, the two entities announced they shut down a debt relief scheme that took million from consumers with credit card debt.
The FTC announced today that a federal court granted its request to temporarily halt a debt relief telemarketing operation consisting of six related companies – doing business as Satisfied Services Solutions LLC – that promised consumers help with their credit card debts if they paid a hefty up-front fee.
According to the FTC and State of Florida complaint [PDF], since January 2013 the operation cold-called consumers with credit card debt and identified themselves as “card services,” “credit services,” and “card member services,” or one of the defendants’ phony businesses.
The telemarketers then allegedly promised that for a fee between $695 and $1,495 they could save consumers thousands of dollars by reducing their credit card interest rate.
If the relief failed to materialize, the debt relief company promised it would return the up-front fees. However, the complaint alleges this was also a lie.
In order to win the trust of consumers, telemarketers allegedly said they knew the amount of the individual’s credit card debt, provided the caller’s license or badge number, mentioned the Internet domain name of the phony business, and falsely claimed they had a business relationship with the consumers’ lenders.
During the call, the FTC and Florida AG claim the debt relief company billed consumers’ credit cards between $500 and $1,500 and promised to provide a savings of about $5,000 within 90 days.
Like most other debt relief scams, the up-front fees never resulted in savings, the FTC says.
“In return for the hefty fees that they pay, most consumers do not achieve any debt relief at all,” the complaint states. “But instead find themselves saddled with even more debt than before because of the fees Defendants charge to their credit cards.”
The FTC notes that debt relief scams of this nature are not new. In fact, two of the principals in this case – Steven Short and Karissa Dyar – operated a similar scheme through Pro Credit Group, which was shut down by regulators in September 2013.
FTC and State of Florida Charge Debt Relief Scammers [Federal Trade Commission]