The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been actively pursuing Debt Collection companies, Payday Loan operations, and fake attorneys who have been deceiving, misleading, harassing, and threatening consumers in financial distress.
Here’s a brief rundown of some of the agency’s recent actions.
Returning Money to Victims
Debt Collection – The FTC sued Houston-based Goldman Schwartz, Inc., a debt collection operation that also used the business names Cole, Tanner & Wright and Harris County Check Recovery for multiple violations, including making false threats and collecting bogus attorney’s fees and other unauthorized charges. The defendants were banned from the debt collection business under a settlement with the FTC.
In addition, the agency is sending 4,380 checks totaling more than $550,000 to people victimized by Goldman-Schwartz. These consumers will receive approximately 28 percent of the money they paid to the debt collection company. The average check amount is $127.
Payday Loans – The FTC is mailing 561 checks totaling more than $148,000 to people who lost money to Payday Support Center. According to the FTC, the company targeted consumers with outstanding payday loans, saying they could help resolve those debts but then providing little or none of the financial relief they promised. As a result, many consumers stopped making payments to the original lenders and found themselves in even deeper financial trouble, having paid hundreds of dollars in fees for no benefit.
People who lost money will get back an average of $264.
Payday Loan Assistance – The agency is mailing a second round of checks to consumers who lost money to Vantage Funding, a company that promised to help them get payday loans, but instead debited their bank accounts without their permission in $30 increments. In February 2016, the FTC sent $30 checks to people who filed a complaint about the company. In June 2017, the FTC sent this second round of checks that refunds any additional fees and debits reported by those consumers in their complaints.
Keep in mind that the FTC never requires consumers to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check. Recipients should deposit or cash checks within 60 days. For additional info about the FTC’s refund program, visit www.ftc.gov/refunds.
Action Against Phony Lawyers
The FTC has charged a debt collection operation with taking people’s money for fake debts they did not owe by posing as lawyers and falsely threatening to sue or have them arrested if they did not pay. A federal court temporarily halted the operation and froze its assets at the request of the FTC, which seeks to end the practices. Hardco Holding Group LLC, S&H Financial Group Inc., Daryl M. Hall and Dequan M. Sicard are charged with violating the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
According to the FTC, the defendants’ collectors called people without identifying themselves as debt collectors, said a lawsuit or criminal action had been filed or soon would be filed against them, and gave a phony “case number” and a phone number to call. Those who responded were told the callers were attorneys or were calling from a law firm. The FTC also alleges that to coerce some people into paying the phantom debts, the defendants threatened them with prison time or claimed police would come to their house to arrest them.
The defendants allegedly also pretended to be unrelated, legitimate small businesses, which may have harmed those businesses’ reputation and caused angry consumers to call the businesses to complain about their debt collection activities.
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