FTC and State of Florida Charge Debt Relief Scammers
Court Temporarily Halts Operation that Took Millions of Dollars from Consumers with Credit Card Debt
A federal court has halted, and frozen the assets of, a nationwide debt relief telemarketing scam that bilked millions of dollars from consumers, pending resolution of allegations made by the Federal Trade Commission and the State of Florida.
The scammers, who used a variety of phony business names with associated websites, cold-called consumers with credit card debt and falsely promised that, for an up-front fee of, on average, between $695 and $1,495, they would save them thousands of dollars by reducing their credit card interest rate. The defendants also allegedly falsely promised to refund consumers’ money if they failed.
According to the complaint, the telemarketers identified themselves as “card services,” “credit services,” and “card member services,” or one of the defendants’ phony businesses. To win consumers’ trust, they said they knew the amount of their 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 consumers’ lenders. During the call, the defendants billed consumers’ credit cards between $500 and $1500 and promised a specific reduced interest rate and savings amount, such as 6 percent or lower and $5,000 within 90 days.
The consumers did not receive the promised results or refunds, and instead became more indebted, the FTC and State of Florida alleged. In fact, most credit card issuers do not negotiate interest rates or discuss consumers’ accounts with third parties, the complaint noted.
The FTC and State of Florida’s complaint names Steven D. Short and his wife, Karissa L. Dyar, as defendants, and their companies, E.M. Systems & Services LLC, Administrative Management & Design LLC, Empirical Data Group Technologies LLC, Epiphany Management Systems LLC, and KLS Industries LLC, doing business as Satisfied Services Solutions LLC. It also names Christopher C. Miles and his telemarketing company, One Easy Solution LLC.
The defendants allegedly violated the FTC Act, the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule, and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. The complaint noted that Short and Dyar participated in a similar scam, Pro Credit Group, that was shut down by the court in an FTC law enforcement action.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint for permanent injunction was 5-0. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, and a preliminary injunction was entered on June 30, 2015.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.