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FTC Halts Debt Relief Scheme that Bilked Millions from Consumers While Leaving Many Deeper in Debt

The FTC has temporarily shut down a credit card debt relief scheme operated by Sean Austin, John Steven Huffman, and John Preston Thompson and their affiliated companies that allegedly took millions from people by falsely promising to eliminate or substantially reduce their credit card debt. “These defendants preyed on older Americans already struggling with credit card debt and caused them to fall into even worse debt, with lasting harm to their credit,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.  “We will continue going after companies that take advantage of people in financial distress.” Since 2019, Austin, Huffman, and Thompson have operated a network of companies incorporated in Tennessee, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming that have worked together as a common enterprise to support the defendants’ deceptive credit card debt relief scheme, the FTC alleged. Their companies have operated under multiple names such as ACRO Services, American Consume

FTC, Seven States Sue Google and iHeartMedia for Deceptive Ads Promoting the Pixel 4 Smartphone

The Federal Trade Commission and seven state attorneys general sued Google LLC and iHeartMedia, Inc. today for airing nearly 29,000 deceptive endorsements by radio personalities promoting their use of and experience with Google’s Pixel 4 phone in 2019 and 2020. Today’s proposed FTC orders and the state judgments settling the allegations bar Google and iHeartMedia from similar misrepresentations, and the state judgments also require them to pay $9.4 million in penalties. “Google and iHeartMedia paid influencers to promote products they never used, showing a blatant disrespect for truth-in-advertising rules,” said Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Samuel Levine. “The FTC will not stop working with our partners in the states to crack down on deceptive ads and ensure firms that break the rules pay a price.” “It is common sense that people put more stock in first-hand experiences. Consumers expect radio advertisements to be truthful and transparent about products, not misleading wi

FTC, Wisconsin Attorney General Take Action Against Timeshare Exit Scammers for Cheating Consumers Out of $90 Million

The U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission, and the Wisconsin Attorney General, filed suit today against Consumer Law Protection and related companies, along with their owners and operators, Christopher Carroll, George Reed, Louann Reed, Scott Jackson, and Eduardo Balderas for scamming consumers—mostly older adults—out of more than $90 million in a massive timeshare exit scam. “The defendants used scare tactics and high-pressure sales pitches to coerce seniors into forking over thousands of dollars for timeshare exit services they didn’t deliver,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC appreciates the partnership of the Department of Justice and the Wisconsin Attorney General in putting a stop to this scheme.” The Missouri-based scam has operated under a number of names, including Square One, Consumer Law Protection, Premier Reservations Group, Resort Transfer Group, and Timeshare Help Source. Since at least

FTC Releases Updated Do Not Call Registry Data Book; Impersonator Fraud Tops List of Consumer Complaints

The Federal Trade Commission today released the National Do Not Call Registry Data Book for Fiscal Year 2022 . The FTC’s National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry lets consumers add their phone number and choose not to receive most legal telemarketing calls. In the last fiscal year, over 2.5 million people signed up with the DNC Registry, bringing the total to more than 246 million phone numbers. Now in its fourteenth year of publication, the Data Book also provides the most recent fiscal year information available on robocall complaints, the types of calls consumers reported to the FTC, and a complete state-by-state analysis. According to the Data Book, complaints about imposter calls again topped the list, with almost 287,000 received during the fiscal year ending on September 30, 2022, including both live calls and robocalls. In such calls, imposters falsely pose as government representatives, such as the Social Security Administration or the IRS, legitimate business entities, o

FTC Secures Monetary Judgment in Deceptive Energy Savings Claims Case

In response to a Federal Trade Commission complaint , the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas ordered Superior Products International II, Inc. and the company’s CEO Joseph E. Pritchett to permanently halt the deceptive energy-efficiency claims they had been making about coating products sold for houses and other buildings. The court issued a permanent injunction prohibiting Superior Products and Pritchett from misrepresenting the coatings’ insulating or energy-saving capabilities and imposed a monetary judgment of $14,182.95 against them. The FTC’s  complaint against the Kansas-based Superior Products and its officer, J.E. Pritchett , alleged that they market their Super Therm and Sunshield roof and wall coatings using deceptive energy-savings claims. Specifically, the complaint states the defendants falsely claim that the products provide significant energy savings of “between 40% and 70%” for consumers when applied to a home or other building. In issuing the opinion

FTC Explores Changes, Possible Expansion of Its Business Opportunity Rule

The Federal Trade Commission is exploring changes to the Business Opportunity Rule, seeking comment from the public on the rule’s effectiveness and a potential expansion to the rule to cover other types of money-making opportunities, such as coaching or mentoring programs, e-commerce opportunities, or investment opportunities. “The Commission is prepared to use every tool to ensure that companies can’t prey on consumers with false money-making opportunities,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “One key tool is our Business Opportunity Rule, and we want to hear from the public on how we can improve it.” The FTC is inviting the public to comment not only on the potential expansion of the rule, but also on the effectiveness of the existing rule, including whether it should be retained or eliminated, as well as other changes that should be made to the rule. The FTC’s Business Opportunity Rule was first adopted in 2012, making it easier for people to ge

FTC Takes Action to Stop DK Automation and Kevin David Hulse From Pitching Phony Amazon and Crypto Moneymaking Schemes

The Federal Trade Commission is taking action against DK Automation and its owners, Kevin David Hulse and David Shawn Arnett for using unfounded claims of big returns to entice consumers into moneymaking schemes involving Amazon business packages, business coaching, and cryptocurrency. The FTC’s complaint  alleges that the defendants promised consumers that they could “generate passive income on autopilot” when the truth was that few consumers ever made money from these schemes. “DK Automation ripped off consumers by manipulating reviews and making empty promises of big returns on cryptocurrency investment schemes and bogus business programs," said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. "They ignored warnings that these practices were illegal, and now they are paying the price.” A proposed court order would require the defendants to turn over $2.6 million to be used to refund consumers harmed by their deception, as well as requiring them to s