Bogus "Gold Card" Marketers Settle FTC Charges

Consumers With Poor Credit Histories Thought They Would Get Visas, MasterCards

For Release

Operators of a scheme that sold "gold cards," representing them as Visa or MasterCards, but provided their own "merchant cards" that limited consumer use to purchases from their own catalogs or Web sites, have settled Federal Trade Commission charges that the scheme was deceptive and violated federal law.

The Court orders stemming from the settlements bar the operators from marketing any credit or merchant cards and from falsely claiming they will assist consumers improve their credit by reporting credit histories to the credit reporting agencies. The orders also bar the defendants from misrepresenting any product or service they are selling and requires that they disclose all information material to a consumer's decision to buy a product or service prior to the sale. The defendants also are barred from deceptively charging for expedited delivery. The orders contain record keeping provisions to allow the Commission to monitor their compliance with the orders. Due to the financial condition of defendants Salyon, Inc., Mark Lyon, and John Lyon, as based on financial statements they provided to the Commission, their order does not require them to pay consumer redress. If it is discovered that any of these defendants materially misrepresented their financial situation, their order requires them to pay $2.7 million, the total amount of sales from the scheme. The order against defendant Kurt Uhler does not require him to pay consumer redress.

In November 2001, a U.S. District Court froze the assets of Salyon, Inc., and appointed a receiver for the company at the FTC's request. The FTC alleged that the defendants targeted consumers who had negative credit histories while deceptively claiming that they offered a MasterCard, Visa or equivalent credit card; that they offered a second MasterCard that featured a lifetime zero percent interest rate; and that they would report consumers' favorable credit histories to the three major credit reporting agencies. Instead, the complaint alleged that the defendants' "merchant card" only allowed users to purchase items from the defendants' Web sites or catalogs. The complaint also alleged that the defendants' failure to disclose that consumers only could use the card to purchase items from their Web sites or catalogs, and the failure to disclose that consumers could not use the card to pay the entire purchase price, also violate federal law. These settlements and final court orders, resolve the case.

The FTC complaint named Salyon, Inc., d/b/a First Liberty Financial, Salyon National Credit, Shop Salyon, Quicklinks.com, and their principals, Mark Joseph Lyon, John Donald Lyon, and Kurt Charles Uhler. The defendants were based in Aliso Viejo, California and Lake Forest, California.

NOTE: Stipulated final judgments and orders are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation. Because these orders were signed by the judge in the case, they have the force of law.

Copies of the stipulated final judgments and orders are available from the FTC's Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Contact Information

Media Contact:
Claudia Bourne Farrell,
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2181
Staff Contact:
Raymond E. McKown or Barbara Chun,
Western Regional Office
310-824-4343