Operators who sold consumers advice about how they could improve their credit profiles "ethically" and "legally" by replacing their social security numbers with other taxpayer identification numbers have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that their schemes violated federal laws.
The settlements will bar the defendants from advising consumers to hide their true credit identity, require them to notify their customers that it is unlawful to falsify a social security number and require that they provide redress for the consumers who bought their services.
Operation "New ID -- Bad Idea," a 1999 law enforcement initiative, targeted scammers who sold kits, packets and other information promising consumers they could repair bad credit histories by substituting alternate numbers for their Social Security number. Falsifying your credit history is illegal. It is also illegal to charge for credit repair services before the services are actually delivered. West Coast Publications, LLC and its principal, Gilberto Lopez, and Donna Payne, doing business as Strategic Information Services were charged in the sweep. The stipulated permanent injunctions announced today would settle those charges.
The settlements would prohibit the defendants from advising consumers to use Employer Identification Numbers, Taxpayer Identification Numbers or alternative Social Security Numbers to alter their credit identities and from claiming the practice is legal. The settlements require that the defendants provide redress to consumers who bought their credit repair advice and to notify them that it is illegal to falsify a social security number. The settlements also would bar the defendants from accepting money in advance of performing credit repair services and would prohibit them from using or selling customer lists. Finally, the settlements contain record keeping provisions to allow the FTC to monitor compliance.
The Commission votes to accept the Stipulated Final Judgments and Orders were 5-0 in the matter of Strategic Information Services and 4-0 in the matter of West Coast Publications.
NOTE: Stipulated Final Judgments are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute an admission of a law violation. Stipulated Final Judgments and Orders carry the force of law when signed by the judge.
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; toll free at 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
(FTC File No. 992-3150; Civil Action No. 1:99 CV936)(Payne))
(FTC File No. X99-0065; Civil Action No. 99-04705GHK (Lopez))