Following the Federal Trade Commission and Canadian law enforcement authorities recent announcement of the broadest sweeps ever targeting international credit card "protection" fraud, the Commission has obtained a court order banning a defendant in an earlier case from ever engaging in such activity. Under the terms of the stipulated final order, Courtney Ann Wiggs -- who marketed the fraudulent protection through a company called Source One Publications, Inc. (Source One) -- will also be required to post a $200,000 bond before engaging in any other telemarketing activities. In addition, based on the final outcome of a bankruptcy court ruling, the Commission may receive several hundred thousand dollars that could be used for consumer redress.
According to the Commission's complaint, from December 1997 through August 1999 Courtney Ann Wiggs used Source One to deceptively market useless credit card protection to consumers in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act. The complaint, filed in September 1999, alleges that the company's telemarketers falsely represented that consumers would be obligated to pay for all unauthorized credit charges made against their accounts, when in reality U.S. consumers are only liable for $50 of such charges. In addition, the Commission contends that Wiggs's telemarketers falsely represented that they were calling from the consumers' credit card company, and that they failed to promptly disclose that the purpose of their calls was to sell a product or service. Source One also obtained consumers' credit card numbers under false pretenses, the complaint states, and used them without authorization.
Under the terms of the final order, Wiggs will be banned from selling credit card loss protection services and will be required to post a $200,000 bond before she, or any business she owns or controls, conducts or engages in telemarketing activities. In addition, she will be enjoined from making any misrepresentations related to credit card protection or any other debit account product or service and will be prohibited from selling any credit-related product or service where the purchase is completed over the telephone. Also, pending the resolution of Wiggs's bankruptcy proceeding, the Commission may receive significant funds that could be used to provide consumer redress in this matter.
Finally, in accordance with the Telemarketing Sales Rule, Wiggs will be prevented from submitting unauthorized charges against consumer accounts or misrepresenting any material facts to consumers. She will be specifically prevented from telling consumers that they have been pre-approved for, or are likely to obtain, an extension of credit. The order also contains standard monitoring and record-keeping provisions to ensure that Wiggs abides by its terms.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the complaint and stipulated final judgment was 5-0. The complaint and stipulated final judgment were filed in the United States District Court in Arizona. The civil action number is: CV 99-1636-PHX-MHM.
NOTE: This stipulated final judgment is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. Stipulated judgments have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the documents mentioned in this release 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 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.
(FTC File No. X990095; Civil Action Number: CV 99-1636-PHX-MHM)