At the request of the Federal Trade Commission and the Florida Attorney General's Office, a federal court temporarily halted an alleged sham credit card interest rate reduction operation that often targeted financially distressed consumers and older adults in July 2020. In February 2022, the FTC announced that the operators are permanently banned from the debt relief industry as part of court orders resolving charges by the FTC and Florida AG’s Office.
Every year the FTC brings hundreds of cases against individuals and companies for violating consumer protection and competition laws that the agency enforces. These cases can involve fraud, scams, identity theft, false advertising, privacy violations, anti-competitive behavior and more. The Legal Library has detailed information about cases we have brought in federal court or through our internal administrative process, called an adjudicative proceeding.
In November 2019, the Federal Trade Commission obtained a temporary restraining order halting an operation that bilked consumers out of millions of dollars by pretending to be affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education and falsely promising student loan debt relief. In September 2020, the FTC announced several of the operators settled FTC charges and agreed to pay at least $835,000. In January 2022, the FTC announced that the remaining defendants in the case are banned from providing student loan debt relief services in settlements with the FTC. The defendants are required to forfeit all of their frozen funds held by the receiver. The Commission plans to use the money recovered in this case for consumer refunds.
Announced in June 2019 as part of a crackdown on illegal robocalls against operations around the country responsible for more than one billion calls, this court order contains provisions related to two sets of defendants: 1) the Lifewatch defendants, which includes Lifewatch, Inc., Evan Sirlin, and Mitchel May; and 2) the Roman defendants, which includes Safe Home Security, MedGuard Alert, Inc., and David Roman. The order permanently bans the Lifewatch defendants from telemarketing and prohibits them from misrepresenting the terms associated with the sale of any product or service. It also imposes a financial judgment of $25.3 million against Lifewatch and Sirlin. According to the FTC’s July 2015 complaint, filed jointly with the Florida Attorney General’s Office, since 2012 the defendants bombarded primarily elderly consumers with at least a billion unsolicited robocalls to pitch supposedly “free” medical alert systems. In December 2021, the FTC announce it was returning more than $1.8 million to defrauded consumers.
The Federal Trade Commission obtained an order permanently banning a payment processor that facilitated a fraudulent student loan debt relief scheme from processing debt relief payments. The order also requires the company and its owner to surrender $500,000 to the FTC for consumer redress.
The FTC’s complaint against Automatic Funds Transfer Services, Inc. (AFTS) and its owner, Eric Johnson, alleges that AFTS processed at least $31 million in consumer payments for a fraudulent student loan debt relief scheme sued by the FTC in 2019. The debt relief scheme used numerous names, including The Student Loan Group (SLG).
In February 2018, the Federal Trade Commission charged student loan debt relief scammer Brandon Frere and his companies, including Ameritech Financial, with bilking millions of dollars from thousands of consumers by falsely promising that consumers’ monthly payments would go towards paying off their student loans. In October 2020, Frere and his companies settled FTC’s charges.
Globex Telecom, Inc. and an affiliated company will pay a total of $1.9 million to settle Federal Trade Commission and State of Ohio charges that they facilitated a scheme that peddled bogus credit card interest rate relief, illegally charging consumers millions of dollars. The settlement marks the end of the FTC’s first consumer protection case against a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service provider.
The FTC and Ohio alleged that Globex provided a company called Educare Centre Services with the means to make calls to U.S. consumers, including illegal robocalls, to market Educare’s phony credit card interest rate reduction services.
The FTC and Ohio charged that both Globex and Educare were controlled by Mohammed Souheil, Globex’s former CEO and president, who was named in the lawsuit along with a number of other corporations and individuals.
In December 2018, the operators of a student loan debt relief scheme agreed to pay approximately $1.3 million to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that they pretended to be affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education or with consumers’ loan servicers, and tricked consumers into believing that illegal upfront fees were being used to pay off their student loans. In July 2020, the FTC announced it was mailing checks totaling more than $1 million to individuals who lost money to the scheme.
In their complaint against Madera Merchant Services and B&P Enterprises, the Federal Trade Commission and the Ohio Attorney General allege that the companies generated and processed remotely created payment orders (RCPOs) or checks that allowed many unscrupulous merchants, including deceptive telemarketing schemes, to withdraw money from their victims’ bank accounts. The FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rules (TSR) specifically prohibits the use of RCPOs in connection with telemarketing sales. The court issued temporary restraining orders against Madera Merchant Services and B&P Enterprises, halting their operations and freezing their assets. The defendants and the FTC have agreed to a stipulated Preliminary Injunction in this matter. The defendants agreed to a settlement with the FTC in 2020 that permanently banned them from payment processing.
SLAC (also doing business as Aspyre), Navloan, Student Loan Assistance Center, and Adam Owens -- three California-based student loan debt relief companies and their owner -- have agreed to be permanently banned from the debt relief business in order to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they falsely promised to lower or eliminate consumers’ student loans for an illegal upfront fee. The FTC also alleged that the companies and Owens failed to disclose that they paid consumers for positive Better Business Bureau (BBB) reviews.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada has ruled in favor of the Federal Trade Commission in a case against the operators of a scheme that deceived financially distressed homeowners by falsely promising to make their mortgages more affordable. The defendants also charged consumers illegal advance fees and unlawfully told consumers not to pay their mortgages to or communicate with their lenders.
The operators of a scheme that conned consumers into paying non-existent debts will be permanently banned from the debt collection business and from misleading consumers about debt in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.
The operators of a student loan debt relief scam have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they bilked millions from consumers by falsely claiming to enroll consumers in loan forgiveness programs, for which they charged up to $1,000 in illegal upfront fees. The FTC alleged in its complaint that the defendants deceptively telemarketed their document preparation service by misrepresenting an affiliation with the Department of Education or consumers’ loan servicers, and that consumers who paid defendants an up-front fee were qualified for or approved to receive permanently reduced monthly payments or their student loans would be forgiven or discharged. On September 30, 2019, the FTC sent more than $5.4 million to nearly 40,000 people who lost money to the alleged scheme.
The Federal Trade Commission charged the operators of two similar student loan debt relief schemes, Manhattan Beach Ventures and Student Advocates Team, and a financing company that assisted them, Equitable Acceptance Corporation, with bilking millions of dollars from consumers.
In May 2021, the FTC sent payments totaling more than $273,500 to consumers who lost money to the student loan debt relief scheme.
In September 2019, the FTC announced a complaint against the operators of two student loan debt relief schemes, and a financing company that assisted them, with bilking millions of dollars from consumers. The FTC alleged Manhattan Beach Ventures and Equitable Acceptance Corporation and Student Advocates Team, and the financing company that assisted them illegally charged upfront fees that the companies led consumers to believe went towards their student loans, and falsely promised that their services would permanently lower or even eliminate their loan payments or balances.
The Federal Trade Commission has stopped Mission Hills Federal, a student loan debt relief scheme, alleging it bilked more than $23 million from thousands of consumers with false claims that it would service and pay down their student loans. After the FTC filed a complaint seeking to end the deceptive practices, a federal court temporarily halted the scheme and froze its assets. The FTC filed an amended complaint on August 27, 2019, adding Labiba Velazquez as an alleged defendant. On July 20, 2020, the court granted final summary judgment.
In November 2018, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against recidivist Tuan Duong, among others, alleging he falsely promised to reduce students’ monthly loan payments or to eliminate or reduce their educational debts, but widely failed to deliver those services. The defendants also allegedly promoted a 96 percent success rate in reducing consumers’ student loan payments. In fact, the FTC alleged, the consumers who purchased these services often did not receive any debt relief and lost hundreds of dollars. The FTC alleged that the defendants charged consumers illegal upfront fees of $300 or more for these purported debt relief services. A federal court temporarily halted the scheme and froze its assets.
In May 2019, Duong, the ringleader of the scheme, agreed to settle the Commission’s charges that he bilked $11 million from consumers who were trying to reduce their student loan monthly payments or get loan forgiveness. Under the modified court order, Duong admits he violated the 2016 order and is now banned from the telemarketing industry. The proposed modified final order against Duong contains both injunctive and monetary relief. The order contains an $11,000,215.25 judgment as compensatory relief to the FTC and permanently bans Duong from the telemarketing industry.
In July 2019, both Avitia-Pena, president of Impetus Enterprise, Inc., and Jimmy Calderon, manager of Capital Sun Investments, LLC, settled the FTC’s charges alleging they conducted student loan debt relief operations associated with Duong. The $11 million settlement to be paid by Avitia-Pena represents gross revenues of Impetus Enterprise Inc.’s student loan debt relief operation. The order against Calderon and Capital Sun Investments contains a suspended judgment for $1.3 million, the gross revenues of Capital Sun Investments, LLC’s operation.
In September 2016, the FTC announced a court order banning the operators of an alleged mortgage relief scam that preyed upon distressed homeowners from the debt relief business. The final orders banned the defendants from selling secured or unsecured debt relief products or services, and prohibited them from misrepresenting any financial or other products or services. The orders imposed a judgment of more than $1.7 million. The FTC’s July 2014 complaint alleged the defendants claimed they could lower consumers’ mortgage payments and interest rates or prevent foreclosure, pretended to be affiliated with a government agency or consumers’ lenders or servicers, and illegally charged advance fees for these services. The FTC announced additional settlements in the case through March 2020.
In May 2021, the FTC sent payments totaling more than $147,000 in full refunds to people affected by the student loan debt relief scam.
The Federal Trade Commission, working jointly with the U.S. Department of Justice, is mailing 1,179,803 refund checks totaling more than $505 million to people who were deceived by a massive payday lending scheme operated by AMG Services, Inc. and Scott A. Tucker.
Four separate operations responsible for bombarding consumers nationwide with billions of unwanted and illegal robocalls pitching auto warranties, debt-relief services, home security systems, fake charities, and Google search results services have agreed to settle FTC charges that they violated the FTC Act and the agency’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), including its Do Not Call (DNC) provisions.