Be your own boss?

Share This Page

Especially in a tough economic climate, it’s an attractive claim.  But as demonstrated by Operation Empty Promises — a multi-agency law enforcement initiative announced today — many companies promoting online opportunities, steady employment, or home business success promise the golden goose, but deliver a goose egg.

Operation Empty Promises includes three new FTC cases and developments in seven other matters, 48 criminal actions by the Department of Justice (many of which were brought with the help of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service), seven additional civil actions by the Postal Inspection Service, and 28 actions by state enforcers.

In one pending case, the FTC has charged that Ivy Capital and 29 co-defendants have taken more than $40 million from people looking to start their own internet businesses.  According to the FTC’s complaint, here’s how the operation worked:  Ivy Capital’s telemarketers asked people how much credit they had on their credit cards and then talked them into using a big chunk of it — as much as $20,000 — to buy a business coaching program.  The FTC says that Ivy Capital’s so-called experts didn’t have the promised know-how and their website-building software didn’t work properly.  Last week, a federal judge in Nevada temporarily halted Ivy Capital’s unlawful practices, froze its assets, and appointed a receiver to take control of the corporate defendants.

Other cases run the gamut of business opportunities challenged as deceptive: envelope-stuffing and postcard-labeling operations, a company promising the inside track on postal jobs, services (one advertised as “scam free”) promising access on internet job boards to well-paying positions, a company that claimed to offer roles as TV and movie extras, outfits that promised a heavenly income from assembling angel pins and other merchandise at home – and even one operation that sold products and services they claimed would help people recover money they’d already lost to other business opportunity and work-at-home scammers.

Say you’re interested in a career change or some supplemental income.  FTC attorney Dan Hanks has tips for entrepreneurs on evaluating business opportunities:


Tomorrow:  More on spotting a business opportunity rip-off.


I too have been scammed by Ivy Capital. I closed out my credit card so they could take no more payments, although they have already taken over $1900.00. I was unable to reach them and have not gotten any help from them. The only time I heard from them was when they wanted more money. They turned the account over to Universal account servicing, LLC in ST. Joseph, MO who keep sending me invoices with accumilating amounts. Is there a way to get them to return my money or to leave me alone? Jim
Mr. Becker: Thanks for sharing your story with us. Ivy Capital is no longer in business and its assets have been frozen so it’s not possible to get your money back from them. You may want to contact your credit card company to dispute the charges. If you haven’t done so already, please file a complaint with the FTC at The information you provide may assist the FTC in pursuing this case. You also can learn more about the case against Ivy Capital by calling the information line at 202-326-3771.
I am 66ys old & I was scammed by Ivy capital. Before I was taken by this company I tried to look for a job, to no avail. I know these companies can't give the reason that I am to old for not hiring me. My credit scores were in the high 800's with all three credit agencies. Now I am in credit card debt. This Company, Ivy capital made promises to me of earning income at home to supplement my Social Security. I was so exited at the idea that I could earn enough money to make up for the additional income I needed & stop withdrawing from my savings account, because I knew my savings account would eventually run out. The person that talked me over the phone was Richard Goodwin, he said if I pay $10,900.00, I would be listed on the first page of the Web, because when a consumer is looking for a product they usually only look on the first page & we will do the marketing & advertising. Then as a little time past the coaches said to me in order to be licensed you will need to have Business Builders Development Division guide you through the legal aspect. They charged me $5,740.00. I was then told that in order not to have to handle the product you should sign up with, They charged me $1,200.00. I then had to file with the Secretary of State (Ca) & pay 70.00, pay 55.00 to the City of Antioch for a license, pay $55.00 to for a Domain name, pay $404.00 to Dun & Bradstreet, pay $800.00 to the Franchise Tax Board. At the time I went ahead & paid for all of this off of my credit cards because I figured this was required to have my business up & running & eventually I would get my money back on the sales I would be doing. I was mislead & deceived. I have been very stressed from the very first start about all of this, and now I feel my credit is going to be ruined & I am so far in debt, I don't know how I will be able to pay off the debts incurred in starting this business. There has been so many complaints against this company the Federal Trade Commission has shut this company down & put a hold on all of there assets. You would think because I am 66yrs I would be smarter not to allow this to happen to me, but I was desperate & I new I had to do something to change my financial situation.
I too was surprised to see that was shut down. I had invested $900.00 with them and even before I committed to agreement I said to him on the phone "You're not gonna take my money and dissapear are you?" Well hold and behold what do you know. I enroll. I get thank you emails. I begin requests. I recieve acknowlegments. I recieve one email with search results. And then nothing. no website. no contact information. everything of the company dissapeared.through reaserch I discover they were affiliated with "Ivy capital" and they have all been shut down by the I really only got one Email of work out of them. Now then how do I get my money back when I did not use a credit card but actually use debit transfer?
If the FTC prevails in its case against Ivy Capital, we hope to give refunds to people who lost money. Although getting money back to consumers is always our goal, we do not yet know if that will be possible in this case. If it is, we will give as much money back to each buyer as possible. The exact amount will depend on how much the defendants are able to pay, how much the court orders for refunds, and how many people paid for products or services. For more information about the case against Ivy Capital, you can call the information line at 202-326-3771.
I was contacted by ICI (Ivy Capital; Fortune Learning Systems) and was offered an opportunity whereas I could work out of my home, become an internet marketing expert and have numerous websites selling different products to consumers via dropship suppliers. The company promised to coach and train us and provide us with all the materials and resources to get our business off the ground and to work with us until we had earned enough money to cover our initial fees for hiring their services. We were charged $ 7,505.00 USD which translated into $8,125.52 CDN which is a huge amount of money for us. We gave them our credit card and started our coaching. Immediately in the first session we were asked to pay more money for a company called which was going to be the supplier of dropship suppliers for our products. we paid an additional $1,280.98 CDN to them. from there on we received coaching sessions every week until one day they said "we are done with the coaching now" and we had not even started in building any websites or anything yet. We felt left out to dry to say the least. Although the company offered to continue providing 'online support', we were left to ourselves to try to figure out how to build websites, establish an online business most recently, my emails to my coach were left unanswered and as of a couple of weeks ago, are coming back as 'unable to deliver' I only found out this morning that ivy capital, FLS Fortune Learning systems as well as wholesale match have been shut down by FTC what a hard lesson to learn.....we are devastated
Mr. Martwig: We're sorry to hear about your experiences with these companies. We’ve set up an information line at 202-326-3771 which provides more information about the case against Ivy Capital. If you have not yet filed a complaint, please do at The information you provide may assist the FTC in pursuing this case.
I'm out to the tune of nearly $4,500 through Wholesalematch and Fortune Learning Systems. I think this was a pretty sophisticated scam. They had so many small things that made them seem legitimate; for example, we talked to about a dozen different people and during most phone conversations it sounded like there were other phone conversations going on in the background; we got nice materials in the mail; we were directed to the websites of some of the people we talked to, as well as websites of their family members that had made good with the program. And we got the written guarantee that we'd make back at least our initial investment within 6 months or they would continue coaching and working with us until we did -- which in hindsight isn't that great of a guarantee afterall, is it. As horrible as I feel about the loss that we have suffered, I am absolutely sick to my stomach over what Georgina Q has been put through and lost. We are in our late 40's and still working. Although we'd like to get our money back as we have nothing toward our future or retirement (we have $18 between us right now, and bills due), we will recuperate somehow. What kind of unconscienable group of people could do so much damage to a person trying to eke out a living on Social Security??? If you can't do anything for us, please at least do your very best to get these SOB's for Georgina! Many thanks for your time and endeavors, Betty Lou Thiersmann
I had purchased from them, and I didn't have a problem at all, I was not pressured into buying any products and if I didn't agree with it I would say that I wasn't interested in it, and it was left at that. I got heaps of support from my coach and other people that worked there. and I was doing fine with it. I would send emails and get one back or a phone call, I found they were very supportive and helpful in many ways, I was very ill for awhile and I would get emails to ask how I was, and they said not to come back to it until I was well again, not once was I pressure in anyway to come back, but when I did the were so helpful, getting me back on track.Is there a way that I can get my money back, not out of spite but just the priciple of it. $8000 aud into it as well as 1200 aud with wholesalematch..
Chris: Our goal is to give as much money back to each buyer as possible. Right now, we don’t know if that will be possible in this case. If you haven’t filed a complaint, please do at The information you provide may help in the investigation and may help us in contacting you if money is available for refunds in the future. You also can get more information about the case against Ivy Capital by calling 202-326-3771.
Thanks, John. The site is working on our end, let us know if you continue to have problems with it.
We signed up with FLS on the 24/11-2010 and I had my first coaching session on the 10/12-2010 We had the same phone call as everyone else has described re. amount of available credit and how agressive we would like to be how much money we would like to earn and what our goals were We were asked about actual debt and informed of the companies goals ie. that they would work with me until we had made the money invested back and that it would only require me to work 5-10 hr weekly to maintain the website once set up and running.We invested $12120 and a further $1000 into wholesale match and then a further $1250 for a website builder agreement On to that a further $39.95 pr month as membership fees That is a lot of money for us to lose and am hoping that you can be of assistance I've lodged a complaint with the FTC on the 9/3-2011 and have a ticket number I've tried to call and get some indication as to the procedure cases like this take and the time involved I would of course like to have some if not all of the money invested refunded I did have 8 coaching sessions and have got a partially built website but am not generating any money I had my last coaching session on the 18/3-2011 and the following week an e-mail stating that that week my coach would be unavailable as he would be out of town I sent a couple of emails a few days later with questions re the website and when they bounced back and the weekly phone call didn't happen I got worried and investigated the reason and was told by the department of consumer affairs in Utah that the company had been shut down by the FTC and to take my complaint to them.That is were that ends so hoping that you can help us out with some information Thank you for your time Cheers Bente
Bente: To find out more about the case against Ivy Capital, you can call the FTC's information line at 202-326-3771.
I've been waiting for a refund check in the aug. 19th also in the upcoming dec 6th I'd like to know what's going on with my refund.
Marquita: Thanks for your comment. From who are you expecting a refund check?
I've had it with all of these scams, good on you guys for getting after them. Facebook is covered with ads for this kind of stuff, I wish they would get rid of them.
Thank you in advance to help and guide me in this cocern
I used to be with FHTM until I discovered that everything they told people to entice them to join was a huge lie. I am so happy to hear about Operation Empty Promises and that Fortune Hi-Tech is part of the investigations going on with the national sweep.
Due diligence and effective research is all that is necessary to keep from being bamboozled by a fraudulent business opportunity.Any plan of action that comes without a business plan and a pro forma analysis of P&L is no plan at all. In my efforts as a business coach, I implore my budding entrepreneurs to work through the process of identifying, researching and verifying the opportunities they consider, in order to avoid empty promises.
Thanks for sharing this story. Work can be a meaningful experience that brings a strong sense of purpose to our lives. Business coaching is an excellent support structure to define a vision, which guides decision-making, business imperatives as well as values and behavior embodied in your business. A business coach will help you to clarify your vision for the business.

Add new comment

Comment Policy

Privacy Act Statement

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system (PDF), and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system (PDF). We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.