A mortgage foreclosure rescue service that claimed that, for a $1,200 fee, they would stop foreclosure and save consumers’ homes, has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it violated federal law. Many consumers who paid the company ultimately lost their homes to foreclosure, and others avoided foreclosure only through their own efforts.
Under a federal court settlement, the defendants are barred from falsely representing:
- that any home mortgage foreclosure can or will be stopped, postponed, or prevented;
- an ability to help all consumers, regardless of their individual circumstances;
- the likelihood that foreclosure can or will be stopped, postponed, or prevented;
- the degree of past success of any such efforts;
- the number of satisfied customers or customer complaints;
- the terms of any refund or guarantee;
- the likelihood that a consumer will receive a full or partial refund if a foreclosure is not stopped, postponed, or prevented;
- any approval, endorsement, or rating by the Better Business Bureau or any other consumer advocacy or consumer protection association; or
- any fact material to a consumer’s decision to purchase any mortgage foreclosure rescue service.
The defendants also are prohibited from falsely representing any material fact in connection with marketing any good or service. In addition, they are barred from disclosing or benefitting from personal information obtained from anyone in connection with marketing mortgage foreclosure rescue services. The settlement imposes a judgment of $1,178,920, all but $8,320.84 of which is suspended based on the defendants’ inability to pay. The full judgment will be imposed if they are found to have misrepresented their financial condition. The settlement also contains record-keeping provisions to allow the FTC to monitor compliance with the order.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the stipulated final order regarding Florida-based Mortgage Foreclosure Solutions, Inc., Debra Behrens, and Michael Siani, was 4-0. The order was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, and was entered by the court on January 5, 2009.
NOTE: Stipulated final orders are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation. A stipulated final order requires approval by the court and has the force of law when signed by the judge.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.
(FTC File No. X080026)
Office of Public Affairs
Dama J. Brown,
FTCs Southeast Region - Atlanta
Valerie M. Verduce,
FTCs Southeast Region - Atlanta