Complete Merchant Solutions, LLC (CMS) and its former CEO, Jack Wilson, have settled Federal Trade Commission charges that they illegally processed millions of dollars in consumer credit card payments for fraudulent schemes when they knew or should have known that the schemes were defrauding consumers. Those schemes included Apply Knowledge and Tarr, which were ultimately shut down by an FTC enforcement action, and USFIA, which was shut down following an enforcement action by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The FTC alleges that CMS and Wilson ignored clear red flags of illegal conduct by those schemes, such as high rates of consumer chargebacks, use of multiple merchant accounts to artificially reduce chargeback rates so as to evade detection by banks and the credit card associations, submission of sham chargeback reduction plans, and the use of merchant accounts to process payments for products and services for which the merchant did not get approval from the bank holding the accounts.
“When payment processors like CMS knowingly assist scammers, they are injuring consumers with each and every transaction and we will hold them accountable,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
The proposed order requires CMS and Wilson to pay $1.5 million to the FTC for use in providing refunds to harmed consumers. In addition, among other restrictions, CMS and Wilson are banned from acting as a payment processor for any companies that offer “free trials” for nutraceutical products, and prohibited from engaging in credit card laundering and helping clients evade fraud monitoring programs established by financial institutions.
The order also requires CMS and Wilson to conduct enhanced screening and monitoring of certain clients, including merchants offering cryptocurrency, business coaching, and real estate seminars and training.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and proposed stipulated final order was 5-0. The FTC filed the complaint and final order in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.
The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and protect and educate consumers. Learn more about consumer topics at consumer.ftc.gov, or report fraud, scams, and bad business practices at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Follow the FTC on social media, read consumer alerts and the business blog, and sign up to get the latest FTC news and alerts.