Two Nevada companies and two individuals have agreed to stop charging consumers thousands of dollars to apply for multiple credit cards in their names in order to pay for expensive and often ineffective training programs under a proposed settlement of a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit.
The FTC filed a federal court complaint along with a proposed settlement which requires the defendants to stop obtaining credit cards for consumers for a fee. In addition, the defendants will be required to pay $2.1 million under the proposed settlement, which will be distributed by the FTC to consumers.
According to the FTC’s complaint, Seed Consulting, LLC’s services are pitched by training companies as a way to get “funding” to people who want to start a business or become a real estate investor. The complaint alleges that Seed does not actually provide any funds to consumers but instead charges them $3,000 to $4,000 to apply for numerous credit cards with total credit lines of more than $50,000, a practice known as “credit card stacking.”
To obtain these credit lines, the suit alleges, Seed often inflated consumers’ annual incomes on credit card applications by around $100,000 and told consumers they could expect to make that much when they complete their training program. Often, the consumers then use the credit cards Seed obtains for them to pay for expensive programs sold by the training companies.
"Seed obtained credit cards for consumers by using inflated income, and then shared the credit limits with promoters of bogus real estate seminars who tricked consumers into maxing out the cards to pay for seminar 'tuition,'" said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The FTC will not hesitate to go after companies like Seed that assist and facilitate schemes that we believe to be fraudulent."
The complaint alleges that many of the training companies that referred consumers to Seed have been the subject of FTC law enforcement actions for operating deceptive training schemes, including pending actions against Zurixx, LLC and Nudge, LLC, which operates as Response Marketing Group. Seed, which uses the names Seed Capital and Foundation Funding, worked closely with the training companies. According to the complaint, Seed provided the training companies with information about when consumers obtained credit cards and their credit limits to help the training companies pitch training packages to consumers. Many of the training companies’ programs cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Most consumers who purchased programs from the training companies that referred them to Seed did not earn substantial money, according to the complaint, leaving them with substantial debt on personal credit cards. As a result, the complaint alleges, many consumers experienced significant, long-term declines in their credit scores.
The FTC’s complaint alleges that the defendants violated the FTC Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, the Credit Repair Organizations Act, and the Consumer Review Fairness Act. The defendants are Seed, Credit Navigator, LLC, Erik Gantz, and Randy Lang.
The proposed settlement would permanently ban the defendants from applying for or obtaining credit cards for consumers in exchange for a fee. The proposed order would also prohibit the defendants from misrepresenting the financial status of any consumer to a financial institution and imposes a judgment of $2.1 million against the defendants.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and proposed stipulated final order was 5-0. The FTC filed the complaint and proposed final order in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.
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.
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