The Federal Trade Commission has charged Credit Bureau Center LLC and three individuals with luring consumers with fake rental property ads and deceptive promises of “free” credit reports into signing up for a costly credit monitoring service.
At the FTC’s request, a federal court temporarily halted the operation, which has raked in millions of dollars. The agency seeks to permanently stop the allegedly illegal practices and return money to consumers.
According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants placed Craigslist ads for rental properties that did not exist or that they were not authorized to offer for rent. When people responded to the ads, the defendants impersonated property owners and sent emails offering property tours if consumers would first obtain their credit reports and scores from the defendants’ websites. These sites claimed to provide “free” credit reports and scores, but then enrolled consumers in a credit monitoring service with continuing $29.94 monthly charges. Many people did not realize they had been enrolled until they noticed unexpected charges on their bank or credit card statements, sometimes after several billing cycles.
The complaint also alleges that consumers who obtained their credit reports and scores never got the promised property tours, and that their emails to the purported property owner to arrange the tours went unanswered.
The defendants are Credit Bureau Center LLC, formerly known as MyScore LLC and also doing business as eFreeScore.com, CreditUpdates.com, and FreeCreditNation.com; its owner, Michael Brown; and Danny Pierce and Andrew Lloyd, whose deceptive ads and emails allegedly drove consumers to Credit Bureau Center’s websites. All four defendants are charged with violating the FTC Act. Credit Bureau Center and Brown are also charged with violating the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the Free Reports Rule, which requires that consumers be informed of their right to obtain free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com or 877-322-8228.
The FTC would like to thank the California Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau of Los Angeles and Silicon Valley for their assistance in this case. The FTC also acknowledges the valuable research of Youngsam Park, Damon McCoy and Elaine Shi, see Understanding Craigslist Rental Scams.
The Commission vote approving the complaint was 3-0. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois entered a temporary restraining order against the defendants on January 11, 2017.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.
The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
Office of Public Affairs
Guy G. Ward
FTC Midwest Region