Consumers drowning in debt are all too often willing try anything to get relief. A simple web search for debt consolidation can lead consumers into any number of traps, as thousands of websites make false promises to prey on the desperation of debtors.
Such was the case with 17 debt websites that mislead that they could settle debt quickly. The Federal Trade Commission has reached a $390,000 settlement with United Debt Associates, an Ohio-based company charged with making fraudulent debt settlement claims.
The company allegedly used sites including legitimatedebtsettlement.com, debtreliefemergency.com, DebtDecreaser.com, freedebtreductionhelp.com, and disputedebts.com, to generate leads for United Debt Associates. The company would make about $25 every time a consumer would visit the site if they provided their contact information online or called a toll-free number, eventually giving their credit card number to receive debt settlement services.
The FTC alleges the defendant mislead consumers by claiming:
- “Once creditors agree to make a deal, you can get out of debt from 12 to 36 months.”
- “The U.S. government decided to introduce a stimulus package to boost the financial institutions and prevent them from breaking down. Part of this stimulus money is being utilized by the [c]redit card companies to offer debt settlements to the users.”
- Debt settlement companies “can take all of your outstanding debt and not only eliminate at least 50% of it but also provide a realistic repayment plan for the rest of your debt.”
- “If you play your cards right, your debt problems will vanish before the first year ends.”
Many of the sites in question also featured phony customer testimonials that were either unverifiable or copied from other debt assistance sites. The defendant is now barred from enticing consumers to engage in debt relief services.