The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants a federal court to drop the hammer on a debt relief scam that claims to have the endorsement of President Obama .
According to the FTC, two websites promoting what is called the “Bill Payment Government Assistance Program,” are full of misrepresentations about the fake program.
The sites claim the program was governed by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, a government agency formed to oversee projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
In addition, YouTube videos created by the scam’s operators included a purported personal endorsement from the president with an audio recording of him saying, “I approve this message.”
Cleaning up your credit
The FTC's complaint alleges that the defendants purported to offer up to $75,000 in debt relief to consumers, along with promises that consumers’ credit scores would “increase within 30 days.”
Consumers contacting the scammers, according to the complaint, were told that in exchange for an advance “service charge” of $900 to $1,100, the defendants would pay off the consumers’ debts.
According to the complaint, scammers would ask consumers for details of their outstanding debt, including account numbers, and then arrange bogus electronic payments that gave consumers the impression their debts were in fact being paid.
The scammers would then tell consumers to pay the “service charge,” typically through money transfer services such as Western Union or MoneyGram. Once consumers paid the charge, the scammers would then reverse the payments made to consumers’ bills, leaving consumers without the promised debt relief or improvements to their credit scores or limits.
The unnamed defendants are charged with two counts of violating the FTC Act’s prohibition on deceptive acts or practices, as well as two counts of violating the Credit Repair Organizations Act’s prohibitions on collecting advance fees before providing credit repair services and making untrue or misleading representations about their services.
The complaint asks the court to take steps to halt the scam immediately, as well as for a permanent order stopping the defendants’ activities and requiring them to give up their ill-gotten gains.