The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has broken up what it says was a property rental scam that lured consumers into signing up for expensive monthly credit reports.
Credit Bureau Center LLC and three individuals are accused of luring consumers with fake rental property ads and deceptive promises of “free” credit reports in order to sign them up for a costly credit monitoring service.
At the FTC’s request, a federal court temporarily halted the operation, which is said to have raked in millions of dollars. The agency seeks to permanently stop the allegedly illegal practices and return money to consumers.
"Free" credit reports
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 supposed 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 The three accused men are owner Michael Brown, Danny Pierce, and Andrew Lloyd, whose deceptive ads and emails allegedly drove consumers to Credit Bureau Center’s websites.
The 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.