Nearly a dozen debt settlement companies in Florida were systematically defrauding consumers, leading the Federal Trade Commission and the state attorney general to recently shut down those operations.
Both regulators succeeded in obtaining a court order that requires the 11 companies (owned by three individuals) to stop marketing their debt settlement “services,” which in fact preyed on thousands of vulnerable people eager to stop creditor harassment and avoid bankruptcy. The case is a cautionary tale of why it’s best to avoid working with a non-attorney when you’re seeking a manageable debt settlement agreement.
According to the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida, the companies conned consumers into believing they could avoid having to pay thousands of dollars in outstanding credit card bills. Instead, they were told to pay the debt settlement companies money every month, and those firms promised to negotiate a deal with the credit card companies. On the surface, this seems like a good deal – legitimate too. But Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says it wasn’t, and some consumers, after paying hundreds or thousands of dollars, learned their credit card debts were never paid and their accounts were deeply in default. Their credit was completely decimated. Some had no choice but to file for bankruptcy. Others were sued. Continue reading