Defendants Must Pay $500,000 to Settle Charges
Three companies and their owner, who allegedly falsely claimed they could help consumers quickly eliminate their credit card debts and stop calls from debt collectors, have been banned from the debt relief business under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.
According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants, doing business as The Hermosa Group and Financial Future Network, deceptively advertised debt relief services, in English and Spanish radio and television ads, claiming that consumers could pay thousands less than what they owe on credit cards. The defendants themselves did not provide any debt relief services. Instead, the advertising was meant only to generate sales leads – the names and phone numbers of consumers who called the defendants’ toll-free number – which the defendants sold to debt relief providers or other sales lead generators.
The defendants’s ads included sales pitches such as:
- “With one simple call you can eliminate your debt in a fraction of the time and for less than you owe.”
- “Find out today how quickly and easily you can eliminate your debt.”
- “Stop the harassing calls!”
The FTC alleges that the defendants’ claims that they could reduce debts substantially, settle debts quickly, and stop calls from debt collectors, were false or unsubstantiated, and that the defendants did not obtain adequate evidence from sales lead buyers that they could achieve the promised results. The complaint also alleges that the defendants falsely claimed they provided the debt relief services they advertised.
The defendants are Jonathan Greenberg, Hermosa Group LLC, Media Innovations LLC, and Financial Future Network LLC. The settlement order imposes a $8.5 million judgment that will be suspended when the defendants pay $500,000. The full judgment will be imposed immediately if they have misrepresented their financial condition.
In addition to banning the defendants from the debt relief business, the settlement order prohibits them from making unsubstantiated claims about financial related products or services, or misrepresenting material facts about any product or service. The order also prohibits them from disclosing or otherwise benefitting from customers’ personal information, and failing to dispose of this information properly.
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