Should I Quit Paying on My Student Loans?

Question:

Dear Steve,

I am $91k in private student loan debt (20 year term). I am $28k in Federal student loan debt. My interest rates are good as far as student loan interest rates go – under 6%. I had no idea about loans, interest, and finances before college and I went to a 4 year college for sports.

I regrettably went to a 4 year college that was expensive and I lived there. I have a good job and can afford the payments. Almost all of my money goes towards interest though, the principal is barely moving. It just sucks throwing all of this money away. I can save some because I live at home.

Should I keep paying it or is it worth quitting on my student loans?

Thomas

Answer:

Dear Thomas,

Only you can make a determination if you are comfortable with the risks and possible rewards for intentionally defaulting on your private student loans to attempt to settle them. On the federal loan front, intentionally defaulting on those makes no sense.

I understand how a young adult is not prepared to make an informed decision about the consequences of this large amount of debt you were offered. On the other hand, you did enter into the loans and agreed to repay them according to the lending agreement.

There is no easy out here. You either increase your payment each month to reduce what you owe or you consider a strategic default which will negatively impact your credit, place you at risk of being sued, and hope that a suitable settlement can be reached.

Any option you select, outside of the terms set in the agreement you and the lender mutually agreed to carries some risk. For those who already can’t afford to make the payments, the risk is different than for someone in your position.

The question you probably need to ask yourself is if your desire to deal with the loans in this way is based on necessity or desire.

For more information strategically defaulting on your private student loans, see this post.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

How Can You Still Eat Organic While Not Spending Huge?

Who doesn’t like to eat organic food?

Howbeit, what comes as an obstacle is the high price tag of such foods. It’s because of such an issue, we often end up thinking that organic food is just not affordable!

Right?

Well, in such an instance, all that you need to do is act smarter and that’s it! If Jennifer can do so, why can’t you?

Also, Chrissy Pate, owner of the savings website BeCentsable.net, said “When my family began this adventure of eating whole and natural foods, we experienced sticker shock. So, I did some research and found that great benefits could be had by making some smaller changes in the right areas.”

Apart from what they mentioned, even I can vow for the fact that you can go for an organic diet while saving a lot of money.

How am I so sure?

For last 6 months, even me and my family are being able to eat organic while not exceeding our budget. I am pretty impressed and satisfied with this fact. You can say, this is the reason why I opted for curating this piece of writing.

Believe me, what I am going to discuss below are actually the tricks which I am following in my ‘Frugal Organic’ mission nowadays.

Here I go!

Organic coupons are important

It is true that a basket filled with normal veggies, fruits, milk, chicken and so on can cost you just $ 20. While if you go for organic, the price can just simply get doubled-up!

In such a scenario, what can act as a boon for you is a coupon! They really help to save amazingly. I’ve bookmarked the following organic coupon websites on my PC:

If you are planning to switch to organic, do the same!

Also, there’s a way for you to even get paid for buying organic food.

Isn’t it interesting?

Buy from a small store

How can I say like that?

If you are having this question in your mind, it makes sense. Even, I had the same when one of my health-conscious as well as a budget-friendly friend told me so.

However, when she asked me to check out the Consumers checkbook’s survey, I could sense the reality. According to the data, if you shop at Mom’s Organic Market instead of any grocery store in the Washington area, you will spend 8% less.

Moreover, according to MarketWatch, Trader Joe’s is the cheapest place to buy organic whole foods when compared to other famous names.

So, I prefer buying my organics from small stores.

Don’t you?

Non-certified organic foods are worth buying

Sounds weird?

Well, it is obviously important to look for the organic seal to avoid buying fake organic food. Still, there’s a twist here!

I discovered it past a couple of months ago. I went for buying my organics at a departmental store. Suddenly, I came across a nearby local farm stand. I went there and noticed a remarkable difference in price.

The same packet of organic nuts which usually cost me $20, I was getting there for just $10. When I talked with the growers, I came to know about this new fact.

There are many such farms present in every area which are too small to get a certification. As the value of certification will be more than their profits, they get exempted.

The organics available in such farms often cost far less than the certified ones. You can buy such frugal organics from Farmers’ Markets even.

After knowing about this, I prefer to buy my organic groceries from such places. All that you need to assure before purchasing is that it’s essential to talk to the growers. It will help you to understand their growing techniques.

Let your cart fill up completely

Yes! I am asking you to buy in bulk.

Worrying about the price-tags?

There’s an interesting story here!

Did you hear about Jet?

I must say it is a unique and fun online shopping place (Precisely, an online warehouse club) which offers you a lucrative discount when you buy multiple products together.

Above that, the more you will bag in your cart, the more discount you will get!

Recently, I was shopping on this website. I added a discounted packet of organic beans in my cart. Next, when I chose a bottle of organic coconut oil, a box of cereal, some canned organic tomato puree etc., the prices of the items were getting less!

I found it pretty exciting. You just have to search ‘organic’ on the website, all the organic products and top-brands like Amy’s, Nature’s Path etc. will be displayed.

Further, if you’ve not shopped with Jet before, you will get a 15% off your first three orders when you sign up.

There’s much more to look for:

  • Spend at least $ 35 on Jet, get a FREE shipping!
  • Earn a 10% cashback on any order
  • $2 bonus on your first purchase

Know about your local CSA

Community-supported Agriculture (CSA) programs can connect you directly to the producers. I recently came to know about this concept.

With the help of CSA, farmers can earn money quite early in the season and consumers can eat fresh organics at a frugal rate.

The experience of Penny Hoarder Kristen Pope, who received a box of fresh organic produce for just $9.53/week, inspired me to opt for CSA.

Final Takeaway

So, the ultimate mantra of saving huge while eating healthy lies in how smart you are acting to figure out the best money-saving approaches. Keep yourself updated, follow the aforementioned tips and you will definitely make a colossal saving.

Lastly, never again say, “I wish I could eat organic foods, but I just can’t afford it.”

About Author:

Clara Decker is the marketing manager at CouponsMonk.com, deals and discounts provider company. She is passionate about money savings, investment and finance industry. In addition, Clara also supports non-profit agencies that provide healthcare solutions to handicapped and disabled people.

This article by Clara Decker first appeared on CouponsMonk and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.


FTC and States Combat Fraudulent Charities That Falsely Claim to Help Veterans and Servicemembers

The Federal Trade Commission, along with law enforcement officials and charity regulators from 70 offices in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam and Puerto Rico, announced more than 100 actions and a consumer education initiative in “Operation Donate with Honor,” a crackdown on fraudulent charities that con consumers by falsely promising their donations will help veterans and servicemembers.

Operation Donate with Honor - View Live Webcast“Americans are grateful for the sacrifices made by those who serve in the U.S. armed forces,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “Sadly, some con artists prey on that gratitude, using lies and deception to line their own pockets. In the process, they harm not only well-meaning donors, but also the many legitimate charities that actually do great work on behalf of veterans and servicemembers.”

The FTC planned this ongoing effort with the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO). The initiative includes an education campaign, in English and Spanish, to help consumers recognize charitable solicitation fraud and identify legitimate charities.

 

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said, “Time and again, state attorneys general have come together on matters of national importance to enforce, educate and advocate on behalf of our residents. Charities fraud of any kind is abhorrent, and veterans charities fraud is especially upsetting. This campaign will offer important resources to help donors identify charities that match their own values.”

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said, “While the enforcement actions announced today represent some truly bad actors in the charitable sector, the vast majority of charitable organizations do good and important work. I urge donors to use the resources highlighted in today’s announcement and to donate with confidence in support of our military and veterans.”

“Not only do fraudulent charities steal money from patriotic Americans, they also discourage contributors from donating to real Veterans’ charities,” said Peter O’Rourke, Acting Secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “The FTC’s Operation Donate with Honor campaign will help educate citizens on how to identify organizations that misrepresent themselves as legitimate veterans charities, and those who, by contrast, truly help our nation’s heroes. I commend the FTC and its state partners for taking strong action on this important issue.”

Operation Donate with Honor - Which veterans group would you donate to?  American Disabled Veterans Foundation, National Vietnam Veterans Foudnation, Healing American Heroes, Inc., Veterans Fighting Breast Cancer, Military Families of America, VietNow National Headquarters, Inc., Foundation for American Veterans, Inc., Healing Heroes Network, Help the Vets, Inc. They have all been sued for lying to donors. Don't depend on the name. Do your research. Then donate.Help the Vets

Neil G. “Paul” Paulson, Sr. and Help the Vets, Inc., (HTV) will be banned from soliciting charitable contributions under settlements with the FTC and the states of Florida, California, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio and Oregon, for falsely promising donors their contributions would help wounded and disabled veterans.

Operating under names such as American Disabled Veterans Foundation, Military Families of America, Veterans Emergency Blood Bank, Vets Fighting Breast Cancer, and Veterans Fighting Breast Cancer, HTV falsely claimed to fund medical care, a suicide prevention program, retreats for veterans recuperating from stress, and veterans fighting breast cancer. It also falsely claimed a “gold” rating by GuideStar, which provides information about nonprofits.

One letter signed by Paulson stated, “But for thousands of disabled veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, giving an arm and a leg isn’t simply a figure of speech – it’s a harsh reality. . . . Your $10 gift will mean so much to a disabled veteran.” But according to the FTC’s complaint, HTV did not help disabled veterans, and 95 percent of every donation was spent on fundraising, administrative expenses, and Paulson’s salary and benefits.

The defendants are charged with violating the FTC Act, the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule, and laws of the six states.

In addition to the ban on soliciting charitable contributions, the proposed settlement order bans Paulson from charity management and oversight of charitable assets. To ensure that donors to HTV are not victimized again, HTV and Paulson must destroy all donor lists and notify their fundraisers to do so.

The order imposes a judgment of $20.4 million, which represents consumers’ donations from 2014 through 2017, when HTV stopped operating. The judgment will be partially suspended when the defendants have paid a charitable contribution to one or more legitimate veterans charities recommended by the states and approved by the court.  Paulson must pay $1.75 million – more than double what he was paid by HTV – and HTV must pay all of its remaining funds, $72,000.

Veterans of America

The FTC charged Travis Deloy Peterson with using fake veterans’ charities and illegal robocalls to get people to donate cars, boats and other things of value, which he then sold for his own benefit.

The scheme used various names, including Veterans of America, Vehicles for Veterans LLC, Saving Our Soldiers, Donate Your Car, Donate That Car LLC, Act of Valor, and Medal of Honor. Peterson allegedly made millions of robocalls asking people to donate automobiles, watercraft, real estate, and timeshares, falsely claiming that donations would go to veterans charities and were tax deductible.

In fact, none of the names used in the robocalls is a real charity with tax exempt status. Peterson is charged with violating the FTC Act and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule.

At the FTC’s request, a federal court issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Peterson from making unlawful robocalls or engaging in misrepresentations about charitable donations while the FTC’s enforcement action is proceeding.

State Enforcement Actions

In the state actions announced today, charities and fundraisers sought donations online and via telemarketing, direct mail, door-to-door contacts, and at retail stores, falsely promising to help homeless and disabled veterans, to provide veterans with employment counseling, mental health counseling or other assistance, and to send care packages to deployed servicemembers.

Some actions charged veterans charities with using deceptive prize promotion solicitations. Others targeted non-charities that falsely claimed that donations would be tax deductible. Some cases focused on veterans charities engaged in flagrant self-dealing to benefit individuals running the charity, and some alleged that fundraisers made misrepresentations on behalf of veterans charities or stole money solicited for a veterans charity. 

Maryland Secretary of State John Wobensmith said, “Scam artists are on the prowl, ready to take advantage of donors who want to help veterans. Make sure your donations go to reputable, well-established charities.”

How to donate wisely and avoid scams - 1. Look up a charity's report & ratings (give.org, guidestar.org, charitywatch.org, charitynavigator.org). 2. never pay by gift card or wire transfer. Credit card and check are safer. 3. Watch out for names that only look like well-known charities. 4. Search the charity name online. Do people say it's a scam? 5. Ask how much of your donation goes to the program you want to support. 6. Donating online? Be sure where that money is going. Federal Trade Commission - ftc.gov/charity.Nationwide education campaign to help consumers donate wisely

The FTC and its state partners are launching an education campaign to help consumers avoid charity scams and donate wisely. The FTC has new educational materials, including a video on how to research charities, and two new infographics. Donors and business owners can find information to help them donate wisely and make their donations count at FTC.gov/Charity. New and updated guidance includes:

For donors:

For businesses:

The Commission wishes to thank the National Association of Attorneys General and the NAAG Charities Committee for supporting this effort.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and proposed stipulated final order against Paulson and HTV was 5-0. The documents were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division. The proposed order is subject to court approval. The Commission vote approving the complaint against Peterson was 5-0. The U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, Central Division, entered a temporary restraining order on July 10, 2018.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court. Stipulated orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

FTC Looks for Revised Used Car Buyers Guides

The FTC’s Used Car Rule says that dealers have to display a Buyers Guide in every used car they have for sale, and give it to buyers after the sale. The FTC recently checked out how dealers are following that rule in 20 cities, visiting 94 dealerships, and inspecting more than 2325 vehicles.

The Guide, which was updated in 2016, tells you about the major mechanical and electrical systems on the car, including some of the big problems you should look out for. It says whether the vehicle is being sold “as is” or with a warranty, and what percentage of the repair costs a dealer will pay under the warranty. And it tells you to get all promises in writing.

Why check things out now? Well, dealers were required to start using the new version of the Guide on January 28, 2018. And here’s what we found. Of the more than 2325 vehicles inspected, almost half had the revised Buyers Guide. Dealers not displaying the revised Guide received letters warning them to bring their dealerships into compliance.

If you’re buying a used car, it pays to be prepared.

  • Get a vehicle history report before you buy. It can tell you a lot about a used car: ownership history, whether the car was in any accidents, its repair records, and whether it ever was declared as salvage.
  • Consider getting an independent inspection by a mechanic you hire — even if the car has been inspected by the dealer.
  • Figure out how much to pay for a used car. There are commercial services with information about the value and pricing of used vehicles.
  • Look for the Buyers Guide. If the dealer doesn’t display the new Buyers Guide, you might want to shop elsewhere. And please report it to the FTC.

For more information, visit ftc.gov/usedcars.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Online Love Asking for Money? It’s a Scam.

While plenty of successful relationships begin online, scammers also use online dating sites, apps, and chat rooms to trick you into sending them money. These imposters create fake profiles to build online relationships, and eventually convince people to send money in the name of love. Some even make wedding plans before disappearing with the money. It’s a big problem: reports to the FBI about online romance scams tripled between 2012 and 2016, and imposter scams were among the top reports to the Federal Trade Commission for both the general population and the military community.

These scams can take a military angle with imposters stealing servicemembers’ photos to create phony profiles. They might claim to be servicemembers who can’t get into their accounts overseas or who need money fast. The first sign of a scam is an online love interest who asks for money. But the Army’s Criminal Investigative Service (CIS) says that the military doesn’t charge servicemembers to go on leave, get married, communicate with their family, go online, or feed and house themselves on deployment. We have also heard of scammers re-using servicemembers’ photos again and again, so it can be helpful to do some online research on the love interest’s name, photos, and details to check the story out.

If an online love interest asks you for money:

  • Slow down and talk to someone you trust. These scammers want to rush you, often professing love right away; or pressuring you to move your conversation off the dating site.
  • Never wire money, put money on a gift card or cash reload card, or send cash to an online love interest. You won’t get it back.
  • If you sent money to a scammer, contact the company you used to send the money (wire transfer service, gift card company, or cash reload card company) and tell them it was a fraudulent transaction. Ask to have the transaction reversed if possible.
  • Report your experience to the dating site and to the FTC.

For Military Consumer Month, share this video to help military consumers steer clear of online romance scams.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Does This Bicoastal Funding Debt Consolidation Loan Offer Make Sense to You?

A reader sent in this offer they received from Bicoastal Funding for a debt consolidation loan. The advertisement says that not only can you repay your $80,500 of debt with their new loan but they will give you an additional $10,00 on top of the amount needed to repay the example debt.

I’ve written about some other Bicoastal Funding mailers in the past.

It looks like the reader wrote some notes on the mailer and was planning to ask some good questions.

The example of debt repayment was prominent in this mailer so using the Credit Karma online debt repayment calculator I wanted to see how the example stacked up.

Here is the mailer example.

If you repay $80,500 of debt at 19.9% at $1,771 per month it will take 86 months to repay the debt.

If you take them up on their offer and pay back $90,500 at 3.98% and $434 a month it will take 356 months to pay the debt off.

This seems to tack on an extra 22.5 years of debt repayment. At the higher interest rate, you’d pay about $70,000 in interest over the 86 months. With their offer over 356 months you’d pay about $63,000 in interest.

However, if you took them up on the offer and actually got a 3.98% unsecured interest rate because you have pristine credit then repaying $80,500 at 3.98% and at $1,771 per month would take 50 months and only cost $7,000 in interest.

I’d love to hear from people who received a final interest rate offer after talking to Bicoastal Funding and get some feedback on the actual interest rate offered. You can post your feedback in the comments section below.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

I Left a Good Job in the City

Question:

Dear Steve,

I’m a 57-year-old female. “Left a good job in the city” at 38 to raise my two boys as a single parent. I started a part-time massage therapy business that was not able to make ends meet. I have a very low credit score. In collection. Some charged off. currently not working because of rheumatoid arthritis. looking for part-time work. I owe federal student loan, past IRS, past state tax.

Where do I begin to clean, and or clear any or fix my credit rating/score?

Leah

Answer:

Dear Leah,

If your federal tax debt is more than three years old you can discharge it in bankruptcy. Talk to a local bankruptcy attorney. You can find a good local bankruptcy attorney and have a free discussion about what bankruptcy would mean for you. Bankruptcy is the fastest way to get a fresh start for the least amount of money.

That would also deal with your collection and charged off items as well most likely.

On the state tax, you can attempt to reach a repayment arrangement with them but before you do that you really need a good grip on your overall income and expenses after you file bankruptcy. The last thing you want to do is overpromise a payment you can’t afford.

For the federal student loan debt, the easiest solution is to consolidate your federal loans in a new direct loan and opt to repay it through an income-driven repayment program that is best for you.

After bankruptcy, you can quickly rebuild your credit score by following this.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

5 Spending Compromises for Your Everyday Life

Contrary to what some bloggers would have you believe, being frugal isn’t always easy. In fact, I’ve often found that the key to money success overall isn’t ruling out splurges entirely but to find compromises in your spending. This is to say that, although there may be cheaper options out there, you’re at least saving when compared to the usual default.

5 Ways to Reduce Your Everyday Spending

Shop at fast fashion stores, outlets, etc.

If you’ve been watching as much Queer Eye on Netflix as I have, you may be considering making some upgrades to your wardrobe. While trying to get your closet to resemble the finished products featured on the show could easily cost you a small fortune, there are plenty of compromise options worth seeking out. For example H&M has now come to my rescue in a pinch twice when I realized that the items in my suitcase weren’t going to cut it in terms of dress code. Considering I was able to put together a complete wedding outfit — including a full suit but minus the shoes — for under $120, I’d definitely recommend both women and men check out this and other fast fashion brands for some deals before dropping hundreds on designer wear.

Streaming subscriptions

Speaking of Netflix, there’s a reason why it and the bevy of other streaming services have become massive hits in recent years. Offering a wide selection of entertainment at a monthly cost that’s likely less than the cost of a single movie ticket, these platforms have become a go-to for nights in while also leading a cord-cutting revolution against cable bundles. As a result, subscribing to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or other services can be a great way to stave off boredom without resorting to more expensive entertainment options. That said, the trick is not get too carried away with trying to consume every piece of content being put out into the world. Instead, just choose one or two streaming services to subscribe to and learn to make due (personally my two are Netflix and HBO Now).

Getting a Keurig

Last Christmas, my mother gifted our household with something I never really thought I wanted: a Keurig. Despite that hesitance, using the machine for the first time was just slightly short of life-changing. Now I enjoy a tasty cup of coffee each morning with relatively no effort.

But does having a Keurig really save me money? Well, yes and no (hence the reason I’m calling it a compromise). While it’s true that, at a rate of $.25 to $.50 per K-Cup, I am paying a premium on the convenience of not manually brewing a full pot, I will say that the variety and quality that having the machine affords me has helped curb my well-documented Starbucks addiction to some degree. So if you love coffee/tea/other hot beverages and little to no cleanup, I might be inclined to say this could be the right move for you.

Subscribing to a meal kits service

Full disclosure: I don’t actually subscribe to any meal kit services at the moment but I’ve frequently considered joining their ranks. Brands like Blue Apron, Plated, HelloFresh, and many others often promote the fact that their plans start at less than $10 per meal…which is still pretty expensive in my book. That said, if you’re using these services to spice up your dinner menus and prevent you from dining out, it might not be a bad option. Of course, being the picky eater that I am, I’m still not a 100% sold on the idea but the braver side of me is definitely intrigued in this compromise.

Utilizing fans or space heaters

Finally we look to something a little less tangible: the temperature of your home. Especially during the winter and summer months, I’m often pulled in two directions — one that finds me wanting to run our central HVAC system all damn day and the other part of me that doesn’t want to spend that money. Not that I’d ever suggested freezing or sweating to death just to save a few dollars anyway, but investing in a tower fan or space heater can be a smart way to keep yourself comfortable without sending your electric bill through the proverbial roof. With heat waves being a common theme so far this summer, this is one tip you’ll want to keep in mind as we race towards fall.


As hard as we may try to save money whenever possible, the truth is that the cheapest option isn’t always the best option for many of us. Instead, perhaps it’s time you sought the middle ground and considered some of these spending compromises. Hopefully these plans and others can help you save money while still enjoying your everyday life.

This article by Kyle Burbank first appeared on Dyer News and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.


Scammers Create Fake Emergencies to Get Your Money

“I lost my wallet and ID. I’m stranded — please wire money.”

“Your grandson is being held in jail. He needs bail money right away.”

Scammers try to trick you into thinking a loved one is in trouble. They call, text, email, or send messages on social media about a supposed emergency with a family member or friend. They ask you to send money immediately. To make their story seem real, they may claim to be an authority figure, like a lawyer or police officer; they may have or guess at facts about your loved one. These imposters may insist that you keep quiet about their demand for money to keep you from checking out their story and identifying them as imposters. But no matter how real or urgent this seems — it’s a scam.

If you get a call or message like this, what to do?

  • Check it out before you act. Look up that friend or family’s phone number yourself. Call them or another family member to see what’s happening. Even if the person who contacted you told you not to.
  • Don’t pay. Don’t wire money, send a check, overnight a money order, or pay with a gift card or cash reload card. Anyone who demands payment in these ways is always, always, always a scammer. These payment methods are like giving cash — and nearly untraceable, unless you act almost immediately.
  • If you sent money to a family emergency scammer, contact the company you used to send the money (wire transfer service, bank, gift card company, or cash reload card company) and tell them it was a fraudulent transaction. Ask to have the transaction reversed, if possible.
  • Report the message or call at FTC.gov/complaint.

Share this video to help servicemembers and their families avoid family imposter scams.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

FTC Wins $5.2 Million Judgment against Defendants Who Tricked Consumers with Ads for Non-existent Rental Properties and ‘Free’ Credit Reports

A federal judge has ordered Credit Bureau Center, LLC and its owner, Michael Brown, to pay more than $5.2 million to return to consumers, to resolve FTC charges that they deceived people with fake rental property ads and deceptive promises of “free” credit reports, and then tricked them into enrolling into a costly monthly credit monitoring service.

Brown and his company, formerly known as MyScore LLC, and their co-defendants placed Craigslist ads for rental properties that did not exist or that they had no right to offer for rent. They impersonated property owners and offered property tours if consumers would first obtain credit reports and scores from their websites. These sites claimed to provide “free” credit reports and scores, but then enrolled consumers in a credit monitoring service with monthly charges of $29.94. Many people did not realize they were enrolled until they noticed unexpected charges on their bank or credit card statements, sometimes after several billing cycles.

At the FTC’s request, a federal court halted the scheme during litigation. In October 2017, the FTC obtained a court order that required Brown’s co-defendants Danny Pierce and Andrew Lloyd to pay a total of $762,000 to resolve the charges against them.

The order announced today grants the FTC’s motion for summary judgment and enters a final judgment and order against Brown and his company, finding they violated the FTC Act, the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the Free Annual File Disclosures Rule.

As part of the $5.2 million judgment, the court entered a permanent injunction that bans Brown and his company from selling any credit monitoring service with a negative option feature, and from misrepresenting material facts about any product or service. The order also specifies how they must monitor their affiliate marketers in the future. For example, they must require certain information from affiliates, including their name and location, and advance copies of all marketing materials. They also must investigate any complaints about affiliate marketers and end the affiliation if they find practices the order prohibits.

The order requires Brown and his company to make certain disclosures when selling any product or service with a negative option feature, and when offering free credit reports. It also bars them from using billing information to obtain payments from consumers without first obtaining their express informed consent.

In addition, the order prohibits Brown and his company from profiting from consumers’ personal information obtained as part of the scheme and failing to dispose of it properly. – Source