The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took action against a firm that used a government website as part of its scheme connected with consumer credit reports.
This week, the FTC obtained an order halting a credit repair scheme that allegedly bilked consumers out of millions of dollars by falsely claiming they will remove negative information from credit reports, while also filing fake identity theft reports to explain negative items on customers’ credit reports.
At the request of the FTC and the Department of Justice, an FTC news release indicated a federal judge issued an injunction against Texas-based Turbo Solutions Inc., which does business as Alex Miller Credit Repair, and its owner Alex Miller.
According to a complaint filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC, the regulator alleged that Turbo Solutions and Miller operate a deceptive credit repair scheme that claims it can help repair consumers’ credit through a “two-step process,” but often fails to deliver on its promises.
The FTC said the company claims it can remove negative information from consumers’ histories through “advanced disputing” of negative items on a consumer’s credit report and by adding “credit building products” to boost credit scores, which can help consumers obtain loans and other credit at lower rates.
The complaint seeks both civil penalties and consumer redress, according to the news release.
Through the company’s website and Instagram account, Miller and his company claim, “We Delete Inaccurate and Negative Accounts,” and promise “results in 40 days,” according to the complaint.
The FTC said its complaint alleges consumers who call a phone number listed on the company’s website and Instagram account reach company representatives who often make many of the same false claims including that consumers’ credit scores would be boosted by 50 to 200 points, a violation of the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA) and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR).
Before providing any services, however, the company illegally demands consumers pay a $1,500 fee up front, according to the complaint.
Furthermore, the regulator said Miller and his company have allegedly filed false identity theft reports — usually without customers’ knowledge — through the FTC’s identitytheft.gov website and deceptively claimed that negative items on consumers’ credit reports were the result of identity theft.
“IdentityTheft.gov is a resource for consumers, not scammers,” said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Those who abuse this resource by filing fake reports can expect to hear from us.”
The FTC pointed out that credit reporting agencies may decline to remove negative items if they think an identity theft report was wrongly filed.
In fact, in many instances, the regulator said Miller and his company have failed to remove negative items from customers’ credit reports or histories and some consumers reported that their credit scores actually went down as a result of the company’s efforts.
The complaint also alleges that Miller and his company have violated CROA by failing to include disclosures detailing the cancelation policies and failing to provide all consumers with a copy of contracts they are required to sign to obtain the company’s services.
The FTC vote to refer the complaint to DOJ for filing was 4-0. The Department of Justice filed the complaint on behalf of the FTC in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.
The court issued the injunction on March 18.
“Credit repair scams affect consumers who already are suffering from low credit scores,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will use all tools at its disposal to stop credit repair agencies from engaging in unlawful conduct targeting financially vulnerable consumers.”