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    Edelman, Combs, Latturner, & Goodwin, LLC

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    Chicago, IL 60603

    info@edcombs.com
    Phone: 312-739-4200
    Fax: 312-419-0379


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    Archive

    Midland Credit Management

    Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

    Please contact us if Midland Credit Management is trying to collect money from you.

    Not so free credit scores

    Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

    Company to pay $22 million for offering “free” credit scores that turned out to be not so free

    We’ve brought law enforcement actions – dozens of ‘em. We’ve held workshops, issued reports, and sent warning letters. If it takes sky writing, tap dancing, and a float in a Thanksgiving Day parade, we’ll do that, too. But here’s what’s not going to happen. The FTC is not giving up until businesses get the message that: 1) Free means free; and 2) Key terms and conditions have to be clearly and conspicuously disclosed. A $22 million settlement announced by the FTC and the AGs of Illinois and Ohio with a national credit monitoring service advertising so-called “free” credit scores emphasizes that point. Another note for practitioners: It’s the FTC’s third case alleging violations of ROSCA.

    One Technologies and related outfits marketed their credit monitoring programs, MyCreditHealth and ScoreSense, through at least 50 sites, including FreeScore360.com, FreeScoreOnline.com and ScoreSense.com. Their strategy was simple. Buy advertising on search engines so their ads show up near the top when people look for phrases like “free credit report” and then follow up with a persuasive pitch: “View your latest Credit Scores from All 3 Bureaus in 60 seconds for $0!”

    According to the lawsuit, the defendants failed to clearly tell consumers that if they availed themselves of those “free” services and didn’t cancel within seven days, the defendants would ding their credit cards for $29.95 a month over and over and over again. The complaint includes screen shots of the defendants’ sites, but before looking at them, take out your reading glasses because they’ll come in handy in trying to locate where the defendants chose to tell people about that $29.95 monthly fee.

    One line of fine print added in late 2012 said “Free 7-Day trial when you order your 3 Free Credit Scores. Membership is then just $29.95 per month until you call to cancel.” The first problem: The type was tiny – a fraction of the size of the defendants’ multiple use of the word “free.” The second problem: Why should consumers even have to be on the look-out for the cost, given that the defendants so prominently advertised it as “free”?

    A second purported disclosure appeared as an obscure hyperlink on the page where people typed in their Social Security number and birthdate.  Sandwiched between the logos of various security firms and a large color button that said CONTINUE was this less-than-crystal-clear statement:

    By clicking on the ‘Continue’ button, you agree to the Offer Details, to the Terms and Conditions, acknowledge receipt of our Privacy Policy and agree to its terms . . .

    The “Offer Details” link triggered a small pop-up that said, among other things, “At the end of the 7-day trial period, your credit/debit card will be charged $29.95 on a monthly basis until you call to cancel.”

    Another place the defendants put the information was on a side panel of the Payment Form in white letters on a grey background – a color combination one of the defendants’ own employees described as “known to cause seizures in lab rats.”

    According to the complaint, once people spotted the unauthorized charges on their accounts, the defendants didn’t make it easy to stop the billing.  And even when people asked for their money back because they hadn’t approved of the charges, the defendants denied refunds to many of them.

    The lawsuit alleges violations of the FTC Act, as well as the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act, and related state rules. In addition, the complaint is the third FTC action to charge violations of ROSCA, the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act. The FTC says the defendants failed to disclose material terms, didn’t get consumers’ express informed consent for the negative option feature, and didn’t provide a simple cancellation method – all violations of ROSCA.

    In addition to the $22 million judgment, the stipulated order puts a host of provisions in place to protect consumers in the future. For example, the companies will have to clearly disclose the terms before a consumer consents to pay via a negative option. What’s more, the defendants have to provide a mechanism for people to stop recurring charges that is at least as simple as the mechanism consumers used to initiate the service.

    FTC Issues FY 2014 National Do Not Call Registry Data Book

    Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

    More Than 217 Million Active Registrations Currently on Do Not Call List

    The Federal Trade Commission today issued the National Do Not Call Registry Data Book for Fiscal Year 2014. The FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry lets consumers choose not to receive telemarketing calls. Now in its sixth year of publication, the Data Book contains a wealth of information about the Registry for FY 2014 (from October 1, 2013 to September 30, 2014), including:

    • The number of active registrations and consumer complaints since the Registry began in 2003;
    • FY 2014 complaint figures by month and type;
    • FY 2014 registration and complaint figures for all 50 states and the District of Columbia by population;
    • Rankings of the number of Do Not Call registrations by state population;
    • The number of entities accessing the Registry by fiscal year; and
    • An appendix on registration and complaint figures by consumer state and area code.

    According to the Data Book, at the end of FY 2014, the Do Not Call Registry contained 217,855,659 actively registered phone numbers, up from 213,400,640 at the end of FY 2013. In addition, the number of consumer complaints about unwanted telemarketing calls received decreased from 3,748,646 during FY 2013 to 3,241,086 during FY 2014.

    This year’s Data Book also reveals trends in complaint data. In addition to providing information on the total number of consumer complaints per month, it contains data on the number of monthly complaints specifically related to pre-recorded telemarketing “robocalls,” and requests for a telemarketer to stop calling.

    During the past fiscal year, the FTC has continued to receive large numbers of consumer complaints about robocalls. The number of complaints varied by month, ranging between a low in October of 85,167 and a high of 184,876 in August 2014.

    Most telemarketing robocalls have been illegal since September 2009. As part of its effort to stop deceptive, misleading, and otherwise unlawful robocalls, the FTC will take action against entities that are violating the agency’s Telemarketing Sales Rule.

    As part of the FTC’s ongoing efforts to stop illegal robocalls, the agency hosted its second public challenge in August 2014, Zapping Rachel. The contest challenged participants at DEF CON 22 to design a robocall honeypot, which is an information system designed to attract robocallers, and help law enforcement authorities, researchers, and others gain enhanced insights into robocallers’ tactics. The winning solutions included open-source code and are designed to assist in the battle against robocallers.

    Tech businesses accused of duping computer users — common complaint

    Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

    Tech Support Operators Settle FTC, State of Florida Charges They Misled Consumers

    Defendants Will Surrender Assets, Be Prohibited From Making Misrepresentations Involving Tech Support

    FOR RELEASE

    The Federal Trade Commission and the State of Florida have obtained settlements with a group of defendants who participated in a tech support scheme that allegedly defrauded thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars.

    The defendants who have agreed to settle the action against them are Amit Mehta; Boost Software Inc.; Success Capital, LLC and Elliot Loewenstern; and Jon Paul Holdings, LLC and Jon-Paul Vasta. The settlement orders include several provisions barring future misconduct by the defendants.  For instance, one order bans Loewenstern and Success Capital from the tech support industry and other orders prohibit Mehta and Boost Software from upselling or selling leads related to tech support.

    “These defendants deceived consumers and used high-pressure sales tactics to convince them that their computers required tech support products,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.  “I’m pleased these settlements will keep the defendants out of the tech support scam business.”

    The FTC’s complaint, filed in 2014 as part of a group of actions against Florida-based tech support schemes, alleges that the defendants used software designed to trick consumers into thinking there were problems with their computers, and then directed them to telemarketers who subjected those consumers to high-pressure deceptive sales pitches for tech support products and services. The FTC and State of Florida charged that the defendants violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the FTC Act, along with the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

    The settlement orders include judgments against the defendants totaling more than $37 million, which will be suspended after they pay a total of approximately $236,000 and surrender the corporate assets. The judgments are suspended due to the defendants’ inability to pay and will be lifted with the full amounts due if any of the defendants’ financial disclosures were incorrect or incomplete.

    Litigation continues against co-defendants Mark Donohue, Vast Tech Support, LLC, and OMG Tech Support, LLC.

    The Commission vote approving the stipulated final orders was 4-0. The final orders were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

    NOTE: Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

    The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).  Like the FTC on Facebook(link is external), follow us on Twitter(link is external), read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources

    Credit Control

    Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

    Please contact us if Credit Control, LLC is attempting to collect a debt from you.

    Fraudulent debt collectors

    Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

    FTC and State Law Enforcement Partners Announce More Actions and Results in Continuing Crackdown Against Abusive Debt Collectors

    FOR RELEASE

    In four separate actions, the Federal Trade Commission is announcing that it has stopped illegal debt collection tactics of several debt collection operations. In addition, other federal and state law enforcement officials have taken 12 more actions as part of a federal-state-local law enforcement initiative against deceptive and abusive debt collection practices. The cases announced today bring to 130 the number of actions taken over the past year by more than 70 law enforcement partners in Operation Collection Protection.

    The continuing nationwide crackdown targets collectors whose illegal tactics include harassing phone calls, false threats of lawsuits and arrest, attempts to collect phony debts, not providing consumers with legally required disclosures, and noncompliance with state licensing requirements.

    The FTC actions announced today include:

    AFS Legal Services

    In November 2015, the FTC brought an action against National Payment Processing LLC; National Client Services LLC, also doing business as AFS Legal Services, AFS Services, Account Financial Services, and Account Financial Solutions; Omar Smith; and Ernest Smith. The operation allegedly called consumers and demanded payment of payday loan or other purported debt, even when consumers disputed the debt and the defendants failed to verify that money was owed.

    According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants impersonated investigators and law enforcement and threatened to arrest or sue consumers if they did not pay. Because they often had consumers’ personal information such as Social Security and bank account numbers, consumers believed the calls were legitimate and thought they would be arrested for check fraud or sued. The collectors also made harassing calls and contacted relatives, friends and co-workers about consumers’ debts. The defendants allegedly have caused around $4 million in consumer injury, using multiple corporate names and locations to avoid detection, and failing to identify themselves as debt collectors.

    The defendants have agreed to be bound by a preliminary injunction, pending the litigation in which they are prohibited from using the illegal collection tactics described in the FTC’s complaint. They are also barred from activities that violate the FDCPA.

    The FTC appreciates the assistance of the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office, DeKalb County Police Department, Gwinnett County Police Department, and Hapeville Police Department in bringing this case.

    The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint for permanent injunction was 4-0. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, issued a temporary restraining order against the defendants on November 3, 2015, and a stipulated preliminary injunction on January 5, 2016.

    Samuel Sole and Associates

    In May 2015, the FTC obtained court orders temporary halting the operations of Premier Debt Acquisitions LLC, also doing business as PDA Group LLC; Prizm Debt Solutions LLC, also d/b/a PDS LLC; Samuel Sole and Associates LLC, also d/b/a SSA Group LLC and Imperial Processing Solutions; Charles Glander; and Jacob E. Kirbis. The FTC alleged that the defendants had impersonated law enforcement officials or process servers, threatened to have consumers arrested for nonpayment, falsely threatened consumers with lawsuits and wage garnishment, and withheld information consumers needed to confirm or dispute debts.

    The defendants have now agreed to a stipulated order for permanent injunction, that will ban them from debt collection activities, and prohibit them from misrepresenting material facts about financial-related products and services and from profiting from their former customers’ personal information. The order imposes a judgment of $2,229,756, representing the amount of the defendants’ debt collection revenue, which will be partially suspended upon surrender of certain personal assets, including real estate.

    The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file a proposed stipulated order for permanent injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York was 4-0. Stipulated orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

    Warrant Enforcement Division

    Defendants Municipal Recovery Services Corporation, d/b/a Warrant Enforcement Division, and its owner, Marcos Nieto, a/k/a Mark Nieto have agreed to settle FTC charges that they violated the FTC Act when they sent consumers letters and postcards that falsely implied that they had come from a municipal court and falsely threatened consumers with arrest if they did not pay while collecting overdue municipal utility bills, traffic tickets, court fines and other debts for local governments in Texas and Oklahoma. One letter, labeled “WARRANT FOR YOUR ARREST,” falsely threatened arrest at the consumer’s home or office, jail time, vehicle impoundment, and inability to renew a driver’s license. A “FINAL NOTICE BEFORE ARREST” letter followed, falsely stating that “WARRANT OFFICERS HAVE BEEN GIVEN YOUR CURRENT ADDRESS.” The defendants also mailed postcards to collect on past-due utility bills, stating “PAY YOUR FINE NOW—AVOID GOING TO JAIL.” According to the complaint, the defendants also failed to inform consumers of the amount of the debt and the creditor’s name, and their right to dispute the debt, as required by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

    Under a proposed stipulated order for permanent injunction, the defendants are prohibited from misrepresenting any material fact while collecting debts, including that a failure to pay a debt will result in the consumer being arrested or jailed, having their vehicle impounded, or being unable to renew their driver’s license. The order imposes a $194,888 judgment that is suspended based on the defendants’ inability to pay. The full judgment will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.

    The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and proposed stipulated order for permanent injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, was 4-0. Stipulated orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

    Williams, Scott & Associates

    The FTC has obtained a permanent injunction against the final defendant in its case against Williams, Scott & Associates, LLC. On November 4, 2015, the court granted summary judgment in the FTC’s favor and banned Chris Lenyszyn from debt collection activities, and ordered him to pay more than $565,000 for using deception and threats to collect on phantom payday and other loan “debts” that consumers didn’t owe. An earlier order, in April 2015, banned John Williams, Williams, Scott & Associates, LLC; and WSA, LLC from debt collection and ordered them to pay $3.9 million.

    The FTC thanks the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Consumer Protection Unit of the Georgia Attorney General’s Office, the State Bar of Georgia, and the Financial Institutions Division of the Nevada Department of Business and Industry for their assistance in this case.

    In addition, since Operation Collection Protection was announced in November 2015:

    • the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has resolved four law enforcement actions and issued acompliance bulletin on in-person debt collection;
    • the Minnesota Department of Commerce signed consent orders that stopped Collect Pros and Service Investment Company from further law violations and imposed civil penalties totaling $33,000, and convinced a court to impose a receivership on CLX/Westwood Management, Inc. (details can be found here(link is external));
    • the Colorado Department of Law denied Collect Pros’ renewal application and 4-Star Resolution’s license application and took action against PC Legal Services for engaging in collection practices without a license, resulting in a $613,500 civil penalty (details can be found here);
    • the Indiana Attorney General’s Office also took action against Collect Pros, entering into an assurance of voluntary compliance(link is external) with Collect Pros; and
    • the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office sued one of the largest debt collection law firms in Massachusetts, Lustig, Glaser & Wilson PC and its owners, Ronald Lustig and Kenneth Wilson, who allegedly used illegal threats of lawsuits to obtain payments and sued consumers for debts they did not owe or for debts that were inaccurate.

    The FTC also is announcing a new consumer education video series showing first-person experiences with consumer protection issues, and the help that is available in diverse communities. The first video, “Fraud Affects Every Community: Debt Collection,” shows how Bryan Noyes, a Veterans of Foreign War Service Officer, worked with Pine Tree Legal Assistance in Portland, Maine, to overcome deceptive debt collection practices. The video was produced with help from the Veterans of Foreign Wars(link is external) and Pine Tree Legal Assistance(link is external) (PTLA). PTLA is a statewide, non-profit organization committed to providing high quality, free, civil legal assistance to low-income people in Maine. PTLA’s Veteran Legal Services Outreach program serves Maine’s 127,000 veterans, many of whom have lower incomes and otherwise lack access to legal services.

    Can a Debt Collector Fax My Employer?

    Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

    Debbie contacted us because a debt collector had sent a fax to her employer.

    The fax was on the header of a collection agency.

    Right at the top of the fax was her Social Security number, available to anyone who happened to grab it from the fax machine.

    The fax asked for her job title, dates of employment, and salary.

    The fax had a “case number” and stated that “This Law Office is investigating [Debbie] on pending charges out of [consumer’s County]. Please complete & return promptly. We also would like a copy provided to [Debbie].”

    Is this legal?

    In a word, “No.”

    It is a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

    The FDCPA allows a debt collector to contact an employer to obtain an employee’s location information, if the collector does not already have it.  That is a big “if.”

    “Location information”  is a consumer’s place of residence  and his telephone number at such place, or his place of employment.  Requesting any additional information is illegal unless the collector has a judgment.

    The collector seeking to locate a consumer must  identify himself by personal name, state that he is attempting to obtain or confirm the consumer’s location, and, only if expressly requested, identify his employer.

     The collector may not volunteer the name of the collection agency.

     The collector may  not state that such consumer owes any debt.

    He may not  communicate more than once unless requested to do so by such person or unless the debt collector reasonably believes that the earlier response of such person is erroneous or incomplete and that such person now has correct or complete location information.

     The collector may not communicate by post card.  The collector may  not use any language or symbol on any envelope or in the contents of any communication effected by the mails or telegram that indicates that the debt collector is in the debt collection business or that the communication relates to the collection of a debt.  Since a fax has the same characteristics —  anyone can see the message  —  it should also be unlawful, unless the collector has been asked to send a writing and ascertained that only an authorized person will see it.  Finally, after the debt collector knows the consumer is represented by an attorney with regard to the subject debt and has knowledge of, or can readily ascertain, such attorney’s name and address, he may not communicate with any person other than that attorney, unless the attorney fails to respond within a reasonable period of time to communication from the debt collector.

    The fax goes way beyond what is permitted, and subjects the debt collector to liability under the FDCPA.   Among other things:

    The collector volunteered his company name, which is not permitted.

    The collector asked for information that is not permitted.

    The collector referred to the debt and implied that the consumer had engaged in illegal conduct.

    The reference to a “case number” implies that litigation exists, which is probably false.

    The collector asked that the employer communicate with the consumer, which is illegal:  a debt collector may never ask an employer, neighbor, etc., to get a message to the consumer.  This is a common way of pressuring consumers to pay debts.  It is also illegal.

    Finally, an employer is not required to respond to a request for information.

     

    Fink & Associates

    Sunday, November 9th, 2014

    Please contact us if Steven J Fink & Associates is trying to collect money from you.

    Professional Account Service, Inc.

    Sunday, November 9th, 2014

    Please contact us if you have been sued by Dorian B. LaSaine or Professional Account Service, Inc.

    FCC ruling on opt out notice for advertising faxes sent with express permission

    Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

    The following description of the FCC ruling is from an industry source:

     

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently issued an orderfinally clarifying that opt-out notices are required in solicited facsimile advertisements. In doing so, the FCC recognized the confusion caused by its prior orders and commentary, granting the petitioning entities a retroactive waiver of the opt-out notice requirement and a six-month window within which to come into compliance. The FCC also expressly invited all similarly situated entities to seek the same waiver and compliance window and instructed that such requests should be filed within six months of its order, issued on October 30, 2014.

    The FCC was faced with an application for review of a Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (Bureau) order and more than 20 petitions filed by various entities. The petitioners collectively challenged 47 CFR 64.1200(a)(4)(iv), which requires opt-out notices in facsimile advertisements sent with the recipients’ prior express permission. The petitioners primarily argued that Section 227(b) of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) applies only to “unsolicited advertisements” and therefore could not be the statutory basis for such a rule. The petitioners also contended that the FCC offered confusing and conflicting statements regarding the applicability of the rule to solicited facsimile advertisements.

    The FCC rejected the petitioners’ primary argument and held that it had authority to issue the rule under Section 227(b). Specifically, the FCC held that inclusion of the opt-out notice in solicited facsimile advertisements was necessary to determining whether the sender retains the recipient’s prior express permission or is otherwise sending, or will send in the future, an “unsolicited advertisement.” The FCC “directed” the Bureau to conduct outreach to inform potential senders of its “reconfirmed requirement” to include opt-out notices in solicited facsimile advertisements.

    However, the FCC found that there was cause for the petitioners’ confusion since it did not explicitly state during its rulemaking that it contemplated an opt-out requirement for solicited facsimile advertisements and had previously issued an order stating that “the opt-out notice requirement only applies to communications that constitute unsolicited advertisements.” Consequently, the FCC granted the petitioners a retroactive waiver of the rule and a six-month window from the date of the order to come into compliance.

    The FCC was clear that the waiver applies only to facsimile advertisements sent to recipients who granted prior express consent and does not apply to unsolicited facsimile advertisements or facsimile advertisements sent in the context of an existing business relationship but without the recipient’s prior express consent.