A debt settlement operation that allegedly lured consumers with exaggerated claims agreed to a $3.3 million settlement of charges of deceptive practices brought by the Federal Trade Commission.
FDN Solutions LLC and owner Timothy Daniels claimed, mostly through Google ads and Web sites they used - such as verestdebtsolutions.com, 1800debtsettlement.com, and everestdebtrelief.com - that they could reduce consumers' debts by up to 40% to 60%, according to the FTC's complaint.
The FTC charged that these savings claims were misleading, because they did not consider the consumers who dropped out of the program, or the fact that the fees each client paid totaled 30% of the savings achieved.
Upon the defendants' payment of $85,000, the remainder of the judgment is suspended based on inability to pay. If it is later determined that the financial information the defendants provided the FTC was false, the full amount of the judgment will become due.
Operating from offices in Tustin, California and Tampa, Florida, Daniels and FDN Solutions used paid search results on Google’s search engine and Google ads on third-party Web sites to advertise their services, telling consumers, “Reduce Debt 70% Want Proof?” and “Save up to 70% On Credit Card Debt,” according to the complaint.
A bar chart on one of the defendants’ Web sites showed that a consumer with a $40,000 debt would pay only $22,000 by using the defendants’ services.
The FTC alleged that Daniels and his company, also doing business as Everest Debt Solutions, 1800debtsettlement.com, and everestdebtrelief.com, violated the Federal Trade Commission Act by making unsupported savings claims and by using a fake consumer testimonial.
One supposed testimonial attributed to “Alicia S., Lake Charles, LA” said, “Everest Debt Solutions was able to drop my credit card debt down 62%! They are truly a Godsend! God Bless.”
The defendants’ Web sites provided consumers with toll-free numbers they could call for more information. When they called, the defendants violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule by misrepresenting the amount of money or the percentage of the debt amount that a consumer could save by using their services, according to the complaint.