States join FTC in targeting business opportunity fraud

Ashley Stinnett Jul. 3, 2009, 1:05am

Bill McCollum (R)

TALAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline)- The Federal Trade Commission and an alliance of 15 state law enforcement authorities are teaming up to combat debt relief scams, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum said.

McCollum said the operation will focus on targeting a variety of fraudulent practices, including bogus employment opportunities, fraudulent business ventures, falsified government grants and phony debt reduction services.

The operation has already led to a settlement with MagicJack over allegations the company marketed a "free" 30-day trial for its long distance phone equipment, but actually charged customers during the offer.

Family Credit Counseling Corp, a Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based debt relief service, was among other agencies settling with the states. That company allegedly misappropriated debt management programs, along with, debt reduction malpractice.

"As our state and our citizens face tough economic times, some individuals are taking advantage of the situation by preying on the vulnerability of others, making circumstances more difficult," McCollum said. "This operation will help create a necessary deterrent so these unscrupulous people stay out of our state."

The program, known as Operation Short Change, is comprised of 14 states, the District of Columbia.

In addition to Florida, states participating in the operation are California, Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Texas.

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