The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday (Jan. 18) lodged charges against Credit Bureau Center and three individuals for allegedly tricking consumers into signing up for credit monitoring services by offering fake rental properties and free credit reports.
According to a release by the FTC, the government agency is asking a federal court to temporarily stop the business from operating and is aiming to permanently stop the illegal practices and return money to scammed consumers. The FTC contends the company earned millions of dollars defrauding consumers.
The FTC alleged the defendants ran Craigslist ads for rental properties that were fake, or they didn’t have the authority to rent. When people responded to the ads, the defendants would pretend to be the property owners and would send emails promising tours of the property if the would-be renters got a credit report and credit score from their websites.
“These sites claimed to provide ‘free’ credit reports and scores but then enrolled consumers in a credit monitoring service with continuing $29.95 monthly charges. Many people did not realize they had been enrolled until they noticed unexpected charges on their bank or credit card statements, sometimes after several billing cycles,” the FTC said in the complaint. The complaint also alleges the consumers who got their credit reports and scores didn’t get the tours, and emails to the fake property owners went unanswered. The defendants are Credit Bureau Center LLC, formerly known as MyScore LLC and also doing business as eFreeScore.com, CreditUpdates.com and FreeCreditNation.com; its owner, Michael Brown; and Danny Pierce and Andrew Lloyd, whose deceptive ads and emails allegedly drove consumers to Credit Bureau Center’s websites. All four defendants are charged with violating the FTC Act. Credit Bureau Center and Brown are also charged with violating the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Free Reports Rule, which requires that consumers be informed of their right to obtain free credit reports.