The Federal Trade Commission has put a stop to a deceptive foreclosure "rescue" operation that charged homeowners $1,200 based on the false promise that it could save them from losing their homes.
The operators of the business are barred from any further deceptive practices under a settlement with the FTC. The agency charged them with violating the FTC Act by falsely claiming that they would prevent homes from being foreclosed in virtually all instances or refund most of the $1,200 fee. In most cases the defendants neither stopped foreclosure nor provided promised refunds.
The settlement prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting any fact material to a consumer’s decision to purchase a foreclosure rescue service, including that they can prevent or postpone any foreclosure; the likelihood that their foreclosure rescue will succeed; the degree of past success of any foreclosure rescue efforts; the likelihood that a consumer will get a refund if the rescue effort fails; that they can help all consumers, regardless of their individual circumstances; the number of satisfied customers or customer complaints; the terms of any refund or guarantee; any endorsement or rating by the Better Business Bureau or any other consumer association.
The order imposes a $4.1 million judgment, which will be suspended upon transfer of $21,694 in bank account funds that were frozen by the court. The full judgment will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition. The settlement bars them from selling or otherwise disclosing personal information about anyone whose information they obtained during their operation. The settlement also contains record-keeping and reporting provisions to monitor their compliance.
The defendants are Stephanie Dietschy, Darin Dietschy, and United Home Savers, LLC, all based in Florida. The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the stipulated final order was 4-0. The document was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, and was entered by the court on August 19, 2009.
NOTE: Stipulated final orders are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. A stipulated final order requires approval by the court and has the force of law when signed by the judge.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.