NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — If credit card debt relief sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
A federal court has halted a nationwide debt relief telemarketing operation that the Federal Trade Commission and Florida’s attorney general’s office claim swindled millions of dollars from debt-laden consumers.
According to the complaint, the scammers called consumers with credit card debt and claimed to be able to negotiate with their credit card companies to lower their interest rates and save them thousands.
The complaint says the telemarketers operated under various fake business names and would sometimes claim to be affiliated with an individual’s lender, provided a license or badge number and told consumers they already knew how much debt the person carried.
Consumers were charged upfront fees during the call, ranging from around $500 to $1,500, they could save money by having their interest rates lowered, according to the FTC.
“Defendants rarely, if ever, provide the interest rate reductions and savings that they promise to consumers,” the complaint said.
The FTC claims the callers falsely pledged to return the fee if they weren’t able to secure a lower rate or savings, and that the scam has been going on since January 2013.
According to the FTC, most credit card companies do not typically negotiate interest rates or work with third parties on consumers’ accounts.
The complaint says the scam was carried out under many fictitious business names, including Applied Budgeting, Competitive Budgeting, Decisive Budgeting, Less Costly Living and Your Next Financial Step.
The FTC and State of Florida’s complaint names Steven D. Short and his wife, Karissa L. Dyar, as defendants, and their companies, E.M. Systems & Services LLC, Administrative Management & Design LLC, Empirical Data Group Technologies LLC, Epiphany Management Systems LLC, and KLS Industries LLC, doing business as Satisfied Services Solutions LLC. It also names Christopher C. Miles and his telemarketing company, One Easy Solution LLC.
Short and Dyar were also accused of operating a similar operation, called Pro Credit Group, that was also shut down.
Update July 9, 2015:
An attorney who represents Short and Dyar said the public allegations amounted to name calling; and he labeled the FTC allegations “feckless” in a statement issued July 9, 2015.
“Labeling my clients as ‘scammers’ lacks both the recognition of the material and relevant facts and who the key players really are in this case,” said the statement from attorney Robert D. Eckard. He further expressed confidence that the investigation would help the accusers “realized the lack of culpability of Mr. Short and Ms. Dyar.”
“The prosecution strategy of shooting first and aiming second is an expensive endeavor,” Eckard said.