The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida has temporarily shut down Innovative Wealth Builders Inc. (IWB), which allegedly operated a credit card interest rate reduction scam.
The FTC alleged in its complaint that since at least 2009, IWB cold-called consumers with credit card debt and pitched them a deceptive credit card interest rate reduction program. IWB’s telemarketers, according to the complaint, claimed IWB could substantially reduce the interest rates of consumers’ credit cards, save consumers thousands of dollars and help them pay off their debts much faster.
IWB charged consumers between $500 and $2,000 with the promise that all fees would be returned to consumers if IWB failed to meet its promises. The shut down is pending resolution of the FTC’s cases against the operation.
The complaint announced Monday was filed against IWB and its owners, Carly Janene Pelland, also known as Carly Zurita; Tamara Dawn Johnson; and Sheryl Leigh Lopez.
According to the FTC, IWB did not actually obtain substantial reductions in consumers’ interest rates. It did not save consumers thousands of dollars or help them pay off their debts more quickly.
Instead, the complaint alleges that IWB sent some consumers a so-called “financial plan” which included nothing more than a comparison between: 1) the total amount consumers would pay on their debts if they only paid the minimum monthly amount and; 2) the total amount consumers would pay on their debts if they paid some amount greater than their monthly minimum payment.
IWB allegedly refused to return consumers’ money. Consumers were often further injured by subsequent unauthorized charges that IWB made to consumers’ credit card accounts, according to the complaint.
It further alleges that the defendants violated the FTC Act by misrepresenting their credit card interest rate reduction services, misrepresenting its refund policy, and billing consumers without their authorization. The complaint alleges that the defendants violated the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule, including by misrepresenting the debt relief service they were selling, charging a fee before providing debt relief services and billing consumers without their express informed consent.