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FTC sues Payday Support Center, iNfinityCollect for deceptive relief to payday debtors

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The FTC sued a debt relief company that targeted payday loan customers. Associated Press

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday filed its first suit against a debt relief company that targeted people struggling with payday loans.

The FTC sued Payday Support Center LLC. which has since changed its name to PSC Administrative LLC, and Coastal Acquisitions, an Alabama-based telemarketing company that operates in Ohio as iNfinityCollect.

The suit says Payday Support used cold calls and Internet and radio ads to offer assistance to people juggling multiple payday loans.

Typical radio spots asked, "Are payday loans ruining your life? Do you have more payday loans than you're able to pay back right now?" People who responded to the ads were told if they had at least two payday loans, they could qualify for the company's "financial hardship program."

Debtors were told that if they paid $98 to $160 to Payday Support bi-weekly, the debt settlement company would negotiate "interest-free" payments with payday lenders. But the company did little more than send out debt validation letters -- letters that ask creditors to show a debt is really owed, the FTC said in its suit.

Because the company directed clients to stop

paying their lenders, but often didn't forward on payments or negotiate lower debts, clients who paid the fees became even more mired in debt, the FTC said.

Customers who called the company after the four- to six-month program period to find out why their loans hadn't been paid off were told they misunderstood the program, the suit said.

The FTC's suit, filed in an Alabama federal court, accuses the companies of violations of the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule, which was amended in 2010 to prohibit debt settlement companies that use telemarketing from accepting payments until they have successfully settled or negotiated down a consumer's debt.

Payday borrowers often borrow serially because they cannot afford to pay off the the pricey loans in full by the deadline. Annual interest rates of 400 percent are typical, but rates can be even higher.

In a report issued last year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that 80 percent of payday customers borrowed again within 14 days (the typical payday loan due date), and more than 60 percent of borrowers were sucked into seven or more loans in a one-year period.

The CFPB is expected to issue the first-ever federal rules regarding payday lenders soon.

Category: Payday loans

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