Consumers Victimized by Credit Monitoring Scheme to Be Refunded Millions of Dollars
The scheme charged consumers for credit monitoring services they did not order
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is refunding nearly $20 million to more than 145,000 consumers around the country that were conned by an online credit monitoring scheme.
One Technologies LP, together with two partner companies, lured consumers with claims of "free" access to their credit scores, then charged them $29.95 on a recurring monthly basis for credit monitoring services that they never ordered.
"It's our goal whenever possible to put money back in the hands of hard-working American consumers who have been victimized," said Jessica Rich, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. "We are pleased to announce that $20 million in refunds are going to back to consumers this week."
The refunds were secured by the FTC and the states of Illinois and Ohio as part of a settlement of charges they filed against the companies in January 2014. The companies had marketed their credit monitoring services, known as MyCreditHealth and ScoreSense, on at least 50 different websites, including FreeScore360.com, FreeScoreOnline.com, and ScoreSense.com.
The FTC alleged that the defendants purchased advertising on search engines like Google and Bing so there would be ads for their sites ranking close to the top of search results for terms like "free credit report." The most prominent ad proclaimed: "View your latest Credit Scores from All 3 Bureaus in 60 seconds for $0!"
The agency claimed that the defendants were in violation of both the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers' Confidence Act, which makes it illegal to charge consumers for goods or services that are sold online through a negative option unless the seller does the following: clearly disclose all material terms before getting consumers' billing information; gets consumers' express and informed authorization before charging them; and provides a simple method to stop charges from recurring. The defendants were also charged with being in violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act and the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act.
The amount of the check that consumers will receive in the mail will differ based on the amount each person lost. Checks should be deposited or cashed within 60 days. Consumers are never required by the FTC to either pay money or provide information about their accounts in order to cash refund checks.
Consumers who are considering using a credit report or credit score service should consider the following factors:
- Consumers who want a copy of their free credit report should use AnnualCreditReport.com. Although there are other sites claiming to offer credit reports, credit scores, or credit monitoring services for free, these sites are not part of the free annual credit report program covered by federal law.
- Many services that companies offer for improving consumers' credit report or credit scores for a fee can actually be done by the consumers for free.
- Consumers who believe they may have been victimized by deceptive marketing should notify the FTC.