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FTC Shuts Down Major Debt Relief Scam

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Although this blog’s main focus is finding ways to make money from home, I often receive questions regarding tax relief and debt consolidation. Unfortunately, this is no where near my area of expertise. But seeing as it comes up in emails often, I’m sure this post will interest quite a few of you.

Apparently a bunch of dudes who go by the name “American Tax Relief” have been telling non-qualifying consumers that they qualify for different tax alleviating programs and then proceed to charge them upwards of $25,000 to help them settle their debts and cut back the amount of money they owe.

You have to be pretty twisted to prey on and steal from people who are suffering in debt. A handful of people have asked me about this company specifically and I sincerely hope the FTC helps them recover any lost funds.

For the record, the FTC has outlined a few ways to help you handle any tax issues including tax relief. You can check them out by clicking here.

It’s good to hear of some justice in the world. The FTC writes…

At the request of the Federal Trade Commission, a federal judge has halted a national operation that allegedly bilked consumers out of more than $60 million by falsely claiming it can reduce people’s tax debts – the company’s California state business license was suspended last year for not paying its own taxes, the FTC alleges. The FTC is seeking to make the defendants pay restitution to victims.

“We’ve made it a top priority to go after scammers who try to exploit the financial hardship of others,” said David C. Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “For people having a tough time paying their taxes, the last thing they need is to lose more money to a fraud.”

According to the FTC, in TV, radio and Internet ads, American Tax Relief LLC falsely claims it can settle consumers’ delinquent federal and state taxes for a fraction of the amount they owe. The company also falsely claims that it can remove tax liens and stop wage garnishments, bank and tax levies, property seizures, and “unbearable monthly payments.” For example, the company’s website states, “The IRS is currently accepting a fraction of back taxes owed to them (sic) for those who qualify. The IRS is allowing the people with delinquent tax liabilities a ONE-TIME opportunity to settle the debt ONCE AND FOR ALL. But at the same time, the IRS does not advertise, promote or even voluntarily suggest this program.”

The FTC alleges that the company has continued its deceptive practices even after federal agents executed a criminal search warrant on the operation’s Beverly Hills business premises in April, 2010. At that time, criminal authorities seized money from bank accounts and a Ferrari from the company’s owner, and placed liens on two residences, including a $3.4 million house. At the time, one of the company’s owners was leasing six other vehicles, including a Rolls Royce, a Bentley, two Porsches, and two Mercedes-Benzes, according to exhibits the FTC filed in court.

American Tax Relief charges up-front fees ranging from about $3,200 to $25,000 for the purported tax relief services. The company’s ads include a toll-free number for consumers to call for a “free consultation.” After speaking briefly with commission-based sales people who are supposedly “tax consultants,” virtually all consumers are told that they “qualify” for a tax relief program, and that American Tax Relief can help them significantly reduce their tax debts, the FTC complaint alleges.

In reality, very few of the company’s customers qualify for the promised tax relief programs, which are available only in very limited circumstances. Most people who hire the company would qualify at most for installment payment plans, which still require payment of the full amount owed, and which many taxpayers can easily arrange by themselves.

Click here to read the full press release.

If you’ve been scammed by American Tax Relief or a similar company, please TELL THE FTC. They can shut down scammers, prevent them from ripping off other people and can work on getting your money back. File a complaint on their website by clicking here or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.

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