(Source: Attorney General Roy Cooper) - Raleigh: A Charlotte company that charged hefty upfront fees but did little to help people get out of debt has been ordered to stop breaking the law and cease taking money from North Carolinians, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced Thursday.
“Outfits that promise debt relief for an upfront fee most often end up driving consumers even deeper into debt,” said Cooper. “Thanks to North Carolina’s strong laws we’re able to take action to stop these harmful schemes.”
Cooper filed suit against Advantage Debt Solutions, Inc. and its owner Anthony Krysinski last week seeking to stop their illegal debt relief scheme in North Carolina. North Carolina consumers have paid more than $140,000 to the scheme so far, and out of state consumers have paid approximately $1 million.
Wake County Superior Court Judge Michael J. O’Foghludha agreed on Wednesday with Cooper’s request to temporarily halt the defendants from offering debt adjusting or negotiation services in the state. They are barred under the court order from taking payments or entering into contracts with consumers while the case against them goes forward. Cooper’s office is seeking a permanent stop to the firm’s activities in North Carolina and refunds for consumers.
Five consumers have complained to the Attorney General’s Office about Advantage Debt Solutions, and the Charlotte Better Business Bureau has received an additional 17 complaints about the company.
As alleged in Cooper’s complaint, Advantage Debt Solutions markets its services through aggressive telemarketing calls that claim the company can help people settle their credit card debt and become debt-free in two to three years. The defendants’ program is actually an advance fee scam that collects large upfront fees, typically 15 percent of consumers’ total debts, but rarely obtains the promised debt relief for them. Instead of paying off consumers’ creditors, the defendants keep most of the money even after consumers cancel the program and request a refund.
Under North Carolina law, it’s illegal to collect any upfront fee for debt settlement services.
Cooper also contends that the defendants aren’t the expert debt negotiators they claim to be because their employees actually have no training, experience or expertise in the areas of credit counseling, debt management, consumer finance or bankruptcy law. Advantage Debt Solutions employees routinely tell consumers to stop paying their bills and change their billing address—a strategy that does nothing to help consumers reduce their debts.
For example, an 84-year-old Durham resident paid Advantage Debt Solutions $12,000 to pay down her debt. She was current on her bills but agreed to hire the company after being targeted by its telemarketing. Of the $12,000 she paid, the company kept all but $1,945 that went to one of her creditors. Since she paid Advantage Debt Solutions directly instead of her creditors, the consumer is now behind on her bills and getting collection calls and notices. Even after hiring a private attorney and demanding a refund, she has yet to get any money back from the defendants.
“Steer clear of anyone who tells you to stop paying your bills and give them your money instead. To get a handle on your debts, turn to a reputable non-profit credit counselor instead,” Cooper said.
To find an accredited counselor in your local community, contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at 1-800-388-2227 or www.nfcc.org.