By Rita R. Robison
Christopher Mallett, a San Antonio, Texas-based “lead generator,” deceived consumers by using multiple websites to impersonate federal consumer assistance agencies or pretend to be affiliated with them, the Federal Trade Commission alleges in a lawsuit.
Through the websites, Mallett solicited consumers in debt and referred them to companies selling mortgage, tax, and debt relief services with promises that their debts would be substantially reduced or eliminated, according to the FTC lawsuit.
The FTC charged Mallett with multiple violations of FTC laws for misrepresenting his affiliations with federal agencies, misrepresenting that the services advertised on his websites were government-approved, and making deceptive debt relief claims. The FTC also charged that his deceptive claims violated the FTC’s telemarketing and mortgage relief rules.
Mallett did business as Department of Consumer Services Protection Commission, U.S. Debt Care, World Law Debt, U.S. Mortgage Relief Counsel, gov-usdebtreform.net, worldlawdebt.org, usdebtcare.net, and FHA-homeloaninfo.
The FTC alleges that Mallett impersonated the FTC or other government agencies on websites he created. For example, Mallett’s websites associated his business with a fictitious government agency – the “Department of Consumer Services Protection Commission.”
The websites also used the FTC’s official seal, copied language about the fictitious agency’s supposed consumer protection mission from the FTC’s site, and claimed that the fictitious agency “monitors and researches” member companies that provide financial assistance to American consumers, the complaint alleges.
The FTC also said Mallett deceived consumers by using the name of another fictitious government agency that he called the “U.S. Mortgage Relief Counsel” on his website, FHA-HomeLoan.info. This website also included a picture of the U.S. Capitol building and promised that the “Counsel” would direct consumers to “officials licensed with the National Mortgage Licensing Service, persuant [sic] to the SAFE act of 2008.”
Neither Mallett nor any of his websites have been affiliated with the FTC or any other government agencies, the FTC said in a statement.
Mallett also allegedly claimed that consumers who responded to his website solicitations could have their debts substantially reduced, and in some cases gave percentages. One website offered a “success stats chart” for his business that “showed” that his customers’ debts were settled for 16 percent to 40 percent of the amount owed. These claims were false or unsubstantiated, the FTC charged.
For consumer information about debt, mortgage, and tax relief assistance, see Money Matters: Debt Relief Services, Mortgage Assistance Relief Scams: Another Potential Stress for Homeowners in Distress, and Tax Relief Companies – More Pain Than Gain?