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Operators of debt relief companies agree to settle FTC charges

Five operators of a student loan debt relief scam have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they bilked millions from consumers by falsely claiming to enroll consumers in loan forgiveness programs, costing up to $1,000 in illegal upfront fees.

The settlements are with the following individual defendants and their companies:

  • Benjamin Naderi, Alliance Document Preparation
  • Shawn Gabbaie, SBB Holdings
  • Avinidav Rubeni, United Legal Center
  • Ramiar Reuveni, Grads Doc Prep
  • Farzan Azinkhan
  • Michael Ratliff

The commission obtained default judgments against two more corporate defendants, Elite Doc Prep and Elite Consulting Service.

FTC’s lawsuit

The FTC alleged in its lawsuit that the defendants deceptively telemarketed their document preparation service by misrepresenting an affiliation with the U.S. Department of Education or consumers’ loan servicers. In addition, the defendants required consumers to pay an up-front fee so they would supposedly receive reduced monthly payments or get their student loans forgiven.

The defendants used deceptive advertisements on Facebook and other social media that touted their ability to qualify consumers in loan forgiveness programs when only the department can do it.

Conditions of the settlement

Under the settlement orders, the defendants are banned from engaging in any type of debt relief or financial activities.

The proposed and final orders include more than $19 million in judgments, which are partially suspended due to the defendants’ inability to pay. The defendants’ unsuspended payments are more than $5 million, which will be used to return money to consumers.

How to avoid student loan debt relief scams

To avoid fraud, see the FTC’s ftc.gov/StudentLoans.

Consumers should remember that only scammers promise fast loan forgiveness and that scammers often pretend to be affiliated with the government. In addition, consumers should never pay an upfront fee for help, and shouldn’t share their FSA ID — a username and password used to log in to the department websites — with anyone.

Consumers can apply for loan deferments, repayment, and forgiveness or discharge programs through the department or their loan servicer at no cost; these programs don’t require the assistance of a third-party company or payment of application fees. For federal student loan repayment options, visit StudentAid.gov/repay. For private student loans, contact the loan servicer.

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