The Federal Trade Commission is sending payments totaling more than $1 million to 1,966 consumers who were harmed by a debt collection scheme that tricked consumers into paying debts they didn’t owe. The defendants used various names, including GAFS Group, Global Mediation Group and Mediation Services.
Consumers will get back all the money they lost to scammers, averaging $516 for each payment. Consumers will receive a PayPal payment or check in the mail. Recipients must redeem PayPal payments within 30 days or cash checks within 90 days. Approximately 200 additional consumers will receive claim forms. To get paid, they must complete and return the form within 45 days to confirm the amount they have paid the defendants.
Consumers with questions about their refund or claim form should call the refund administrator, Analytics, at 866-948-2713. The Commission never requires people to pay money or provide account information to get a refund.
The FTC sued the GAFS group in February 2019 for falsely claiming to be lawyers or affiliated with lawyers, pressuring consumers to pay debts they didn’t have. The defendants threatened to take legal action against consumers if they did not pay these phantom debts. In December 2019, the defendants agreed to a settlement that permanently barred them from debt collection, debt brokerage activities, misleading consumers and misrepresenting to consumers if they are attorneys.
That of the Commission interactive dashboards for reimbursement data provide a state-by-state breakdown of refunds in FTC cases. In 2021, the Commission’s actions resulted in more than $472 million in refunds to consumers nationwide, but the US Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that the Commission lacks authority under Section 13 (b) to apply for monetary relief in federal court. Fortunately, this case was resolved before the action of the Supreme Court. But because of this ruling, the Commission no longer has its strongest tool for returning money to consumers, and it will be more difficult to offer refunds to consumers harmed by misleading and unfair conduct in the future. The Commission has urged Congress to restore the Commission’s ability to recover money for consumers.