LAS VEGAS (CN) – The FTC says a man named Moneymaker lived down to his name, running online companies that dangle free stuff as bait, then fish for consumers’ bank account information and enroll them in “continuity programs” that suck up more money by the month or week until victims notice it and demand that it stop.
Lead defendant Michael Bruce Moneymaker is also known as Bruce Moneymaker, Mike Smith, and Michael Bruce Millerd, according to the federal complaint.
Moneymaker is or was president or director of co-defendants Belfort Capital Ventures and HSC Labs dba Fortress Secured, the FTC says.
Also named as defendants are Dynamic Online Solutions, Red Dust Studios, Seaside Ventures Trust and Daniel De La Cruz, whose job titles are similar to Moneymaker’s.
The defendants purport to offer a variety of services, including free airline tickets, a credit card and free voice mail, for which consumers enroll by providing personal information, including their name, bank routing number and bank account number, the FTC says.
Consumers then may submit payday loan applications through matching websites, which allegedly “match” applicants with lenders. A pop-up box requests victims’ digital signature or voice authorization, but even those who do not provide authorization are still charged, the FTC says.
The defendants then draw up “remotely created checks” which suck money from their victims’ bank accounts for the “continuity programs,” according to the complaint. The FTC says the defendants take enrollment fees of $8.42 to $499, and continue to suck up weekly or monthly fees ranging from $8.42 to $19.98.
“Defendants do not provide the consumers who they enroll in their continuity programs any information about such programs,” the FTC says.
Many customers don’t know they are being charged until they see it on their bank statements, and only when they demand to unenroll are they removed from the program, the FTC says.
The FTC seeks refunds, an injunction, and damages for violations of the FTC Act and unfair and deceptive billing.
The lawsuit was filed under seal on March 28 and was unsealed this week. All of the defendants appear to be based in Las Vegas, though HSC also uses an address in Sparks, Nev.