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Merchant Account Scams
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Merchant Account Scams
There are a lot of companies out there that will entice you into getting a FREE merchant account. This will allow you to accept credit cards if you have a business. It is usually harder to get a merchant account for a home based business. When I first set up my web site I was recommended to look at U.S. Merchant Services. I called them and they said they would fax me a form to fill out to see if I would qualify. They told me since I had been referred by Group M Marketing that the standard $199.00 application fee would be waved.
Part of that form asked me for my checking account number and other financial information. It seemed typical of a form you would fill out when applying for a loan.
I filled out the paperwork and faxed it back to the company. I received a phone call that same day from a representative of U.S. Merchant services and was told I was approved and that I needed to sign their agreement that they would FedX to me.
When I received the paperwork I saw that I was signing my name to a 60 month lease for their services. The payment I believe was around $60.00 per month. That works out to about $3,600.00.
I called the girl that had sent it to me and asked her what happens to people who sign the lease that decide they no longer want a home based business. Well she said that people should not sign it if they are not sure because the money would be owed weather they stayed in business or not.
That bothered me to see how she tried to get me to sign the lease so I didn't.
They are many companies that do not require a lease. Usually they charge a $200.00 or so application fee but that is peanuts when you consider the alternative. I also found out later that Group M Marketing would have made a commission of $600.00 if I had signed that lease.
There are a lot of Free Internet seminars going on around the country that are also pushing people to sign up for a merchant account where there is a long term lease. They tell you that you will need a merchant account anyway and why not make $600.00 or so selling that service to others.
I believe that is putting the cart before the horse. A long term lease might be ok if you felt sure you would be in business for 60 months and there was a financial savings to you for signing the lease. Click Here to here about a company called Leasecomm.
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"Leasecomm knowingly participated in a scheme that used the 'get-rich-quick' allure of selling products on the Internet to take advantage of thousands of consumers who were ultimately forced into debt," Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly said. "This agreement relieves the debts of customers who fell prey to these 'business opportunities' and helps protect future consumers by requiring Leasecomm to change its business practices."
According to the FTC, the scheme worked as follows: Leasecomm Corporation financed business opportunities, including Internet web malls, multilevel marketing programs, medical billing software, coupon clipping programs and similar, often worthless, get-rich-quick schemes sold by third-party vendors. Consumers typically made little or no up-front payments, but signed a contract, which Leasecomm called a lease, requiring payments ranging from $3,000 - $4,000 over a three or four year period. While consumers thought the contracts covered many items included as part of a business venture -- training, Web site design, and consumer leads, for example -- they didn't. They covered only one small part of the venture -- a "virtual terminal," for example.
Leasecomm drafted its contracts to ensure that customers paid even when the vendors used misrepresentations or fraud, or when the products or services failed to perform as represented, according to the FTC complaint. The FTC alleges that Leasecomm knows or should know that many of its vendors engage in deceptive practices to sell their business ventures. In one case, a vendor signed up 1,882 consumers for a "business opportunity,"and nearly 1,500 went into default, the complaint alleges. Nevertheless, Leasecomm aggressively collected from many of those customers. Leasecomm pursues its customers "even when the customers have been defrauded and received nothing of value," the complaint alleges. When consumers argued that the lease really financed an entire business venture that was fraudulent and that the virtual terminal was worthless without the other elements of the package, Leasecomm took the position that the consumer still had an obligation to pay in full. When consumers set up their own internet Web sites to share information on how to fight Leasecomm, company employees falsely posed as consumers and made misleading statements about other consumers' absolute obligation to pay Leasecomm, according to the complaint.
According to the FTC, when consumers failed to pay, Leasecomm sued them. The FTC alleges that Leasecomm has sued over 27,000 consumers in the past three years in Massachusetts courts, and, as of January, had 2,200 suits pending. Few of the customers could afford the expense of litigation in a distant city and most suffered default judgments the FTC alleges. Although Leasecomm files its suits in Massachusetts, it aggressively enforces its judgments in the consumer's local forum. "Had Leasecomm filed the suits in the local forum in the first instance, customers might have been able to appear and present a defense," the complaint says. According to the FTC, Leasecomm adds to the consumer injury by imposing high collection fees, not only for late payments, but for every collection call it makes and letter it sends. These practices substantially increase the total payments due under the Leasecomm contract, the complaint says.