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 conned consumers into paying debts they did not owe. The defendants used several names including GAFS Group, Global Mediation Group, and Mediation Services.
Consumers will be recovering all the money they lost to the scammers, averaging $516 for each payment. Consumers will receive either a PayPal payment or a check in the mail. Recipients should redeem PayPal payments within 30 days or cash checks within 90 days. Approximately 200 additional consumers will receive claim forms. To get a payment, they must complete and return the form within 45 days to confirm the amount they paid the defendants.
Consumers who have 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 GAFS Group in February 2019 for falsely claiming to be attorneys or affiliated with attorneys, pressuring consumers into making payments on debts they did not owe. 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 banned them from debt collection, debt brokering activities, misleading consumers, and from misrepresenting to consumers whether they are attorneys.
The Commission’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of refunds in FTC cases. In 2021, Commission actions led to more than $472 million in refunds to consumers across the country, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that the Commission lacks authority under Section 13(b) to seek monetary relief in federal court. Fortunately, this case resolved before the Supreme Court’s actions. But because of that ruling, the Commission no longer has its strongest tool to return money to consumers, and it will become harder to provide refunds to consumers harmed by deceptive and unfair conduct going forward. The Commission has urged Congress to restore the Commission’s ability to get money back for consumers.