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FTC halts debt relief scheme

The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday announced it had temporarily shut down a credit card debt relief scheme operated by Sean Austin, John Steven Huffman, and John Preston Thompson and their affiliated companies that allegedly took millions from people by falsely promising to eliminate or substantially reduce their credit card debt.

Since 2019, Austin, Huffman, and Thompson have operated a network of companies incorporated in Tennessee, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming that have worked together as a common enterprise to support the defendants’ deceptive credit card debt relief scheme, the FTC alleged. Their companies have operated under multiple names such as ACRO Services, American Consumer Rights Organization, Consumer Protection Resources, Reliance Solutions, Thacker & Associates, and Tri Star Consumer Group.

In its complaint, the FTC alleged that Austin, Huffman, and Thompson engaged in several deceptive and unlawful tactics, including:

  • Deceptive telemarketing
  • Making phone debt relief promises
  • Charging deceptive upfront fees

Consumers who signed up for the defendants’ services were told to stop making payments to their credit card companies and communicating with those companies. Consumers, however, were never informed that as a result of such actions, they could be sued for failing to pay their credit card debt, may accrue even more debt, and could damage their credit scores, which could also harm their ability to get credit in the future, the FTC alleged.

A federal court granted the FTC’s request to temporarily shut down the scheme operated by Austin, Huffman, and Thompson and froze their assets.

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