On June 14, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it will be providing over $3.3 million in payments to consumers who fell victim to the deceptive practices of Arete Financial Group (“Arete Financial”), a student loan debt relief organization. The FTC accused Arete Financial of misleading consumers by falsely claiming affiliation with the U.S. Department of Education and promising to provide student loan debt relief. However, instead of fulfilling their promises, the scammers seemed to keep the payments made by consumers without offering any debt relief. According to the FTC, more than 37,800 consumers will receive checks from the FTC, and they are being advised to cash their checks within 90 days.
To give some context to this massive refund process, in November 2019, the FTC filed a complaint against Arete Financial and its affiliated companies for falsely representing their association with the U.S. Department of Education. The FTC alleged among other things that the defendants were utilizing various channels such as radio, television, online ads, and telemarketing calls to promise consumers enrollment in student loan forgiveness, consolidation, and repayment programs. However, according to the complaint, the defendants, including Arete Financial, had requested upfront fees and subsequent monthly fees with the assurance of reducing or eliminating consumers’ student loan balances. The allegations assert that Arete Financial would then consistently fail to fulfill its promises of debt relief, leaving consumers with no reduction in loan balances or monthly payments. On March 30, 2022, an Amended Stipulated Order was filed against Arete Financial in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.