The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi are suing the Doral-based, Student Aid Center, for illegal business practices in the hopes of recouping some of consumers’ lost money.
The Student Aid Center, which claimed to help graduates relieve themselves of student loan debt, is now facing serious legal trouble of its own. The two owners filed for bankruptcy in February, stating the company had liabilities between $1 million and $10 million.
In addition to the FTC and the State of Florida complaint, Minnesota and the District of Columbia have filed lawsuits accusing Student Aid Center of “deceptive practices.” The Minnesota lawsuit alleges one of the owner’s Instagram account frequently referenced Jordan Belfort, the money-grubbing stockbroker depicted in the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Wolf of Wall Street.) The account has since been taken down.
The owners were savvy marketers, running advertisements on social media, radio spots, Google ads promoting the tagline, “Obama Loan Forgiveness,” and even in one case, an aerial banner flying over South Beach.
The complaint brought by the FTC and the State of Florida says Student Aid Center “preyed on consumers’ anxiety about student loan debt” by falsely promising to reduce or even eliminate it.
The company demanded upfront fees in five monthly installments of $199 or more, according to the complaint- even though graduates can apply for government loan forgiveness programs free of charge. Student Aid Center went as far to tell its customers to stop paying their lenders and instead pay the company directly, the lawsuit alleges.
But although the company lured in customers by promising a 100 percent money-back guarantee, Student Aid Center later deflected those who demanded refunds by either not returning the money or returning an amount much less than what had been paid, according to the FTC.
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