CHARLESTON - State Attorney General Darrell McGraw announced his office has recently reached settlements with three companies.
McGraw agreed to terms with Help Ministries, Inc., a credit counseling agency; MPIS, Inc., a private investigating company; and Main Security Center, a telemarketer.
Main Security Center, of Phoenix, was charged with targeting senior citizens and offering to upgrade their current identity theft programs but were actually taking their credit card numbers and charging $299 to their accounts.
Consumers received a hand-held paper shredder, a CD-ROM allegedly containing anti-virus software and copies of free informational brochures published by the Federal Trade Commission.
The business agreed to stop doing business in the state and to provide McGraw's office with a list of all state consumers whose accounts were charged. McGraw says he anticipates sending letters to approximately 300 affected consumers advising them how to dispute the fraudulent charges with their credit card companies.
MPIS, Inc., agreed to pay a $2,000 fine after allegations surfaced that it was selling cell phone numbers. The Keyser-based private investigating agency must also update its license, which expired in 2003.
MPIS allegedly sold logs documenting the phone calls of an individual to third parties whose identities it did not obtain. McGraw called it "a serious invasion of privacy."
The states of Illinois, Texas and Missouri also sued MPIS.
The settlement with Help Ministries, doing business as Debt Free, will provide $300,000 in refunds to be spread among 1,034 state consumers.
The Mesa, Ariz.-based company arranged monthly debt management plans to assist people in dire financial straits. McGraw's office says it was charging a monthly service fee as well as a setup fee and other fees not permitted by state law.