Glenn Beck's advertising woes continue, as yet another of the dwindling number of companies still willing to sponsor his Fox News program is facing accusations of fraud.
Just days before Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) released his report detailing Beck's role in Goldline's scheme to scare consumers into buying overpriced gold, Texas attorney general Greg Abbott (R) announced that he was charging TaxMasters, Inc. with “multiple violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and Texas Debt Collection Act.” According to Abbott, TaxMasters “routinely misled customers about the nature of their tax resolution service agreements - and worse, attempted to enforce those improper agreements through unlawful debt collection tactics.”
From the press release announcing the enforcement action:
The defendants advertise a tax resolution service for federal taxpayers who have received notice from the IRS of an audit, garnishment, lien, levy or tax deficiency. Citing a self-styled “national advertising campaign” and high-profile “endorsements,” TaxMasters purports to have “one of the most effective tax relief teams in the tax representation business.” However, a state investigation - and nearly 1,000 complaints submitted to the Office of the Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau of Houston - indicate that the defendants have unlawfully misled their customers and failed to disclose material facts about their service agreements.
TaxMasters' advertisements encourage taxpayers to call its toll-free number for a “free consultation” with a “tax consultant.” Court documents filed by the state indicate that callers are not connected to an employee qualified to give tax advice, but rather with a TaxMasters salesperson who recommends a “solution” for between $1,500 and $9,000 or more.
According to court documents, many callers were offered an installment plan so that they could pay the defendants' fee over a specified period of time. However, callers who asked to see written terms and conditions prior to making a payment were informed that a credit card or bank account number is necessary to generate a written TaxMasters service contract. As a result, TaxMasters customers were unaware - and the defendants' personnel did not have a practice of disclosing - multiple aspects of the TaxMasters service agreement that were harmful to taxpayers.
TaxMasters' ads run on an almost daily basis during Beck's Fox News program, and air frequently on Fox News throughout the day, as well as on CNN and MSNBC.
Read the Texas attorney general's enforcement action here.