“Free trial” scammers settle, surrender millions
In 2010, the FTC sued Jeremy Johnson, his company IWorks, and nine others for allegedly taking more than $280 million from people with a deceptive “free trial” scheme. Now Johnson, his family members, and more than two dozen corporate defendants have settled FTC charges and will give up millions of dollars in cash, stock, jewelry, aircraft, real estate and other assets. In a separate criminal case brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, Johnson was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison after a federal jury in Utah convicted him of making false statements to a bank in connection with the IWorks scheme.
IWorks’ websites promoted government grants and money-making products, and offered "free" information at no risk. But, according to the FTC, when people gave their credit or debit card numbers to pay a supposedly small shipping and handling fee for the information, IWorks charged them one time fees as high as $129.95, and recurring monthly fees, all without their knowledge or permission. In February 2011, a court froze the assets of Johnson and dozens of other defendants so the money could ultimately go back to consumers. Three remaining defendants go to trial in October 2016. After all proceedings are complete, the FTC hopes to issue refunds to people who lost money in the IWorks scheme.
If you’re looking for government grants or ways to make money, the FTC has tips to help you avoid getting ripped off. If you signed up for a free — or low cost — trial, and were charged more than you agreed to, please report it to the FTC.