It was billed as the business opportunity of a lifetime: A way to find gold amid the ruins of a collapsed housing market, but what seemed like quick riches turned into a quick drain on a bank account.
Real estate agent Lisa Goetz needed more business, so it was pretty exciting when she received a flyer in the mail.
The flyer was addressed to Goetz personally, from an Indiana man who identified himself as D. C. Fawcett who offered what he called a "foreclosure wealth machine," or a way to make riches from short sale properties.
"He says you can make over $100,000 on each deal," Goetz said. "That sounds really good."
A promotional video mailed to Goetz showed a charismatic Fawcett giving a rousing seminar. Goetz would first look for short sale deals, and then Fawcett would buy the properties. Goetz would get most of the profits, supposedly without using her money or credit.
Except that wasn't quite right.
"When I called up the next day, they took the money straight out of my bank account," Goetz said.
Right off the bat, she was charge $997 for a membership to Fawcett's "Virtual Short Sale Investing Program." On top of the membership fee, Goetz was also charged $97 per month for membership fees, $95 a month for a website, and $250 for each time she proposed a deal. Goetz could reject the deal, but that required filling out hundreds of documents each time.
"On the last day, I said I don't think I want to do this," Goetz said. "There's too much liability, too much money."
That shouldn't have been a problem: The company said it had a 30 day return policy. When Goetz cancelled, she was told she was within the 30 days, but two weeks later, Fawcett said she wouldn't receive a refund because she was beyond the 30 days.
Goetz protests went nowhere, so she contacted 7 On Your Side.
Fawcett didn't want to go on camera for an interview and a spokesperson said he did not want to comment, but an assistant told ABC7 customers are made aware of fees before they sign a contract.
The company is now waiving some of those fees.
Goetz refund was apparently denied because she failed to return the company's materials within 30 days, but after ABC7 asked more questions, the company agreed to refund Goetz's money after all.
Fawcett does business under several other names, including "Neighborhood Solutions Inc." The Better Business Bureau gives that company a "D" rating with 32 complaints.
Fawcett's assistant said the rating is based on advertisement issues that are now being corrected.