'Debt-relief' companies banned from charging advance fees over the phone

Starting next week, telemarketing companies peddling debt-relief services to consumers will be banned from charging customers advance fees. Any unscrupulous companies that flout the new rules will be caught and punished, the Federal Trade Commission announced.

The modifications to the Telemarketing Sales Rule, first announced last July, represent an effort by the commission to rein in abuses by an industry that's profited from thousands of financially-distressed Americans during the Great Recession.