The General Accountability Office charged Monday the pension advance industry is riddled with abuses.

GAO uncovered 38 primarily Web-based companies offering lump sums for pensions at interest rates ranging from 27 percent to 46 percent, at times double or triple the usury rate of the states where the transactions were made.

“Some (pension advance companies) targeted financially vulnerable consumers with poor or bad credit nationwide,” the report from the Congressional investigative unit said.

GAO also chided the industry for poor disclosure practices including the fact most of the firms are murkily interconnected, which made it difficult for dissatisfied customers to find whom to file complaints against.

Pension advance operations involve two parts: one the company providing the money to a retiree in exchange for all or part of a pension and the second part where the company sells a financial product to investors where they receive the payments from the customer.

For the study, GAO investigators called half of the firms, posing at retirees.

Among the questionable marketing practices GAO found was a tale from the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation’s Inspector General’s Office of a financial advisor who claimed that the income streams the pensioners were purchasing in the transactions were being made for sale by the regulator.

Claims that GAO said could lead customers falsely to believe the investments were backed by the federal government or the PBGC.

The businesses tend to be concentrated in California, home to 18. The No.2 state, Arizona, was far behind at three.

The federal regulatory groundwork of pension advance companies is a muddle.

If a particular pension advance is recommended by an investment advisory, GAO said, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority could have jurisdiction.

GAO said it is a long-standing, unsettled question whether pension advances are loans governed by the Truth in Lending Act.

While the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is TILA’s enforcer, the agency has not issued any pension advance company-specific regulations and has not filed an enforcement against any of the firms using broad TILA authority.

GAO urged the CFPB to review the industry.

The agency told GAO it is investigating potentially improper pension advance practices.

GAO noted some pension advance companies require customers to maintain life insurance policies made out to the firm in case they die before all the required payments are made.

Last year, New York and Massachusetts state regulators launched investigations into pension advance operations. Class actions by customers have been filed in California and Georgia.

The Arkansas Securities Department issued two cease-and-desist orders against one of the businesses in April 2013 and this March.