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Federal Trade Commission - Protecting America's Consumers

Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved final administrative consent orders against six companies selling cannabidiol (CBD) products nationwide.

In December 2020, the Commission announced its first law enforcement crackdown on deceptive claims in the growing market for CBD products. The FTC took action against the six sellers for allegedly making a wide range of scientifically unsupported claims about their ability to treat serious health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease, and others. In the sweep, the FTC filed complaints against: 1) Bionatrol Health, LLC; 2) Epichouse LLC (First Class Herbalist CBD); 3) CBD Meds, Inc.; 4) HempmeCBD; 5) Reef Industries, Inc.; and 6) Steves Distributing, LLC. A description of the FTC’s specific allegations against each company can be found in the press release announcing the crackdown.

Each of the respondents agreed to a proposed administrative consent order settling the FTC’s charges. The orders both prohibited them from the allegedly illegal conduct detailed in the respective complaint and required several respondents to pay money to the FTC.

The Commission votes approving final consent orders against Bionatrol Health, LLC and HempmeCBD were each 5-0.

The votes approving the final consent orders against Epichouse LLC (First Class Herbalist CBD); CBD Meds, Inc.; and Reef Industries, Inc. were each 4-0.

The vote approving the final order against Steves Distributing, LLC was 4-0, with Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and Commissioner Rohit Chopra dissenting in part.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
FTC’s Consumer Response Center

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2161

Author: mkatz
Posted: March 5, 2021, 12:00 pm

Defendants placed more than 1.3 billion deceptive fundraising calls—mostly illegal robocalls— claiming to support veterans, children, firefighters

The Federal Trade Commission, along with 46 agencies from 38 states and D.C., has stopped a massive telefunding operation that bombarded 67 million consumers with 1.3 billion deceptive charitable fundraising calls (mostly illegal robocalls). The defendants collected more than $110 million using their deceptive solicitations. 

Associated Community Services (ACS) and a number of related defendants have agreed to settle charges by the FTC and state agencies that they duped generous Americans into donating to charities that failed to provide the services they promised. The complaint names ACS and its sister companies Central Processing Services and Community Services Appeal; their owners, Dick Cole, Bill Burland, Barbara Cole, and Amy Burland; and ACS senior managers Nikole Gilstorf, Tony Lia, John Lucidi, and Scot Stepek. In addition, the complaint names two fundraising companies allegedly operated by Gilstorf and Lia as spin-offs of ACS, Directele, and The Dale Corporation. 

“Deceptive fundraising can be big business for scammers, especially when they use illegal robocalls," said Daniel Kaufman, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC and our state partners are prepared to hold fraudsters accountable when they target generous consumers with lies." 

“Robocall technology such as soundboards allows users to reach a significant target population, and when utilized for deceptive or misleading practices – especially in charitable solicitations, it unfortunately means a significant number of potential victims,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. “We must take swift action to hold accountable those who are unlawfully using this technology to serve their own agendas and preying on unsuspecting, hardworking people. As these strong settlements show, Michigan remains an engaged leader in the national effort to combat illegal robocalls and fraudulent charitable solicitations, and we are grateful for the partnership and support from the FTC, the state attorneys general and others in addressing this increasingly important issue.” 

“The number of deceptive robocalls made by this operation is truly shocking,” said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. “For these defendants to automate billions of calls on behalf of charities only to line their own pockets is utterly disgraceful. I am proud to partner with the FTC and other state agencies to shut down this deceitful operation that harassed millions of Americans across the country, including many here in Florida.” 

According to the complaint, the defendants knew that the organizations for which they were fundraising spent little or no money on the charitable causes they claimed to support—in some cases as little as one-tenth of one percent. The defendants kept as much as 90 cents of every dollar they solicited from generous donors on behalf of the charities. 

The complaint alleges that the defendants made their deceptive pitches since at least 2008 on behalf of numerous organizations that claimed to support homeless veterans, victims of house fires, breast cancer patients, children with autism, and other causes that well-meaning Americans were enticed to support through the defendants’ high-pressure tactics. ACS was also the major fundraiser for the sham Cancer Fund charities that were shut down by the FTC and states in 2015.  

In many instances, the complaint alleges, ACS and later Directele knowingly violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) by using soundboard technology in telemarketing calls. With that technology, an operator plays pre-recorded messages to consumers instead of speaking with them naturally. Use of such pre-recorded messages in calls to first time donors violates the TSR. Use of the technology in calls to prior donors also violates the TSR unless call recipients are affirmatively told about their ability to opt out of all future calls and provided a mechanism to do so; the defendants did not make that disclosure. Most of Directele’s soundboard calls originated from call centers in the Philippines and India. 

The complaint also charges ACS with making harassing calls, noting that ACS called more than 1.3 million phone numbers more than ten times in a single week and 7.8 million numbers more than twice in an hour. More than 500 phone numbers were even called 5,000 times or more.  

The ACS defendants were the subject of 20 prior law enforcement actions for their fundraising practices. The ACS defendants stopped operating in September 2019. Gilstorf purchased Directele and The Dale Corporation in October 2019 and, with Lia, the Directele defendants allegedly continued the deceptive fundraising and illegal telemarketing practices. The complaint alleges the defendants violated the FTC Act, the TSR, and numerous state laws.

The terms of the settlements with the defendants, which are now pending court approval, are as follows:

Associated Community Services Defendants

Each of these defendants will be permanently prohibited from conducting or consulting on any fundraising activities and from conducting telemarketing of any kind to sell goods or services. In addition, they will be prohibited from using any existing donor lists and from further violations of state charitable giving laws, as well as from making any misrepresentation about a product or service. The defendants will be also be subject to the following monetary judgments:

Directele Defendants and ACS Senior Managers Scot Stepek and John Lucidi 

Each of these defendants will be permanently prohibited from any fundraising work or consulting on behalf of any charitable organization or any nonprofit organization that claims to work on behalf of causes similar to those outlined in the complaint. They will also be prohibited from using robocalls for any form of telemarketing, using abusive calling practices, or making any misrepresentation about a product or service. In addition, the defendants will be required to clearly and conspicuously disclose when a donation they are requesting is not tax deductible.

In addition, the two corporate defendants—Directele Inc. and The Dale Corporation—will be required to cease operations and dissolve.

The defendants will also be subject to the following monetary judgments:

  • Scot Stepek will be subject to a monetary judgment of $110,063,843, which is partially suspended due to an inability to pay. Stepek will be required to sell a ski boat in his possession and turn over the net proceeds from the sale.
     
  • Directele Inc., The Dale Corporation, Nikole Gilstorf, and Antonio Lia will be subject to a monetary judgment of $1.6 million. Gilstorf and Lia also will be subject to a judgment of $110,063,843. The judgments are partially suspended due to an inability to pay. Gilstorf and Lia will each be required to turn over $10,000.
     
  • John Lucidi will be subject to a judgment of $110,063,843, which is partially suspended due to an inability to pay. He will be required to turn over $25,000.

The state agencies joining in the case with the FTC include the attorneys general of Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia,  Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming; the secretaries of state of Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Tennessee; and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Utah Division of Consumer Protection.

The funds being surrendered by the defendants will be paid to an escrow fund held by the State of Florida and, following a motion by the participating states and approval by the court, be contributed to one or more legitimate charities that support causes similar to those for which the defendants solicited.

The FTC has more information for consumers about charitable giving, including tips on how to spot sham charities at https://ftc.gov/charity. In addition, consumers are encouraged to let the FTC know about charity fraud, robocalls, and other consumer issues at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and stipulated final orders was 5-0. The FTC filed the complaint and final orders in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

Staff Contact:
Tracy Thorleifson
FTC Northwest Region
206-220-4481
Author: jmayfield
Posted: March 4, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission is launching a new initiative aimed at partnering with community legal aid organizations to expand its outreach to lower-income communities to encourage them to report fraud and provide them with advice to help recover.

The Community Advocate Center initiative will provide a new way for organizations that provide free and low-cost legal services to report fraud and other illegal business practices their clients have experienced directly to the FTC on behalf of their clients.

“It is a top priority to ensure that FTC resources are available to those who most need them,” said Acting FTC Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter. “The goal of the Community Advocate Center is to build the bridges between underserved communities, their advocates, and the FTC in order to fight fraud and try to recover money lost.”

By participating with the FTC’s Community Advocate Center, organizations can connect members of their communities to specific, concrete steps they can take to try to get their money back. They also will receive aggregated data detailing the types of fraud and other illegal business practices affecting their communities, such as the methods scammers use to defraud consumers, methods they use to demand payment, and the amount of money consumers report losing.

For more information about the Community Advocate Center and to sign up to participate, visit ReportFraud.ftc.gov/community.

The FTC thanks the Legal Services Corporation, Inc., the National Legal Aid & Defender Association, the National Consumer Law Center, and the National Association of Consumer Advocates for their support of this initiative.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2924

Author: jhenderson2
Posted: March 3, 2021, 12:00 pm

Owners of Moda Latina will be permanently banned from pitching money-making opportunities

The owners of a scam that targeted Latina consumers with promises of wealth and financial security are permanently prohibited from selling money-making opportunities under the terms of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. 

In a complaint filed as part of the FTC’s Operation Income Illusion sweep, the agency alleged that Moda Latina BZ Inc., Esther Virginia Fernandez Aguirre, and Marco Cesar Zarate Quíroz specifically targeted Latina consumers in Spanish-language ads on TV with false promises of earnings at home.

“This scheme targeted Spanish-language TV viewers with lies about making money from home,” said Daniel Kaufman, acting director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.  “Anyone considering a work-from-home offer should take time and do research before spending their money."

The defendants allegedly lured consumers into buying a work-at-home business with claims that they could earn “large profits” re-selling luxury products such as brand-name perfumes. Misrepresentations alleged in the complaint include “Want to have your own business and earn up to a thousand dollars per week?” and “Crisis? What crisis? I forgot about that ever since I started selling with Perfume Box. It completely changed my life and my finances.”

The complaint also alleged that the defendants’ telemarketers routinely threatened consumers in violation of the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants will be permanently prohibited from selling any service or product that is presented as a way for consumers to make money. They will also be prohibited from making any deceptive claims about the risk or money-making potential of any good or service. The settlement also prohibits the defendants from making such claims in the course of telemarketing and from any other violations of the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

The settlement includes a monetary judgment of $7,000,489, which is partially suspended due to the defendants’ inability to pay. Zarate and Fernandez will each be required to pay $20,000; the corporate defendant is currently in bankruptcy proceedings.

Should the defendants be found to have misrepresented their financial condition, the full amount of the judgment would become immediately payable.

The Commission vote approving the stipulated final order was 4-0. The FTC filed the proposed order in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

NOTE: Stipulated final orders or injunctions, etc. have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

Staff Contacts:
Virginia Rosa
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3068

Roberto Anguizola
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3284

P. Connell McNulty
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2061
Author: jmayfield
Posted: March 2, 2021, 12:00 pm

As part of its ongoing study of the U.S. e-cigarette market, the Federal Trade Commission has issued orders to five manufacturers seeking information about the companies’ 2019 and 2020 sales, advertising, and promotional expenditures. The FTC sent the orders to JUUL Labs, Inc.; R.J. Reynolds Vapor Company; Fontem US, LLC; Logic Technology Development LLC; and NJOY, LLC.

The orders seeking 2019 and 20200 data follow similar orders the FTC issued to e-cigarette manufacturers in October 2019 to collect information about industry sales and marketing for the calendar years 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. The goal is to help the Commission, policymakers, and the public better understand this rapidly growing market. The FTC’s e-cigarette study complements studies the agency has been conducting for many years on cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products.

Among other things, the Commission orders seek: annual data on the sales and give-aways of e-cigarette products; information about the characteristics of the companies’ e-cigarette products, such as product flavors; annual amounts the companies spent on advertising and promoting e-cigarette products; and information about e-cigarette product placement, the websites and social media accounts used to advertise or sell e-cigarettes, affiliate programs, influencer marketing, and college campus programs.

The Commission is authorized to issue the Orders to File a Special Report by Section 6(b) of the FTC Act. The Commission vote to issue the orders announced today was 4-0.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2161

Staff Contacts:
Rosemary Rosso
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2174

Michael Ostheimer
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2699
Author: mkatz
Posted: March 1, 2021, 12:00 pm

Many of the customizable promotional products sold by Texas-based Gennex as made in USA were in fact made in China, FTC alleges

Made in USA claim 1Gennex Media LLC, which sells customizable promotional products such as wristbands, lanyards, temporary tattoos, and buttons, and its owner, Akil Kurji, will settle FTC charges that they made false, misleading, or unsupported advertising claims that their “Brandnex” products were all or virtually all made in the United States.

The settlement requires Gennex and Kurji to pay a monetary judgement of $146,249.24.

According to the administrative complaint, Gennex and Kurji also do business as Brandnex, BrandStrong, PMGOA, and Promotional Manufacturing Group of America. The FTC alleges that, as Gennex’s sole officer and shareholder, Kurji created all content and approved all changes to the Brandnex website, approved all of the company’s social media content, and created and approved its YouTube content.

“This should be obvious, but you can’t say your products are made in the USA when most of them are made elsewhere,” said Daniel Kaufman, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “When companies like Gennex make this false claim, they hurt both people who want to buy American and companies that really do make things here.”

Made in USA claim 2The complaint alleges that, since at least 2012, Gennex and Kurji have violated the FTC Act by claiming on their Brandnex website that the products they sell are made in the United States, when in fact in numerous instances the products are wholly imported from China. On Brandnex.com, Brandnex price lists, Brandnex’s Facebook header, and in a promotional YouTube video, Gennex and Kurji have claimed that Brandnex products are “Made in USA,” “USA MADE,” and “Manufactured Right Here in America!”

Under the terms of the proposed order, Gennex and Kurji are prohibited from making unqualified U.S.-origin claims for any product, unless they can show that the product’s final assembly or processing—and all significant processing—takes place in the United States, and that all or virtually all ingredients or components of the product are made and sourced in the United States. Under the order, any qualified Made in USA claims must include a clear and conspicuous disclosure about the extent to which the product contains foreign parts, ingredients or components, or processing. Finally, to claim that a product is assembled in the United States, Gennex and Kurji must ensure that it is last substantially transformed in the United States, its principal assembly takes place in the United States, and U.S. assembly operations are substantial.

The order prohibits Gennex and Kurji from making any country-of-origin claim about a product or service unless the claim is not misleading and they have a reasonable basis that substantiates their claim. It also requires Gennex and Kurji to provide compliance reports.

The FTC’s Enforcement Policy Statement on U.S. Origin Claims provides further guidance on making non-deceptive “Made in USA” claims. 

The Commission vote to issue the complaint and accept the proposed consent order for public comment was 4-0. The FTC will publish a description of it in the Federal Register. Instructions for filing comments appear in the published notice. Comments must be received within 30 days of publication in the Federal Register. Once processed, comments will be posted on Regulations.gov.                                                                                   

NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $43,280.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-3707

Staff Contact:
Julia Solomon Ensor
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2377
Author: elordan
Posted: March 1, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission and the Utah Division of Consumer Protection have named two additional defendants in their case against the operators of the Zurixx real estate investment training scheme. The FTC and the Division allege that Zurixx used deceptive promises of big profits in live sales events and telemarketing to lure consumers into spending thousands of dollars on Zurixx’s products and services.

The second amended complaint adds Utah-based CAC Investment Ventures, LLC as a defendant in the case, and Stephenie Spangler as a relief defendant, meaning that she is not accused of wrongdoing but allegedly received funds that Zurixx illegally obtained from consumers.

The FTC and the Division sued Zurixx in October 2019 and first amended their complaint in May 2020. The Court has issued a stipulated preliminary injunction against defendants. The receiver in the case has created a website with information for consumers who may have been affected at www.zurixx.com. Consumers may also share their experience regarding Zurixx at ftc.gov/complaint.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the second amended complaint was 5-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about how competition benefits consumers or file an antitrust complaint. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2334

Author: bacree
Posted: February 25, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission will host a virtual workshop on April 29, 2021 to examine digital “dark patterns,” a term that has been used to describe a range of potentially manipulative user interface designs used on websites and mobile apps.

“Bringing Dark Patterns to Light: An FTC Workshop” will explore the ways in which user interfaces can have the effect, intentionally or unintentionally, of obscuring, subverting, or impairing consumer autonomy, decision-making, or choice. For example, some sites sneak extra items into a consumer’s online shopping cart, or require users to navigate a maze of screens and confusing questions to avoid being charged for unwanted products or services.

The FTC workshop will bring together researchers, legal experts, consumer advocates, and industry professionals to examine what dark patterns are and how they might affect consumers and the marketplace. Some of the topics the workshop will examine include:

  • how dark patterns differ from sales tactics employed by brick-and-mortar stores;
  • how they affect consumer behavior, including potential harms;
  • whether some groups of consumers are unfairly targeted or are especially vulnerable;
  • what laws, rules, and norms regulate the use of dark patterns; and
  • whether additional rules, standards, or enforcement efforts are needed to protect consumers.

In addition, the FTC is seeking research, recommendations for discussion topics, and requests for panelists in advance of the workshop. Please email any relevant information to darkpatterns@ftc.gov by March 15, 2021.

The FTC will also be posting a specific request for comments related to dark patterns. Comments should be submitted by June 29, 2021 and submitted via email to darkpatterns@ftc.gov.

The workshop will be held virtually and webcast on the FTC’s website at FTC.gov. Additional information including a list of speakers, an agenda, and the request for comments will be posted in the coming weeks to the event page.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2924

Staff Contacts:
Sam Jacobson
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3251

Min Hee Kim
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3703

Katharine Roller
FTC Midwest Region
312-960-5605
Author: jhenderson2
Posted: February 24, 2021, 12:00 pm

FTC, partners to share advice on scams, identity theft, and other consumer protection issues

The Federal Trade Commission and more than 100 federal, state, and local agencies, consumer groups, and national advocacy organizations, will participate in the 23rd annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), held February 28 – March 6, 2021.

National Consumer Protection Week - February 28 - March 6NCPW is a coordinated campaign designed to focus on the importance of keeping consumers informed while providing them with free resources explaining their rights in the marketplace.

This year, the FTC and its partners will participate in a series of events including webinars, Facebook Live events, and Twitter chats throughout the week. These virtual events will cover a range of topics, including avoiding coronavirus scams, government imposters, and cyber fraud. This year’s schedule of NCPW activities include:

Sunday, February 28 – Saturday, March 6
Follow FTC and USAGov on social media for quick, shareable consumer tips all week long:

Monday, March 1

2 p.m. ET: Join us for a Facebook Live with AARP’s Fraud Watch Network on how to spot and avoid COVID-19 scams. Please join us LIVE and ask questions!

Thursday, March 4

1 p.m. ET:

Participate in our “Slam the Scam” Twitter chat in Spanish with @laFTC, @USAGovEspanol, and @SeguroSocial on avoiding COVID-19 and imposter scams. Use the hashtag #OjoConLasEstafas and #NCPW2021 to follow the conversation.

Topics will include avoiding online scams, including phishing, tech support scams, and COVID-19 scams.

1 p.m. ET: Join the FTC, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and AARP’s
Fraud Watch Network for a webinar on Cyber Scams & Older Adults.
3 p.m. ET: Participate in our “Slam the Scam” Twitter chat in English with @FTC, @USAGov, @SocialSecurity. Use the hashtag #SlamTheScamChat and #NCPW2021 to follow the conversation.
7 p.m. ET Join us for a Facebook Live with our colleagues from the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General on how to spot and avoid Social Security scams. Please join us and ask questions.

During NCPW, partners and hundreds of community groups across the country host events to promote consumer education or highlight a specific consumer protection issue. For more information on NCPW and how to get involved, visit ftc.gov/NCPW and subscribe to Consumer Alerts.

The FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection protects people from scams, identity theft, and other unfair, deceptive, and fraudulent business practices. In addition, the Bureau of Competition further supports Americans by promoting a competitive marketplace, which can deliver lower prices, enhance innovation, and increase quality and choice for consumers.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2565

Staff Contact:
Ari Lazarus
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2259
Author: jwolf
Posted: February 23, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission issued a report examining ways to enhance cooperation between the FTC and overseas competition and consumer protection authorities in order to maximize the effectiveness of the FTC’s enforcement efforts.

The report cites expert testimony from hearings the Commission convened in March 2019, held in conjunction with the George Washington University’s Competition Law Center, which stressed the importance of obtaining and sharing information quickly and efficiently in cross-border antitrust investigations.

 “I commend staff on their work to issue a report on The FTC’s Role in a Changing World,” said Acting FTC Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter. “International cooperation on enforcement can strengthen all the agencies involved, so we must continue to prioritize the importance of working hand-in-hand with our counterparts across the globe.”

While the FTC has entered into competition cooperation agreements and memoranda of understanding with many countries and agencies around the world, the report notes that most of these agreements do not enable authorities to share confidential information or use domestic investigative tools to provide assistance to the other country’s agency. The report recommends that the FTC work to overcome foreign barriers to FTC enforcement.

The report also notes that the Commission has used its SAFE WEB Act authority in a wide range of cases—from Internet pyramid schemes and sweepstakes telemarketing schemes, to complex advertising and privacy investigations. Congress reauthorized the Act earlier this year, but the reauthorization included a seven-year sunset provision. Noting the critical importance of the continuity of this authority, the report recommends that Congress make its provisions a permanent part of the FTC Act.

The report also cites expert testimony from the hearing recognizing the FTC’s leadership in supporting antitrust enforcement internationally, including the Commission’s role in the International Competition Network (ICN), a network of almost all of the world’s competition agencies.  Panelists at the hearing “urged the FTC to build on its work promoting international convergence and developing strong enforcement cooperation partnerships by engaging directly with the leadership and staff of its foreign counterparts in new ways,” the report notes.

The report also recommends that the Commission’s experience and expertise should inform U.S. government policies that involve international issues within the FTC’s mandate.

The March 2019 hearings were part of Chairman Joseph Simons’ FTC Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century.

The Commission voted 4-0 to approve the report.

The Federal Trade Commission works with counterpart agencies to promote sound antitrust, consumer protection, and data privacy enforcement and policy. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases and the FTC International Monthly for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-3707

Staff Contact:
Randolph Tritell
Director, Office of International Affairs
202-326-3051
Author: elordan
Posted: February 16, 2021, 12:00 pm

Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved a final consent order settling charges that glue maker Chemence, Inc., and its company president, James Cooke, supplied pre-labeled and pre-packaged glues with deceptive “Made in USA” claims to its trade customers for use in marketing the strong, fast-acting glues under retailer brand names. As part of the settlement Chemence and Cooke are required to pay $1.2 million to the FTC, the highest monetary judgment ever for a Made in USA case.

First announced in December 2020, the FTC’s complaint alleges that Chemence and Cooke supplied glues in packages labeled with deceptive, unqualified “Made in USA” claims.

Under the terms of the final order, Chemence and Cooke are prohibited from making unqualified U.S.-origin claims for any product, unless they can show that the product’s final assembly or processing—and all significant processing—takes place in the United States and that all or virtually all ingredients or components of the product are made and sourced in the United States. Under the order, any qualified Made in USA claims must include a clear and conspicuous disclosure about the extent to which the product contains foreign parts, ingredients, components, or processing. Finally, to claim that a product is assembled in the United States, Chemence and Cooke must ensure that it is last substantially transformed in the United States, its principal assembly takes place in the United States, and U.S. assembly operations are substantial. The order also prohibits Chemence and Cooke from making any country-of-origin claim about a product or service unless the claim is not misleading and they have a reasonable basis that substantiates their claim.

The order also contains provisions requiring Chemence and Cooke to (1) notify certain third-party trade customers of the order and (2) provide compliance reports.

The Commission has an Enforcement Policy Statement on U.S. Origin Claims and other business guidance on how companies can comply with the Made in the USA standard. The FTC’s Made in USA page features cases, instructive closing letters, and the brochure Complying with the Made in USA Standard, which answers many of the questions companies ask.

The Commission voted 4-0 to approve the final order in this case.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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Staff Contact:
Julia Solomon Ensor
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2377
Author: elordan
Posted: February 12, 2021, 12:00 pm

Owners, operators of tribal payday lending scheme settle charges they defrauded millions of dollars from consumers

The owners and operators of a vast payday lending scheme that overcharged consumers millions of dollars will be permanently banned from the lending industry under the terms of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. The settlement also provides that nearly all outstanding debt—made up entirely of illegal finance charges—held by the company will be deemed as paid in full.

The scheme, which was operated online under the names Harvest Moon Financial, Gentle Breeze Online, and Green Stream Lending, used deceptive marketing to convince consumers that their loans would be repaid in a fixed number of payments. The FTC’s complaint alleged that the company instead continued to draw millions of dollars in payments from consumers’ bank accounts long after the loans’ original principal amount and stated repayment cost had been repaid, and would do so until consumers completely closed their bank accounts or found some other way to cut off payments.

“These defendants hoodwinked people in financial need by charging much more than promised for payday loans,” said Daniel Kaufman, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We expect payday lenders to not only honor the terms of their deal, but also to refrain from making a never-ending series of unexpected withdrawals from customers’ bank accounts, as these companies did.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Takehisa Naito and Keishi Ikeda, along with their companies Lead Express, Inc.; Camel Coins, Inc.; Sea Mirror, Inc,; Naito Corp.; Kotobuki Marketing, Inc.; Ebisu Marketing, Inc.; Hotei Marketing, Inc.; and Daikoku Marketing, Inc. will be permanently prohibited from making loans or extending credit of any kind.

The settlement includes a monetary judgment of $114.3 million, which is partially suspended based on an inability to pay. The defendants will be required to turn over all corporate assets and almost all domestic personal assets along with a number of vehicles to a receiver. The receiver will wind down and liquidate the business and provide all proceeds to the FTC.

Any consumer loan made by the company before it was temporarily shut down as part of the case will be considered to be paid in full if the original amount of the loan and one finance charge have been paid. The settlement also prohibits the defendants from making any misrepresentations related to collecting on any debt, as well as prohibiting them from making unauthorized withdrawals from bank accounts.

If the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial status, the full amount of the monetary judgment would be immediately due.

The FTC’s case against defendant La Posta Tribal Lending Enterprise will continue.

The Commission vote approving the stipulated final order was 5-0. The FTC filed the proposed order in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.

NOTE: Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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Author: jmayfield
Posted: February 11, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission reached settlements with four defendants charged with helping to launder millions of dollars in credit card charges through fraudulent merchant accounts. The settlement orders permanently ban Jay Wigdore, Electronic Payment Solutions of America, and Electronic Payment Services from payment processing and telemarketing. A previously-entered stipulated order against Michael Peterson bans him from payment processing or acting as an independent sales organization or sales agent in the payment processing industry.

According to the FTC, the defendants assisted a deceptive operation known as Money Now Funding, to obtain and maintain merchant accounts that allowed the operation to process almost $6 million through the credit card networks. The FTC charged Wigdore, Electronic Payment Solutions of America, and Electronic Payment Services, and Peterson with violating the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

In 2013, the FTC sued Money Now Funding for telemarketing worthless business opportunities to consumers and falsely promising thousands of dollars in income. In 2015, the court entered summary judgment and default judgments against certain Money Now Funding defendants, finding that the business opportunities were a complete fraud and that consumers who bought these opportunities lost thousands of dollars each, resulting in more than $7.3 million in harm to consumers.

Monetary judgments of $462,925 against Wigdore, $4.6 million against Electronic Payment Solutions of America, and Electronic Payment Services, and $5.7 million against Peterson, have been suspended due to the defendants’ inability to pay. If the court finds that any defendant misstated or omitted the value of any material asset, the judgment will immediately become due.

The FTC continues to litigate against four other defendants who allegedly played a role in credit card laundering for Money Now Funding.

The Commission vote approving the stipulated final order was 5-0. The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona entered the final orders for Wigdore, EPSA, and EP Services on January 22, 2021, and for Peterson on August 28, 2019.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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Author: bjames@ftc.gov
Posted: February 10, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission is sending more than $1.7 million to people who lost money to a debt relief scheme that targeted individuals trying to pay down their student loan debt.

The FTC alleged that the operators behind Student Debt Relief Group tricked people into thinking the company was affiliated with the Department of Education, charged consumers illegal upfront fees, and collected monthly fees they falsely claimed would be credited toward consumers’ student loans. In reality, the operators of the scheme pocketed people’s money and responded to consumer complaints by changing the name of their company rather than their business practices.

Under the final settlement the defendants, individual Salar Tahour and his companies—Los Angeles-based M&T Financial Group and American Counseling Center Corp., doing business as Student Debt Relief Group, SDRG, Student Loan Relief Counselors, SLRC, StuDebt, and Capital Advocates Group—are banned from engaging in any future debt relief activities and from making misrepresentations or unsubstantiated claims related to financial or any other products or services.

The FTC is sending 867 checks and 18,559 refunds through PayPal, averaging about $88 each.

People who get a refund via PayPal will have 30 days to accept the payment. For more details about the PayPal payment process, please read the related FAQ. People who receive checks should deposit or cash their checks within 90 days. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to get a refund payment or to cash a refund check. If recipients have questions about the refunds, they should contact the FTC’s refund administrator, JND Legal Administration, at 833-961-3421.

Explore Data with the FTC: Learn more about FTC refunds to consumersThe FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. In 2020, FTC actions led to $483 million in refunds to consumers across the country.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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202-326-2565

Author: ndrayton
Posted: February 10, 2021, 12:00 pm

Data spotlight shows reported losses up 50 percent from 2019

More consumers than ever report falling prey to romance scammers, according to new Federal Trade Commission data that show consumers reported losing a record $304 million to the scams last year.

A newly released data spotlight shows that the amount consumers reported losing to romance scammers is up about 50 percent since 2019, and has increased more than fourfold since 2016.

Scammers draw people in using pictures stolen from around the internet, building false personas that seem just real enough to be true, but always having a reason never to meet in person. Eventually, the supposed suitor will ask for money from the unwitting consumer. The impact can be major, with the median loss reported to the FTC being $2,500—more than ten times higher than the median loss across all other frauds.

The COVD-19 pandemic has resulted in people staying physically distant, providing ample reason for consumers to look for relationships online and providing a swath of new reasons for scammers to use to put off meeting in person. 

The spotlight notes that while many people report the romance scam started on a dating site or app, even more report that the scam originated from contact through social media. While the asks for money sometimes begin with a story about a medical emergency, consumers reporting the largest losses often said they believed the scammer had actually sent them money. Many people reported that these instances turned out to be elaborate money laundering schemes, such as for fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits.

According to the spotlight, consumers most often report sending money to romance scammers by wire transfer or in the form of gift cards. Reports of gift cards used to pay romance scammers were up by nearly 70 percent over 2019.

The FTC provides tips for consumers on how to spot romance scams and protect themselves at ftc.gov/romancescams

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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Author: jmayfield
Posted: February 10, 2021, 12:00 pm

A Baltimore-based company, Agora Financial, LLC, and several of its affiliates have agreed to pay more than $2 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they tricked seniors into buying pamphlets, newsletters, and other publications that falsely promised a cure for type 2 diabetes or promoted a phony plan to help them cash in on a government-affiliated check program.

In addition to the monetary judgment, which will be used to provide refunds to defrauded consumers, the proposed settlement also bars Agora and the other defendants from making such false or unsupported claims.

“These defendants preyed primarily on older consumers with false or unsubstantiated claims about curing diabetes and free money from the government,” said Bureau of Consumer Protection Acting Director Daniel Kaufman. “The FTC has a long history of taking legal action against deceptive claims such as these, and companies that fail to substantiate their scientific and financial representations can expect to face the consequences.”

According to the FTC’s October 2019 complaint, Agora and some of its affiliates primarily targeted its publications, including The Doctor’s Guide to Reversing Diabetes in 28 Days (The Doctor’s Guide), at older consumers nationwide. Agora falsely marketed The Doctor’s Guide as a simple and scientifically proven protocol that can permanently cure type 2 diabetes in 28 days, without any changes in diet or exercise.

The FTC alleged the defendants falsely touted a “100 percent success rate” and claimed that “mainstream” treatments are ineffective and may even make consumers’ diabetes worse. The company’s marketing materials for The Doctor’s Guide deceptively advertised that the disease—which Agora claimed was caused by electronic devices—could be cured with a combination of natural products called “Himalayan Silk,” “Epsom Blue,” and “Chromanite.”

In its complaint, the FTC also alleged that Agora and a second group of related defendants marketed other publications, including a book titled Congress’ Secret $1.17 Trillion Giveaway to consumers that falsely promised it would show them how to claim hundreds of thousands of dollars to which they are entitled in “Congressional Checks” or “Republican Checks.”

Consumers who bought these products, however, found that they merely describe an investment strategy focused on dividend-paying stocks, which would require consumers to risk thousands of dollars to obtain the promised amounts.

The proposed consent order settling the FTC’s complaint, prohibits Agora and the other defendants from making the types of misrepresentations about diabetes that they allegedly made in The Doctor’s Guide without competent and reliable scientific evidence.

The order also prohibits the defendants from making any representations about the health benefits, performance, or efficacy of the products or programs covered in the settlement without certain substantiation; from misrepresenting that a covered product does not require consumers to restrict their diet or make dietary changes; and from misrepresenting that a covered product is scientifically or clinically proven when it is not.

The order further bars the defendants from making the financial misrepresentations alleged in the complaint, from misrepresenting other material facts about their publications, and from making any financial claim, without first disclosing terms such as the risks, cost, restrictions, limitations, or conditions of the program.

The Commission vote approving the proposed settlement order was 4-0. The FTC filed the proposed order in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division. A complete list of the individual and corporate defendants in this case can be found in the proposed order on the FTC’s website. The corporate defendants are subsidiaries of Monument & Cathedral, which oversees a large business comprising more than 80 different companies that together market more than 400 different products, programs, or services to consumers.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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Staff Contact:
Omolara Bewaji Joseney
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2599
Author: mkatz
Posted: February 8, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission finalized a settlement with a Nevada-based company that provides travel emergency services over allegations it failed to take reasonable steps to secure sensitive consumer information such as health records.

In a complaint first announced by the FTC on December 16, 2020, the agency alleged that SkyMed International, Inc. failed to employ reasonable measures to secure the personal information it collected from people who had signed up for its travel emergency membership plan, and as a result, the company left unsecured a cloud database containing 130,000 membership records. The unsecured database contained members’ personal information stored in plain text such as names, dates of birth, home addresses, health information, and membership account numbers, according to the complaint.

The FTC also alleged that SkyMed deceived consumers by displaying a “HIPAA Compliance” seal on every page of its website, which gave the false impression that its privacy policies had been reviewed and met the security and privacy requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Under the settlement, SkyMed must send a notice to affected consumers detailing the information exposed by the data breach. The company must also implement a comprehensive information security program and obtain biennial assessments of this program by a third party. The settlement also prohibits SkyMed from misrepresenting how it secures personal data, the circumstances of and response to a data breach, and whether the company has been endorsed by or participates in any government-sponsored privacy or security program.

After receiving no comments, the FTC voted 5-0 to finalize the settlement with SkyMed.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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Author: jhenderson2
Posted: February 5, 2021, 12:00 pm

One of the defendants behind an alleged sham health insurance scheme has been permanently banned from the health care business as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC’s proposed settlement with Candida Girouard stems from an ongoing lawsuit against the Florida-based Simple Health enterprise.  The FTC alleges that the Simple Health defendants collected more than $195 million by enrolling American consumers in worthless association and discount memberships with limited benefits, leaving tens of thousands of consumers uninsured, some stuck with thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills.

In its complaint against Simple Health, the FTC alleged that Chief Compliance Officer Girouard was an integral part of the scheme, which lured consumers through a network of deceptive websites and misled them to think they were buying comprehensive health insurance that would cover preexisting medical conditions, prescription drugs, and a host of standard care, treatments, and tests. In fact, the FTC alleges, people who enrolled in the plans later learned that the Simple Health plans were not comprehensive health insurance and did not provide the promised coverage and benefits. Consumers instead were enrolled in membership plans that provided extremely limited benefits and left them responsible for the vast majority of their medical expenses. Under the proposed settlement, Girouard is banned from advertising, marketing, promoting, offering for sale, or selling any healthcare-related products. She also is banned from making misrepresentations in connection with the sale of any good or service, and is prohibited from violating the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule. The settlement includes a monetary judgment of $195.5 million, which is suspended due to her inability to pay. Girouard also must fully cooperate with the FTC and with investigations related to the case.

The FTC continues to litigate against the other defendants in the case, including Simple Health Plans LLC, five related companies, and the companies’ owner and CEO, Steven J. Dorfman. 

The Commission vote approving the proposed settlement was 4-0. The FTC filed the proposed order in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. 

NOTE: Stipulated final orders or injunctions, etc. have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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Author: bacree
Posted: February 4, 2021, 12:00 pm

Imposter Scams, Online Shopping are top fraud categories

The Federal Trade Commission received more than 2.1 million fraud reports from consumers in 2020, according to newly released data, with imposter scams remaining the most common type of fraud reported to the agency.

Online shopping was the second-most common fraud category reported by consumers, elevated by a surge of reports in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Internet services; prizes, sweepstakes, and lotteries; and telephone and mobile services rounded out the top five fraud categories.

Consumers reported losing more than $3.3 billion to fraud in 2020, up from $1.8 billion in 2019. Nearly $1.2 billion of losses reported last year were due to imposter scams, while online shopping accounted for about $246 million in reported losses from consumers.

Just over a third of all consumers who filed a fraud report with the FTC—34 percent—reported losing money, up from just 23 percent in 2019.

The FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network is a database that receives reports directly from consumers, as well as from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, the Better Business Bureau, industry members, and non-profit organizations. This year, the FTC welcomed the data contributions of the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection. Twenty-five states now contribute to Sentinel. Reports from around the country about consumer protection issues are a key resource for FTC investigations that stop illegal activities and, when possible, provide refunds to consumers.

Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2020 - 4.7 million reports. Top Three Reports (1. Identity Theft 2. Imposter Scams 3. Online Shopping and Negative Reviews.  2.2 million fraud reports.  34% reported a loss.  $3.3 billion total fraud losses.  $311 median loss.  Source: Federal Trade Commission.  FTC.gov/exploredata.Sentinel received more than 4.7 million reports in 2020; these include the fraud reports detailed above, as well as identity theft reports and complaints related to other consumer issues, such as problems with credit bureaus and banks and lenders. In 2020, there were nearly 1.4 million reports of identity theft, received through the FTC’s IdentityTheft.gov website, about twice as many as in 2019.

Of the identity theft reports received in 2020, 406,375 came from people who said their information was misused to apply for a government document or benefit, such as unemployment insurance. That represents a tremendous increase from 2019, when the number was 23,213.

In 2020, the FTC introduced ReportFraud.ftc.gov, an updated platform for filing reports with the agency. The FTC uses the reports it receives through the Sentinel network as the starting point for many of its law enforcement investigations, and the agency also shares these reports with about 2,800 law enforcement users around the country. While the FTC does not intervene in individual complaints, Sentinel reports are a vital part of the agency’s law enforcement mission.

A full breakdown of reports received in 2020 is now available on the FTC’s data analysis site at ftc.gov/exploredata. The data dashboards there breakdown the reports across a numbers of categories, including by state and metropolitan area, as well as exploring a number of subcategories of fraud reports.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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Author: jmayfield
Posted: February 4, 2021, 12:00 pm

The staff of the Federal Trade Commission has provided the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) an annual summary of its activities enforcing the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA).

The FTC is responsible for ECOA enforcement and education regarding most non-bank financial service providers. In its summary, FTC staff describes the Commission’s work on ECOA-related issues, including activities addressed in enforcement, research, and policy development such as:

  • an enforcement action in federal court against New York City car dealer Bronx Honda and its general manager, alleging that defendants violated ECOA and Regulation B by discriminating against African-American and Hispanic consumers who financed vehicle purchases, including charging them higher markups and fees for financing than similarly situated non-Hispanic white consumers; the defendants agreed to pay $1.5 million and establish a fair lending program to settle the charges, among other things;
  • an amici curiae brief jointly filed with the CFPB with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Tewinkle v. Capital One, N.A., an action by a consumer alleging discrimination under ECOA, addressing whether a person ceases to be an applicant under ECOA and Regulation B after receiving (or being denied) an extension of credit;
  • a comment in response to the CFPB’s request for information about Regulation B addressing the FTC’s work in disparate-impact analysis and small-business lending;
  • the 13th Annual FTC Microeconomics Conference, which included a paper session and discussion on “Un”Fair Machine Learning Algorithms; among the issues addressed were that firms and institutions increasingly use machine-learning algorithms in making decisions in areas with far reaching effects, including access to credit;
  • the continued work of the agency’s Military Task Force, and FTC initiatives to assist military consumers;
  • the FTC’s participation as a member of the Interagency Task Force on Fair Lending, a joint undertaking with the CFPB, the Department of Justice, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the federal banking agencies, which shares information and discusses policy issues; and
  • the FTC’s participation as a member of the newly formed Interagency Fair Lending Methodologies Working Group, with the CFPB, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, DOJ, HUD, and the federal banking agencies, to coordinate and share information on analytical methodologies used in enforcement of and supervision for compliance with fair lending laws, including ECOA.

The summary also outlines the Commission’s business and consumer education efforts on fair lending issues.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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Staff Contact:
Carole Reynolds
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3230
Author: ndrayton
Posted: February 3, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission is sending refunds totaling nearly $4.7 million to people who lost money as a result of the Digital Altitude business coaching scheme.

According to the FTC, the defendants behind Digital Altitude, LLC convinced consumers to pay tiered membership fees by promising them substantial income from an online business. The defendants promised consumers that they would receive individualized coaching from successful marketers to build a successful business, but, in reality, the coaches were merely salespeople selling higher membership levels in the scheme.

The defendants promoted the scheme via webpages and social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, and offered their marketing materials for consumers to use to tout the scheme. Most consumers never earned substantial income.

The FTC is providing refunds via checks and PayPal payments, averaging about $456 each, to 10,249 people who lost money to the scheme. If you receive a PayPal payment, you have 30 days to accept the payment. For more details about the PayPal payment process, please read our related FAQ. Those who receive checks should deposit or cash their checks within 60 days, as indicated on the check. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check.

Explore Data with the FTC - Learn more about FTC refunds to consumersRecipients who have questions about the refunds, or consumers who lost more than $600 to the Digital Altitude scheme but do not receive a PayPal payment or check, should contact JND Legal Administration at 1-833-961-3292.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. FTC actions led to $483 million in refunds to consumers across the country in 2020.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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Refund Administrator
833-961-3292

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202-326-2656

Author: jmayfield
Posted: February 3, 2021, 12:00 pm

Settlement prohibits Amazon from misrepresenting driver earnings, pay or percent of tips paid to drivers, changing its handling of tips without drivers’ consent

Amazon will pay more than $61.7 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it failed to pay Amazon Flex drivers the full amount of tips they received from Amazon customers over a two and a half year period. The FTC’s complaint alleges that the company stopped its behavior only after becoming aware of the FTC’s investigation in 2019.

The $61.7 million represents the full amount that Amazon allegedly withheld from drivers and will be used by the FTC to compensate drivers.

Image from FTC complaintAccording to the FTC’s administrative complaint against Amazon and its subsidiary, Amazon Logistics, the company regularly advertised that drivers participating in the Flex program would be paid $18–25 per hour for their work making deliveries to customers. The ads, along with numerous other documents provided to Flex drivers, also prominently featured statements such as: “You will receive 100% of the tips you earn while delivering with Amazon Flex.”

“Rather than passing along 100 percent of customers’ tips to drivers, as it had promised to do, Amazon used the money itself,” said Daniel Kaufman, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Our action today returns to drivers the tens of millions of dollars in tips that Amazon misappropriated, and requires Amazon to get drivers’ permission before changing its treatment of tips in the future.”

Amazon Flex is a program in which drivers, classified by Amazon as independent contractors, can agree to make deliveries using their personal vehicles. Flex drivers deliver goods and groceries ordered through the Prime Now and AmazonFresh programs, which allow customers to give the drivers a tip.

The FTC’s complaint alleges that, in addition to telling drivers they would receive 100 percent of their tips, Amazon also assured its customers that 100 percent of any tips they paid would go to the driver.

In late 2016, the FTC alleges, Amazon shifted from paying drivers the promised rate of $18–25 per hour plus the full amount of customer tips to paying drivers a lower hourly rate, a shift that it did not disclose to drivers. Amazon used the customer tips to make up the difference between the new lower hourly rate and the promised rate. This resulted in drivers’ being shorted more than $61.7 million in tips.

The FTC alleges that the company then intentionally failed to notify drivers of the changes to its pay plan and even took steps to make the changes obscure to drivers, with one employee reporting to colleagues that Amazon “did not want to communicate any pricing changes to [drivers], so we are only ‘reacting’ to any questions.” After making the change, the company continued to promise drivers and customers that 100 percent of tips would be passed through to drivers.

Amazon received hundreds of complaints from drivers after enacting the change, as drivers became suspicious when their overall earnings decreased. Drivers who complained received form e-mails falsely claiming that Amazon was continuing to pay drivers 100 percent of tips. Internally, Amazon employees referred to the company’s handling of the change and driver complaints about it as an “Amazon reputation tinderbox” and “a huge PR risk to Amazon.”

According to the FTC’s complaint, Amazon continued using the new pricing model despite complaints from drivers and negative media coverage until August 2019—after the company received notice of the FTC’s investigation. At that time, Amazon returned to a pay model where it pays drivers an identified base amount plus 100 percent of tips and gives the drivers a breakdown of their pay and tips.

Under the terms of the settlement with the FTC, Amazon will be required to pay $61,710,583, which will be used by the FTC to compensate Flex drivers. In addition, Amazon will be prohibited from misrepresenting any driver’s likely income or rate of pay, how much of their tips will be paid to them, as well as whether the amount paid by a customer is a tip.

Amazon also will be prohibited from making any changes to how a driver’s tips are used as compensation without first obtaining the driver’s express informed consent.

Amazon drivers can sign up for email updates on the status of the refund process in the case here: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USFTC/subscriber/new?topic_id=USFTC_155

The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaint and to accept the consent agreement was 4-0. Commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips and Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter issued a joint statement, and Commissioner Rohit Chopra issued a statement. The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register soon. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Instructions for filing comments appear in the published notice. Comments must be received 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. Once processed, comments will be posted on regulations.gov.

NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $43,792.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

Staff Contacts:
Guy G. Ward
FTC Midwest Region
312-960-5612

Claire Stewart
FTC Midwest Region
312-960-5615

Elizabeth C. Scott
FTC Midwest Region
312-960-5609
Author: jmayfield
Posted: February 2, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission finalized a settlement with Zoom Video Communications, Inc., over allegations it misled consumers about the level of security it provided for its Zoom meetings and compromised the security of some Mac users.

The final order requires Zoom to implement a comprehensive security program, review any software updates for security flaws prior to release and ensure the updates will not hamper third-party security features. The company must also obtain biennial assessments of its security program by an independent third party, which the FTC has authority to approve, and notify the Commission if it experiences a data breach.

After receiving 12 comments on the proposed settlement, the Commission voted 3-2 on January 19, 2021 to finalize the settlement and to send responses to the commenters. Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and Commissioner Rohit Chopra each issued dissenting statements. Commissioner Christine S. Wilson issued a separate statement.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2924

Author: jhenderson2
Posted: February 1, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission is sending a third round of checks totaling more than $250,000 to victims of a mortgage modification scheme dating back to 2009. The FTC began mailing refunds in this matter in 2012. In total, the FTC has distributed more than $900,000.

According to the FTC, First Universal Lending, LLC, Sean Zausner, David Zausner, and David J. Feingold deceived distressed homeowners with phony claims that they would negotiate with lenders to modify their mortgages. RefundsThe FTC charged that the defendants encouraged homeowners to stop making mortgage payments, saying lenders would not negotiate unless they were at least a few months behind in their payments. After charging consumers up to $7,000 in up-front fees, the defendants did little or nothing to help them.

The FTC is providing $253,615 in refunds to 6,935 victims. Those who receive checks should deposit or cash their checks within 60 days, as indicated on the check. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check.

Recipients who have questions about the refunds should contact Analytics at 877-919-0836.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. In 2020, FTC actions led to $483 million in refunds to consumers across the country.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
Refund Administrator
Analytics
877-919-0836

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

Author: jmayfield
Posted: January 29, 2021, 12:00 pm

Proposed settlement prohibits defendants from obtaining credit cards for consumers, requires them to pay $2.1 million

Two Nevada companies and two individuals have agreed to stop charging consumers thousands of dollars to apply for multiple credit cards in their names in order to pay for expensive and often ineffective training programs under a proposed settlement of a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit.

The FTC filed a federal court complaint along with a proposed settlement which requires the defendants to stop obtaining credit cards for consumers for a fee. In addition, the defendants will be required to pay $2.1 million under the proposed settlement, which will be distributed by the FTC to consumers.

According to the FTC’s complaint, Seed Consulting, LLC’s services are pitched by training companies as a way to get “funding” to people who want to start a business or become a real estate investor. The complaint alleges that Seed does not actually provide any funds to consumers but instead charges them $3,000 to $4,000 to apply for numerous credit cards with total credit lines of more than $50,000, a practice known as “credit card stacking.”

To obtain these credit lines, the suit alleges, Seed often inflated consumers’ annual incomes on credit card applications by around $100,000 and told consumers they could expect to make that much when they complete their training program. Often, the consumers then use the credit cards Seed obtains for them to pay for expensive programs sold by the training companies.

"Seed obtained credit cards for consumers by using inflated income, and then shared the credit limits with promoters of bogus real estate seminars who tricked consumers into maxing out the cards to pay for seminar 'tuition,'" said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The FTC will not hesitate to go after companies like Seed that assist and facilitate schemes that we believe to be fraudulent."

The complaint alleges that many of the training companies that referred consumers to Seed have been the subject of FTC law enforcement actions for operating deceptive training schemes, including pending actions against Zurixx, LLC and Nudge, LLC, which operates as Response Marketing Group. Seed, which uses the names Seed Capital and Foundation Funding, worked closely with the training companies. According to the complaint, Seed provided the training companies with information about when consumers obtained credit cards and their credit limits to help the training companies pitch training packages to consumers. Many of the training companies’ programs cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Most consumers who purchased programs from the training companies that referred them to Seed did not earn substantial money, according to the complaint, leaving them with substantial debt on personal credit cards. As a result, the complaint alleges, many consumers experienced significant, long-term declines in their credit scores.

The FTC’s complaint alleges that the defendants violated the FTC Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, the Credit Repair Organizations Act, and the Consumer Review Fairness Act. The defendants are Seed, Credit Navigator, LLC, Erik Gantz, and Randy Lang. 

The proposed settlement would permanently ban the defendants from applying for or obtaining credit cards for consumers in exchange for a fee. The proposed order would also prohibit the defendants from misrepresenting the financial status of any consumer to a financial institution and imposes a judgment of $2.1 million against the defendants.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and proposed stipulated final order was 5-0. The FTC filed the complaint and proposed final order in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

Staff Contact:
Brian N. Lasky; Christopher Y. Miller
FTC Northeast Region
212-607-2829
Author: jmayfield
Posted: January 29, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission is launching Identity Theft Awareness Week, February 1-5, 2021, with a series of events to highlight steps consumers can take to help reduce their risk of identity theft and recover if identity theft occurs.

Identity theft happens when someone steals personal information about you such as your Social Security number or credit card information, and uses it to commit fraud. Reports about any type of identity theft topped the list of consumer complaints submitted to the FTC through the third quarter of 2020.

Identity Theft Awareness Week February 1-5 2021As part of Identity Theft Awareness Week, the FTC will participate in webinars and other events to highlight what you can do to protect your personal information, red-flag warning signs of possible identity theft, and steps to take if identity theft happens to you. Events include a webinar on Monday, February 1, with Identity Theft Resource Center and FTC experts discussing identity theft during the pandemic, and a Facebook Live discussion on Thursday, February 4, hosted by the AARP Fraud Watch Network, focused on COVID-19-related identity theft, current trends, and ways to protect yourself.

You can find the full list of events at ftc.gov/IDtheftweek, along with details on how to participate and tips on how to reduce the risk of identity theft.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2924

Author: jhenderson2
Posted: January 28, 2021, 12:00 pm

FTC law enforcement actions lead to refunds to more than 1.6 million consumers nationwide

New data released by the Federal Trade Commission shows that FTC actions led to more than $482 million in refunds to consumers across the country in 2020.

A core part of the FTC’s mission is to return money to consumers who have been harmed by fraud or other illegal business practices. More than 50 different FTC cases resulted in distributions to consumers in 2020.

The FTC Act allows the FTC to seek refunds from companies whose actions harm consumers.

During 2020, more than 1.6 million consumers received refunds from the FTC as a result of law enforcement cases. The FTC usually sends refunds to consumers by check, but in 2020, the agency also issued PayPal Refundspayments to consumers in 11 cases. By sending electronic payments, the FTC made it possible to get money back to people even when their physical mailing address information was not available. 

When consumers don’t cash their refund checks or accept their electronic payments, the FTC sends additional payments to ensure the maximum amount is returned to consumers. Any money that cannot be distributed to consumers is sent to the U.S. Treasury. 

The case that resulted in the most money returned to consumers in 2020 was a multi-agency settlement with Western Union. As a result of law enforcement actions brought against Western Union by the FTC, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, approximately 142,000 consumers received 100 percent of their money back, totaling approximately $300 million. Refunds went to people who sent money via Western Union in response to romance scams, grandparent scams, advanced-fee loan scams, lottery scams, and other internet scams, and who filed complaints about having been so defrauded.

Data about the FTC’s refund program is available online in an interactive dashboard, including state-by-state and case-by-case breakdowns of the amount refunded to consumers. The dashboard has been updated with information on refunds issued in 2020, and is available at ftc.gov/exploredata.

Additional information on the FTC’s refund program is available at ftc.gov/refunds.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

Author: jmayfield
Posted: January 27, 2021, 12:00 pm

Ticket brokers will face partially suspended judgment of more than $31 million in civil penalties

The Federal Trade Commission is taking legal action against three ticket brokers based in New York who allegedly used automated software to illegally buy up tens of thousands of tickets for popular concerts and sporting events, then subsequently made millions of dollars reselling the tickets to fans at higher prices.

The three ticket brokers will be subject to a judgment of more than $31 million in civil penalties for violating the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act, under a proposed settlement reached with the FTC. Due to their inability to pay, the judgment will be partially suspended, requiring them to pay $3.7 million.

This is the first case brought under the BOTS Act, which was enacted in 2016 and gives the FTC authority to take law enforcement action against individuals and companies that use bots or other means to circumvent limits on online ticket purchases.

“These ticket brokers used bots and other technical tricks to scoop up thousands of tickets to popular events as soon as they went on sale,” said Andrew M. Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Not only does this deprive loyal fans of the chance to see their favorite performers and shows, it is against the law.”

The FTC alleges that the defendants—Cartisim Corp. and Simon Ebrani; Just In Time Tickets, Inc. and Evan Kohanian; and Concert Specials, Inc. and Steven Ebrani— purchased more than 150,000 tickets for popular events. In doing so, they violated the BOTS Act in a number of ways, allegedly using automated ticket-buying software to search for and reserve tickets automatically, software to conceal their IP addresses, and hundreds of fictitious Ticketmaster accounts and credit cards to get around posted event ticket limits. The defendants allegedly took in millions of dollars in revenues from the resale of the tickets they purchased using these unlawful means.

Under the terms of the proposed orders, judgments will be entered against the defendants for civil penalties as follows:

Altogether, the defendants will pay over $3.7 million in civil penalties, which will be deposited into the U.S. Treasury. Under the terms of the proposed orders, if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition, the full amounts of the penalties would be immediately due.

The proposed orders also prohibit the defendants from further violations of the BOTS Act, including using methods to evade ticket limits, using false identities to purchase tickets, or using any bots to facilitate ticket purchases.

The Commission vote to authorize the staff to refer the complaints to the Department of Justice and to approve the proposed consent decrees was 5-0, with Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter issuing a concurring statement. The DOJ filed the complaints and proposed consent decrees on behalf of the Commission in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. Consent decrees have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2656

Staff Contact:
Frances Kern
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2391
Author: jmayfield
Posted: January 22, 2021, 12:00 pm

Andris Pukke, Peter Baker Ordered to Pay $120.2 Million

A federal district court entered final orders against the three primary individual defendants—Andris Pukke, Peter Baker, and Luke Chadwick, and related corporations—in the Federal Trade Commission’s case involving the allegedly deceptive sale of real estate properties in Belize to U.S. consumers.

The orders announced today finalize a September 2020 memorandum opinion requiring Pukke and Baker jointly to pay $120.2 million to the Commission—representing the amount of money consumers lost through the Sanctuary Belize real estate development scheme—with Chadwick also jointly responsible for $91.9 million of that amount. The FTC plans to use the money collected to provide refunds to defrauded consumers.

The court’s final order against Pukke, Baker, and Chadwick also bans Pukke from selling or assisting others in selling most real estate, and ban all three defendants from any involvement with Sanctuary Belize or related entities in the future. The order also bans the three defendants from telemarketing and prohibits them from making misrepresentations to consumers.

According to the FTC, Pukke, Baker, and Chadwick controlled, or illegally benefitted from, the deceptive marketing of the Sanctuary Belize real estate development in remote southern Belize. In November 2018, the FTC filed a complaint alleging the three individuals, along with dozens of other corporate and individual defendants, deceived U.S. consumers regarding the amenities that the development would have, how soon it would be completed, and the ability to re-sell lots.

The court also entered a final default order and monetary judgment against defendants John Usher, 14 corporate entities, and the estate of Andris Pukke’s father, John Pukke. The default order bans these defendants from most real estate sales; permanently bans them from telemarketing; prohibits them from making misrepresentations to consumers; and imposes financial judgments of $120.2 million against Usher and the corporate entities, and $830,000 against the estate of John Pukke.

Lastly, the court issued a final contempt order holding defendants Pukke, Baker, and Usher in contempt of court for violating a prior court order prohibiting them from making misrepresentations while telemarketing. The court also determined that Pukke failed to comply with the monetary relief provisions of an earlier FTC case in which he was involved, called AmeriDebt. The final contempt order enters a $172 million AmeriDebt judgment against Pukke, and a separate $120.2 million judgment against the three defendants.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, get consumer alerts, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2161

Staff Contacts:
Jonathan Cohen
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2551

Benjamin J. Theisman
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2223
Author: mkatz
Posted: January 21, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission published its Fiscal Year 2020 Performance Report as required under the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010. The report documents the progress made by the Commission in achieving the mission and performance goals established in the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Performance Plan. Also, as required by the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act during a transition in administration, the Commission will submit its Fiscal 2021-2022 Performance Plan along with its Fiscal Year 2022 budget request in support of the President’s FY 2022 budget for the federal government later this year.

The Commission vote to submit the Performance Report to Congress was 5-0.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-3707

Author: elordan
Posted: January 19, 2021, 12:00 pm

 

The FTC’s Blog on Privacy & Identity

Business Blog Posts

By Lesley Fair

You know those friendly calls from people contacting you on behalf of charities whose missions are close to your heart?

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: March 4, 2021, 5:07 pm
By Daniel Kaufman, Acting Director, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection

Wondering what you can do to help protect consumers in your area? The FTC just launched an initiative aimed at partnering with legal aid organizations to expand outreach to lower-income members of the community. The goal: to connect people who have experienced fraud and other consumer problems with an easy way to report it and with advice to help them recover.

Read more >
Author: Daniel Kaufman, Acting Director, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection<br />
Posted: March 3, 2021, 4:08 pm
By Lesley Fair

It’s like a scene from an Indiana Jones movie. Our hero enters a cave in search of treasure and every labyrinthine turn poses another unexpected hazard – trip-wired blades, runaway boulders, and snakes (“I hate snakes”). But we’re not talking about a rollicking adventure flick. We’re describing the experience of many online shoppers as they navigate some companies’ websites to avoid digital danger – for example, extra items showing up in a consumer’s cart, unauthorized charges, or the unintended disclosure of personal information.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: February 24, 2021, 4:16 pm
By Lesley Fair

Online romance may begin with Panic! At The Disco’s High Hopes, but according to a new FTC Data Spotlight, all too often it ends with the conclusion that – to quote the J. Geils Band – Love Stinks.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: February 11, 2021, 5:17 pm
By Lesley Fair

How many reports did the Consumer Sentinel Network receive in 2020? What percentage of those related to fraud? And what was the most common scam that people reported? The answers: 4.7 million, 46%, and imposter scams.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: February 4, 2021, 5:17 pm
By Lesley Fair

A lot has been said about changes to the marketplace spurred by the gig economy, but some things remain constant, including established truth-in-advertising principles. Amazon told delivery drivers in its Amazon Flex program – as well as customers who placed orders through services like Prime Now and AmazonFresh – that 100% of tips would go directly to the drivers. But according to an FTC lawsuit, for a period of more than two years, Amazon secretly pocketed over $61 million of those tips.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: February 2, 2021, 3:07 pm
By Seena Gressin

Among the challenges that COVID-19 has brought, add a higher risk of identity theft to the mix. In the past year, we had about 1.4 million reports of identity theft, double the number from 2019. Repeatedly, identity thieves targeted government funds earmarked to help individuals and small businesses hard hit financially by the pandemic. Find out about identity theft in the age of COVID-19.

Read more >
Author: Seena Gressin<br />
Posted: February 1, 2021, 1:10 pm
By Andrew Smith, Director, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection

Today we are announcing another enforcement action seeking to hold companies responsible for consumer injury caused by others or in which they directly participated in the misconduct. In this action against Seed Consulting, we allege, among other things, that Seed assisted and facilitated several deceptive schemes that cheated consumers out of thousands of dollars.

Read more >
Author: Andrew Smith, Director, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection<br />
Posted: January 29, 2021, 6:58 pm
By Lesley Fair

For people who were looking to run their own businesses, the lesson of the FTC’s proposed $2.1 million proposed settlement with Las Vegas-based Seed Consulting, LLC, is that neither their future nor their fortune was in the cards – credit cards, that is. The defendants’ modus operandi was to file falsified credit card applications in consumers’ names – a service for which they charged a hefty fee – so that consumers could use those lines of credit to pay for “business seminars” offered by third-party outfits with whom Seed Consulting was in cahoots.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: January 29, 2021, 6:19 pm
By Lesley Fair

Remember live music? Remember the thrill of enjoying a performance or sporting event with a packed house of fans? As we look forward to a return to in-person entertainment, it’s easy to forget the frustration of trying to buy tickets as soon as online sales opened only to be shut out by companies that used tricks to grab them up and sell them at much higher prices. That’s the conduct Congress intended to stop with the passage of the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: January 22, 2021, 5:09 pm

 

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