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Federal Trade Commission - Protecting America's Consumers

“Blessings in No Time” program targeted African Americans and harmed people struggling financially during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Federal Trade Commission and the state of Arkansas sued the operators of a “blessing loom” investment program, alleging that it has operated as an illegal pyramid scheme that bilked tens of millions of dollars from thousands of consumers, and targeted African Americans and harmed people struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In their joint complaint, the FTC and Arkansas charged that the operators of Blessings in No Time (“BINT”) have lured people into joining their program by falsely promising investment returns as high as 800 percent. The complaint alleges that some BINT members paid as much as $62,700 to participate. In reality, though, as in other pyramid schemes, the vast majority of participants have lost money, the complaint alleges.

“The COVID-19 pandemic attacked Americans’ health and their wallets,” said Daniel Kaufman, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “These scammers, who specifically targeted Black communities, used false promises of wealth to deceive consumers out of money at a time that Americans could least afford to lose it.”

The complaint seeks to permanently enjoin BINT’s illegal operation and asks the court to award redress for injured consumers. The complaint also seeks to impose civil penalties on the defendants under Arkansas state law.

The complaint names as defendants the operators of BINT, Texas-based BINT Operations LLC, and its two co-founders, LaShonda Moore and her husband Marlon Moore.

The Moores began promoting BINT as early June 2020, according to the complaint. Like most blessing looms, BINT allegedly has coordinated payments (called “blessings”) between members using playing boards with different levels. The complaint alleges that, in one version of the defendants’ scheme, BINT’s playing board had four levels with 15 spots. Members on the second level were tasked with recruiting new participants to join their playing board on the first level. Once a board had been filled with new recruits and those recruits had paid the individual at the center of the playing board, the individual in the middle of the original board would be removed. The board would then be split into two new boards, and all remaining members would move up one level toward the center of the board, where they would then receive payments from new recruits. The complaint alleges that this process would repeat indefinitely, as illustrated below in the FTC’s graphic:

Graphic: The Operation of BINT's Blessing Loom

The Operation of BINT's Blessing Looms

The operators of BINT have required a minimum of $1,400 to participate in the program, but told members that they could earn greater revenue by contributing more money and recruiting additional members, the complaint states.

The defendants have primarily targeted African American communities through their scheme, according to the complaint. The complaint states that BINT’s website describes BINT as  a new type of investing or fundraising that would permit members achieve financial freedom and to “do everything from pay[ing] for your own surgery to fulfill[ing] a student’s dream of attending college—and so much more.” In promoting BINT, the defendants have also described it as a community-oriented program where members would work together to help each other achieve financial success, according to the complaint. The complaint also alleges the defendants assured participants they would not lose money and could withdraw at any time and receive a full refund.

In reality, the complaint alleges, BINT is structured as a pyramid scheme. The supposed investment returns BINT has promised to participants were merely funds paid by other members. BINT’s pyramid structure requires that it grow perpetually and exponentially because, for every member who received the promised payout, eight additional members had to pay into the scheme. No matter how many members receive the promised payout, many more members would necessarily lose money, the complaint notes.

Moreover, the defendants tried to hide their illegal activity by telling participants not to use certain payment apps or payment processors. The complaint also alleges that the defendants have illegally prohibited participants from posting truthful, non-defamatory reviews and other information about BINT on social media or the Internet.

The complaint charges that the defendants’ deceptive practices violated the FTC Act, the Consumer Review Fairness Act, and Arkansas state consumer protection laws.

The Commission vote approving the complaint was 4-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

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


Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
202-468-7684

Author: sfelder
Posted: June 17, 2021, 12:00 pm

Amended complaint against RCG Advances and others alleges unauthorized withdrawals, Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act violations

In a newly filed amended complaint, the Federal Trade Commission alleges that merchant cash advance provider RCG Advances and other defendants made multiple unauthorized withdrawals from small businesses’ banks, sometimes taking thousands of dollars more than the agreed repayment amount.

The amended complaint also alleges that RCG, formerly known as Richmond Capital Group, LLC and also doing business as Viceroy Capital Funding and Ram Capital Funding, violated the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act’s prohibition on using false or deceptive information to obtain a consumer’s bank account information.

In its agreements with consumers, RCG tells businesses that they can receive an upfront amount of cash in exchange for allowing RCG to make daily withdrawals from the businesses’ bank accounts up to a “Total Purchased Amount.” The amended complaint alleges that the defendants frequently continued to make the withdrawals well after the promised amount had been withdrawn, in one instance taking more than $75,000 without permission.

The amended complaint also alleges wanton and egregious behavior by defendants, including laughing at consumer requests for refunds from RCG’s unauthorized withdrawals from customer bank accounts; abusing the legal system to seize the business and personal assets of their customers; and threatening to break their customers’ jaws or falsely accusing them of child molestation during collection calls.

The FTC asks the court to assess civil penalties against the defendants, along with injunctive relief and requiring the defendants to turn over ill-gotten gains.

The case was originally filed in June 2020.

The Commission vote to refer the civil penalty complaint to the Department of Justice for filing was 4-0. The Department of Justice referred the complaint back to the Commission, which filed the amended complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

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 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:

Author: bjames@ftc.gov
Posted: June 14, 2021, 12:00 pm

Dr. Stephen Meis also will pay $103,420 to provide refunds to defrauded consumers

The medical director of California-based Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical, Inc., agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that he took part in deceptively advertising a $23,000 treatment plan as a scientifically proven way to treat COVID-19. Dr. Stephen Meis will be barred from making similar unsupported health claims in the future and will pay $103,420 to provide refunds to defrauded consumers.

"We rely on doctors to follow the scientific evidence when making claims about health products and conditions,” said Daniel Kaufman, Acting Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Helping to spread false and unproven claims about treating COVID and other diseases is that much worse when done by those in positions of trust.”

According to the FTC’s July 2020 complaint, Golden Sunrise started marketing its Emergency D-Virus plan as a treatment for COVID-19 in March 2020. Advertising on billboards, websites, and social media, Golden Sunrise falsely claimed that the company’s supplements—ImunStem, Aktiffvate, and AnterFeerons—were “uniquely qualified to treat and modify the course of the Coronavirus epidemic in CHINA and other countries,” and that users could expect the “disappearance of viral symptoms within two to four days.”

The defendants also promoted and sold a range of dietary supplements as treatments for cancer and Parkinson’s disease, as well as many other serious health conditions and diseases. Some of the defendants’ treatments cost as much as $170,000 to $200,000. In reality, they were comprised mainly of various herbs and spices and the health claims were unsubstantiated, according to the FTC.

One ad for the company’s supplements cited “Stephen R. MEIS, M.D., Board Certified” saying, “With increased use of one of the supplements included in the Emergency D-Virus treatment plan, disappearance of viral symptoms is expected within two (2) to four (4) days,” and that the recommended dietary supplements “are available now and once they are started, they will help alleviate the people immediately [sic] with the acute illness of the Coronavirus.”

The proposed order settling the FTC’s complaint prohibits Dr. Meis from making health-related product misrepresentations in the future, requires him to have competent and reliable scientific evidence to support any claims he makes, and prohibits him from misrepresenting the results of any tests, studies, or other research. It also bars him from falsely stating that a product has FDA approval when it does not. Finally, the order imposes a judgment of $103,420 against Dr. Meis, payable to the FTC, which can be used to provide refunds to defrauded consumers.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the proposed stipulated final order was 4-0. The proposed order was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California and has now been signed by the judge. Litigation continues against Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical, Inc.; Golden Sunrise Pharmaceutical, Inc.; and Huu Tieu.

The FTC appreciates the assistance of the Better Business Bureau Serving Central California & Inland Empire Counties with the investigation of 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.

CONTACT INFORMATION


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

Staff Contact:
Edward Hynes
FTC’s Southwest Region
214-979-9381
Author: elordan
Posted: June 14, 2021, 12:00 pm

As part of the Federal Trade Commission's systematic review of all current FTC rules and guides, the Commission announces a revised ten-year regulatory review schedule and scheduled initiation of the review of 16 CFR 437, the Business Opportunity Rule, in 2021.

The Business Opportunity Rule requires business opportunity sellers to give prospective buyers specific information to help them evaluate a business opportunity, thus ensuring that the prospective purchasers have the information they need in order to assess the risks of buying a work-at-home program or any other business opportunity.

The Commission vote approving the announcement of a revised regulatory review schedule and the scheduled initiation of the regulatory review of the Business Opportunity Rule was 4-0. Commissioner Rohit Chopra issued a statement.

The Commission is currently reviewing 23 of the 62 rules and guides within its jurisdiction. During 2020 and 2021, it completed reviews of 16 CFR 315, Contact Lens Rule; and 16 CFR 317, Prohibition of Energy Market Manipulation Rule. The Commission, in its discretion, may modify or reorder the schedule in the future to incorporate new rules, or to respond to external factors (such as changes in the law) or other considerations.   

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
202-340-1202

Staff Contact:
Christine Todaro
Bureau of Consumer Protection
(202) 326-3711
Author: sfelder
Posted: June 14, 2021, 12:00 pm

Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved a final administrative consent order against Amazon, which has agreed to pay more than $61.7 million to settle 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.

According to the FTC’s administrative complaint, announced in February 2021, 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.”

The FTC’s complaint alleges that Amazon also assured its customers that 100 percent of any tips they paid would go to the driver. According to the complaint, the company stopped the challenged conduct only after becoming aware of the FTC’s investigation in 2019.

The final order requires Amazon to pay $61,710,583, which represents the full amount that the company allegedly withheld from drivers and will be used by the FTC to compensate 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. The company will be subject to the Commission’s final order for twenty years and liable for civil penalties of up to $43,792 per violation should it violate that order.

The Commission vote approving the final consent order was 4-0.

Additional information available on the refunds page. Amazon drivers can sign up for email updates on the status of the refund process.
 

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. In 2020, FTC actions led to more than $483 million in refunds to consumers across the country, but recently the United States Supreme Court ruled the FTC lacks authority under Section 13(b) to seek monetary relief in federal court going forward. The Commission has urged Congress to restore the FTC’s ability to get money back 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

Contact For Consumers:

Media Contact:
Lindsay Kryzak
Office of Public Affairs
202-677-0998

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

Elizabeth C. Scott
FTC Midwest Region
312-960-5609
Author: bjames@ftc.gov
Posted: June 10, 2021, 12:00 pm

Career Education Corporation refund distribution, averaging more than $3,700 per person, is the largest per person average in agency’s history

The Federal Trade Commission is sending nearly $30 million in refunds to people tricked by agents working on behalf of Career Education Corporation (currently operating as Perdoceo Education Corporation), the operator of several post-secondary schools.

Explore Data with the FTC: Learn more about FTC refunds to consumers CEC’s lead generators tricked consumers into providing their information and enrolling at CEC schools using a variety of deceptive methods, including pretending to be U.S. military recruiters, or affiliated with the military, and falsely promising to provide assistance with job placement and various public benefits, according to the FTC’s complaint.

In 2019, CEC and its subsidiaries, American InterContinental University, Inc., AIU Online, LLC, Marlin Acquisition Corporation, Colorado Technical University, Inc., and Colorado Tech., Inc., settled FTC charges that they used lead generators to engage in illegal conduct to market their schools. The FTC also charged that both CEC and its lead generators illegally called people registered on the National Do Not Call Registry.

The FTC is mailing approximately $30 million to more than 8,000 recipients today.  The average refund is more than $3,700 per person, the largest per person average in the agency’s history.

People who receive checks should deposit or cash their checks within 90 days, as indicated on the check. Recipients who have questions about their checks can call the refund administrator, JND Legal Administration, at 1-833-916-3603. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. In 2020, FTC actions led to more than $483 million in refunds to consumers across the country, but recently the United States Supreme Court ruled the FTC lacks authority under Section 13(b) to seek monetary relief in federal court going forward. The Commission has urged Congress to restore the FTC’s ability to get money back 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

Contact For Consumers:
JND Legal Administration
Refund Administrator
1-833-916-3603

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

Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2565

Author: jhenderson2
Posted: June 9, 2021, 12:00 pm

More than two million consumers will receive refunds from FTC case alleging false promises of “same as cash” payment plans

The Federal Trade Commission is returning more than $172 million to consumers who overpaid for merchandise they purchased using rent-to-own plans provided by Progressive Leasing. More than two million consumers will receive refund checks.

The FTC’s complaint against the company, filed in April 2020, alleged that Progressive misled consumers about the true price of items purchased through its plans. Consumers who visited retailers to buy items such as furniture, jewelry, or cellphones frequently were told that Progressive’s payment plans were “same as cash” or “no interest” – leading consumers to believe they would not be charged more than an item’s sticker price.

Instead, the complaint alleged, consumers paid more than the sticker price, and frequently paid approximately twice the sticker price if they made all their scheduled payments. The FTC also alleged that Progressive was aware of consumers’ confusion about the terms of their plans through tens of thousands of consumer complaints, with more than 15,000 complaints received just in one 15-month period.

More than two million consumers are receiving refunds, averaging $85 each. Consumers who receive checks should deposit or cash their checks within 90 days, as indicated on the check. Because of the large number of refunds, the checks will be mailed over the next two weeks. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check.

Recipients who have questions about the redress payments, or who did not receive a payment but believe they are eligible should contact the refund administrator, Rust Consulting, at 1-877-625-9449.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. In 2020, FTC actions led to more than $483 million in refunds to consumers across the country, but recently the United States Supreme Court ruled the FTC lacks authority under Section 13(b) to seek monetary relief in federal court going forward. The Commission has urged Congress to restore the FTC’s ability to get money back 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

Contact For Consumers:
Refund Administrator
Rust Consulting, Inc.
877-625-9449

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

Author: mkatz
Posted: June 7, 2021, 12:00 pm

The operators of the MoviePass subscription service have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations they took steps to block subscribers from using the service as advertised, while also failing to secure subscribers’ personal data.

Under the proposed settlement, MoviePass, Inc., its parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics, Inc. (Helios), and their principals, Mitchell Lowe and Theodore Farnsworth, will be barred from misrepresenting their business and data security practices. In addition, any businesses controlled by MoviePass, Helios, or Lowe must implement comprehensive information security programs.

“MoviePass and its executives went to great lengths to deny consumers access to the service they paid for while also failing to secure their personal information,” said Daniel Kaufman, the FTC’s Acting Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC will continue working to protect consumers from deception and to ensure that businesses deliver on their promises.”

In its complaint, the FTC alleges that MoviePass, Inc.—along with its CEO, Lowe, as well as Helios and Farnsworth, CEO of Helios—deceptively marketed its “one movie per day” service promised to subscribers who paid for its $9.95 monthly service. The FTC alleges that MoviePass employed three tactics to prevent subscribers from using the service as advertised.

First, according to the FTC, MoviePass’s operators invalidated subscriber passwords while falsely claiming to have detected “suspicious activity or potential fraud” on the accounts. MoviePass's operators did this even though some of its own executives raised questions about the scheme, according to the complaint.

Second, MoviePass’s operators launched a ticket verification program to discourage use of the service. This program required subscribers to take and submit pictures of their physical movie ticket stubs for approval through the MoviePass app within a certain timeframe. Subscribers who failed to submit their tickets could not view future movies and could have their subscriptions canceled if they failed to verify their tickets more than once. The program blocked thousands of subscribers from using the service because of problems with the verification system, according to the complaint.

Third, MoviePass’s operators used “trip wires” that blocked certain groups of users—typically those who viewed more than three movies per month—from utilizing the service after they collectively hit certain thresholds based on their monthly cost to the company, the FTC alleges.

The Commission’s complaint details how Lowe and Farnsworth were personally involved in this scheme. For example, Lowe is alleged to have personally ordered subscribers’ passwords to be disrupted, and even chose the number of consumers to be targeted. As for Farnsworth, the complaint alleges that an employee sent an email on Farnsworth’s behalf proposing a misleading consumer notice about the password disruption. Both executives knew their scheme was deceptive and harmful to consumers, according to the complaint.

The FTC alleges that MoviePass’s operators also violated the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (ROSCA). ROSCA requires that firms be truthful with consumers when marketing negative option services—such as subscriptions—over the Internet. This means disclosing all material terms, and obtaining consumers’ informed consent before charging them.

As detailed in the Commission’s complaint, MoviePass’s operators failed to live up to both requirements. They pitched consumers on a “one movie per day” subscription, while hiding the ball about their elaborate efforts to prevent consumers from taking advantage of this service. And because consumers were not aware that the “one movie per day” promise was illusory, MoviePass’s operators failed to obtain their informed consent. 

In addition, MoviePass’s operators also failed to take reasonable steps to secure personal information it collected from subscribers, such as their names, email addresses, birth dates, credit card numbers, and geolocation information, the FTC alleges. For example, the company stored consumers’ personal data including financial information and email addresses in plain text and failed to impose restrictions on who could access personal data.

MoviePass noted in its privacy policy that it used reasonable measures to protect personal information including encrypting customer emails and payment information, according to the complaint. Despite these claims, MoviePass’s operators left a database containing large amounts of subscribers’ personal information unencrypted and exposed, leading to unauthorized access.

Lowe, Farnsworth, MoviePass, and its parent company are all bound by the proposed order. Under the proposed order, MoviePass’s operators are prohibited from misrepresenting the services they provide and must implement a comprehensive security program requiring them—and any businesses controlled by MoviePass, Helios, or Lowe—to identify external and internal security risks and take steps to address those risks. In addition, MoviePass’s operators must obtain biennial assessments of its information security program by a third party, which the FTC has authority to approve, to examine the effectiveness of the program. Finally, MoviePass’s operators are required to notify the FTC of any future data breaches, and a senior executive must certify annually that MoviePass’s operators are complying with the data security requirements of the settlement. The order does not include monetary relief for consumers. Both MoviePass and its parent company, Helios, have filed for bankruptcy.

The Commission voted 3-1 to issue the administrative complaint and to accept the proposed consent agreement. Commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips voted no and issued a dissenting statement. Commissioner Christine S. Wilson issued a concurring 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 publication in the Federal Register after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Instructions for filing comments will appear in the published notice. 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


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

Staff Contact:
Thomas B. Carter
FTC Southwest Region
214-979-9372
Author: jhenderson2
Posted: June 7, 2021, 12:00 pm

Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved final administrative consent orders against three companies, BASF SE, its subsidiary, BASF Corp. and DIEM Labs, which together have agreed to pay more than $416,000 to settle charges that they deceptively marketed two dietary fish oil supplements as clinically proven to reduce liver fat in adults and children with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

According to the FTC’s administrative complaint, announced in April 2021, BASF SE, which developed and owns the supplements Hepaxa and Hepaxa PD, acted through its North American subsidiary, BASF Corp., to retain DIEM Labs to advertise and distribute both supplements in the United States. Until mid-2020, the FTC’s complaint alleges, the companies deceptively advertised the two products as clinically proven to reduce liver fat in adults and children with NAFLD, without the scientific evidence needed to back up the claims.

The final orders cover Hepaxa, Hepaxa PD, and any other product containing one or more omega-3 fatty acids or promoted to benefit cardiac, metabolic or hepatic (liver) health or functions. They prohibit the companies from claiming that such products reduce liver fat in adults or children with NAFLD or cures, treats, or mitigates any disease, unless the claim is true and substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence in the form of randomized human clinical testing. The monetary judgment the orders imposes will enable the Commission to provide refunds to all consumers who bought either supplement.

The Commission vote approving the final consent order was 4-0. (The staff contact is Janet Evans, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-2125.)

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 Contact:
Janet Evans
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2125
Author: mkatz
Posted: June 1, 2021, 12:00 pm

The staff of the Federal Trade Commission has provided its 2020 Annual Financial Acts Enforcement Report to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on its enforcement and related activities regarding the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), Consumer Leasing Act (CLA), and Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA).

The report on TILA, CLA, and EFTA highlights, among other things, the FTC’s enforcement actions related to automobile purchases and financing, payday lending, credit repair and debt relief, and electronic fund transfers.

It also addresses the FTC’s research and policy efforts related to truth in lending, including the release of two staff reports based, in part, on a study of auto buyers conducted by the FTC that consisted of in-depth interviews with 38 consumers about the car buying and financing process. The FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection staff report notes that consumers were sometimes not aware of key terms of sales and financing practices, and points to issues that potentially keep them from having an accurate picture of the amount they are paying.

 It also explains that later stages of the buying and financing process, including involving add-ons” like extended warranties, service plans and GAP (guaranteed asset protection), and meeting with the dealer’s financing office for additional negotiations after seemingly negotiating a price with a salesperson, also present issues. 

A companion report issued jointly by the staff of the FTC’s Bureau of Economics and Bureau of Consumer Protection provides a detailed description of the study’s methodology and analysis of the results of the in-depth consumer interviews, discusses how the study fits within the existing framework of academic research into the car buying and financing process, and notes overall lessons from the study with areas where consumers did not understand the process, including what terms were negotiable, the terms and conditions of add-ons and other important terms in the transaction paperwork. 

The report also discusses a staff perspective on the FTC’s prior small business financing forum, which outlines a number of topics discussed by participants in the forum, provides an overview of small business lending and the emergence of new online options to businesses seeking financing, and addresses potential benefits and consumer protection concerns around these online lending options for business.

The report highlights the agency’s Military Task Force, which comprises a cross-section of FTC representatives and focuses on various initiatives to assist military consumers. The report further outlines the FTC’s consumer and business education efforts on truth in lending and electronic fund transfer issues.

The FTC also has provided a copy of the report to the Federal Reserve Board.

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 Contact:
Carole Reynolds
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3230
Author: mkatz
Posted: June 1, 2021, 12:00 pm

Consumers who lost money to fraudsters and paid through MoneyGram between 2013 and 2017 can now file a claim to get their money back. This claims process is the result of settlements with the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice charging that MoneyGram violated previous agreements with the government to crack down on fraudulent money transfers.

“MoneyGram profited by making it easy for con-artists to get away with people’s hard earned money. Today, people can begin to recover, and we urge anyone who lost money to a scammer via MoneyGram to file a claim and get their check,” said Daniel Kaufman, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We’re also committed to ensuring that MoneyGram lives up to its promises in the future to crack down on fraud in its system.”

In February 2021, prefilled forms were mailed to victims who had already been identified.  Beginning June 1, 2021, people who did not receive prefilled forms, but were victimized through MoneyGram, may file claims online or obtain a paper claim form (referred to as a petition) at the website: www.moneygramremission.com. These claims must be submitted by August 31, 2021. The claims process is being overseen by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Money transfers are a preferred method of payment for fraudsters because money sent through money transfer systems can be picked up quickly at locations all over the world, and once the money is paid out, it is all but impossible for consumers to get their money back. The systems also often allow scam artists to remain anonymous when receiving money from their victims.

In a 2018 court filing, the FTC alleged that MoneyGram violated the FTC’s 2009 order by failing to implement the comprehensive fraud prevention program mandated by that order. That order required MoneyGram to promptly investigate, restrict, suspend, and terminate high-fraud agents.

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:
Gilardi & Co., LLC
Remissions Administrator
1-844-269-2630

Media Contact:

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

The Federal Trade Commission submitted to Congress its Fiscal Year 2022 budget request, in support of the President’s FY 2022 budget for the federal government. The budget request also includes the FY 2022 Budget Overview Statement, Performance Plan for FY 2021 and FY 2022, and Performance Report for FY 2020, as required under the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010.

The Commission vote to submit the budget request, performance plan and performance report to Congress was 4-0.

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

Staff Contact:
James Hale
Financial Management Office
202-326-2385
Author: elordan
Posted: May 28, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission has joined the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in sending warning letters to five companies that may be making false or unsubstantiated claims that their products can cure, treat, mitigate, or prevent infertility and other reproductive disorders in violation of the FTC Act, and that are unapproved and misbranded. The warning letters were issued to: LeRoche Benicoeur/ConceiveEasy; EU Natural Inc.; Fertility Nutraceuticals LLC; SAL NATURE LLC/FertilHerb; and NS Products, Inc.

"Women and families who face fertility issues deserve the best that science has to offer,” said Daniel Kaufman, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC is proud to work with the FDA to ensure that when companies make claims about fertility treatments and cures, those claims are backed by solid scientific evidence.”

“Dietary supplements that claim to cure, treat, mitigate, or prevent infertility and other reproductive health conditions are unapproved new drugs that can potentially harm consumers who use these products instead of seeking effective treatments, such as FDA-approved drugs or assisted reproductive technology,” said Judy McMeekin, Pharm.D., FDA’s Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs. “Protecting the health and safety of Americans is the FDA’s highest priority, and we will remain vigilant in communicating about products and companies that place U.S. consumers at risk.”

The FTC Act

The letters state that the Commission is concerned that one or more of the efficacy claims in the companies’ advertisements may not be substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence, as required by the FTC Act. The agency strongly urges the companies to review all claims for their products and ensure they are supported by such evidence or potentially face legal action seeking an injunction in federal district court or an administrative cease and desist order. In addition, the letters state, marketers who make deceptive claims about the treatment, cure, prevention, or mitigation of a disease may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $43,792 per violation. They also may be required to pay refunds to consumers who purchased the deceptively marketed products.

The letters instruct the recipients to notify the FTC by email within 15 working days of receipt of the specific actions they have taken to address the agency’s concerns.

The FD&C Act

Under the FDA’s Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), products intended to cure, treat, mitigate, or prevent disease are drugs and are subject to the requirements that apply to drugs, even if they are labeled as dietary supplements. Unlike drugs approved by the FDA, the agency has not evaluated whether the unapproved products subject to the warning letters announced today are effective for their intended use, what the proper dosage might be, how they could interact with FDA-approved drugs or other substances, or whether they have dangerous side effects or other safety concerns.

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 Contact:
Michael Davis
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2458
Author: mkatz
Posted: May 26, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission and its regional partners in Dallas will host a free, virtual workshop on June 24, 2021, to discuss advertising and data security basics for small businesses, advertising professionals, and attorneys who advise them.

The Green Lights & Red Flags: FTC Rules of the Road for Business workshop will bring together Texas business owners, marketing executives, and attorneys with national and state legal experts to provide practical insights about how established consumer protection principles apply in today’s fast-paced marketplace.

Acting FTC Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter will open the workshop, followed by discussions on truth-in-advertising law, social media marketing, consumer reviews, children’s online privacy, email marketing, data security basics, how to avoid business-to-business scams, and ethics issues for attorneys. The full agenda is available on the event page

The free workshop will take place from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Central Time and will include a discussion of legal ethics from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Space is limited so those interested in attending the virtual event should register on the event page. A request for four hours of Continuing Legal Education credit for Texas attorneys is pending.

Green Lights & Red Flags is sponsored by the FTC, the American Advertising Federation of Dallas, the Better Business Bureau Serving North Central Texas, the Dallas Bar Association Antitrust & Trade Regulation Section, and Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law.

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:
Tom Carter
FTC Southwest Region
214-979-9372

Seena Gressin
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2717

Jimmy Asa
Better Business Bureau Serving North Central Texas
(214) 220-2000
Author: jhenderson2
Posted: May 25, 2021, 12:00 pm

Following a hearing in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation last month, Federal Trade Commission Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter reaffirmed the need to restore the FTC’s ability to return money unlawfully taken from consumers.  Acting Chairwoman Slaughter wrote the Committee to respond to arguments in a letter from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce regarding the Commission’s ability to use Section 13(b) of the FTC Act to seek consumer compensation in antitrust and consumer protection cases. The Acting Chairwoman’s letter explains that the Chamber’s argument against legislation to restore the FTC’s authority is based on fundamental misunderstandings of the history of Section 13(b), which in 2020 alone resulted in more than $483 million in refunds to consumers who lost money due to unlawful conduct.

Specifically, the letter explains that the Chamber’s proposals would allow companies and individuals to keep the gains they earned from breaking the law, hurt honest competitors who did not break the law, and leave consumers who suffered losses out in the cold. 

On April 22, 2021, the Supreme Court ruled the FTC lacks authority under Section 13(b) to seek monetary relief in federal court going forward. The Commission has urged Congress to restore the FTC’s ability to get money back for consumers as it has over the past four decades in a wide variety of cases, including telemarketing fraud, anticompetitive pharmaceutical practices, data security and privacy, scams that target seniors and veterans, and deceptive business practices, among many others. In her letter, the Acting Chairwoman reiterated her support for legislation to swiftly restore Section 13(b) and preserve the FTC’s ability to enjoin illegal conduct, disgorge ill-gotten gains, and return to consumers money they have lost.

A copy of the Acting Chairwoman’s letter is available on the FTC’s website.

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:
Lindsay Kryzak
Office of Public Affairs
202-677-0998

Author: bjames@ftc.gov
Posted: May 19, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission is sending more than $147,000 in full refunds to people affected by a student loan debt relief scam.

Explore Data with the FTC: Learn more about FTC refunds to consumersAccording to an amended FTC complaint filed in 2019, corporate defendants Impetus Enterprise, Inc., Fig Tree & Co., LLC, Capital Sun Investments, and individual defendants Tuan Duong, Brenda Avitia-Pena, Brian Colombana, and Jimmy Calderon, tricked student loan borrowers into paying illegal upfront fees by falsely promising to reduce or eliminate their student loan debt. The defendants also did business as Aiding Student Relief, Aidnest, and Studora, among others.

In 2019, four defendants settled FTC’s charges. Duong was banned from telemarketing and defendants Avitia-Pena, Calderon, and Capital Sun Investments were banned from selling debt relief services. In 2020, the court issued a default judgment against the remaining defendants, including Colombana, banning them from selling debt relief services or telemarketing.

The FTC is mailing full refunds, averaging $607 each, to victims of the scheme who previously filed a complaint with law enforcement. Consumers who receive checks should deposit or cash their checks within 90 days, as indicated on the check. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check.

Consumers who did not receive a check and think they should have been included in the distribution can call the refund administrator, Rust Consulting, Inc. at 1-877-310-4642.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. In 2020, FTC actions led to more than $483 million in refunds to consumers across the country, but recently the United States Supreme Court ruled the FTC lacks authority under Section 13(b) to seek monetary relief in federal court going forward. The Commission has urged Congress to restore the FTC’s ability to get money back 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

Contact For Consumers:
Refund Administrator
Rust Consulting, Inc.
877-310-4642

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

Author: ndrayton
Posted: May 19, 2021, 12:00 pm

Company failed to deliver DSL Internet speeds for which consumers paid and were promised

The Federal Trade Commission, along with law enforcement agencies from six states, sued Internet service provider Frontier Communications, alleging that the company did not provide many consumers with Internet service at the speeds it promised them, and charged many of them for more expensive and higher-speed service than Frontier actually provided. 

In a complaint, the FTC and its state partners allege that Frontier advertised and sold Internet service in several plans, or tiers, based on download speed. Frontier has touted these tiers using a variety of methods, including mail and online ads, and has sold them to consumers over the phone and online.

In reality, the FTC alleges, Frontier did not provide many consumers with the maximum speeds they were promised and the speeds they actually received often fell far short of what was touted in the plans they purchased.

The FTC’s allegations concern Frontier’s Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) Internet service, which is transmitted over copper telephone wires. Frontier provides DSL service to approximately 1.3 million consumers, many in rural areas, across 25 states.

Since at least January 2015, thousands of consumers complained to Frontier and government agencies that the company failed to provide DSL Internet service at the speeds they were promised. Many consumers have complained that the slower speeds actually provided by Frontier failed to support the typical online activities they should have been able to perform at the speed tiers Frontier had sold to them.

The FTC’s complaint was filed with the attorneys general from Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, as well as the district attorneys’ offices of Los Angeles County and Riverside County on behalf of the State of California. 

The complaint alleges that Frontier violated the FTC Act and various state laws by misrepresenting the speeds of Internet service it would provide consumers and engaged in unfair billing practices for charging consumers for a more expensive level of Internet service than it actually provided.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 4-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

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 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 Contact:
Robert Quigley
Western Region Los Angeles
310-824-4334
Author: jhenderson2
Posted: May 19, 2021, 12:00 pm

New data spotlight points to more than ten-fold increase in reported losses in last 12 months

Since October 2020, consumers have reported losing more than $80 million to cryptocurrency investment scams, an increase of more than ten-fold year-over-year, according to a new data analysis from the Federal Trade Commission.

In a new consumer protection data spotlight, the FTC breaks down the contents of nearly 7,000 reports received from consumers about these scams in the last quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021. The median amount consumers reported losing to the scams was $1,900.

The spotlight notes that cryptocurrency investment scams take on a variety of forms, sometimes starting as offers of investment “tips” or “secrets” in online message boards that lead people to bogus investment websites. Another common form of the scam involves a promise that a celebrity associated with cryptocurrency will multiply any cryptocurrency you send to their wallet and send it back. In fact, consumers reported losing more than $2 million to Elon Musk impersonators alone since October.

The spotlight notes that consumers age 20 to 49 were over five times more likely than older age groups to report losing money to a cryptocurrency investment scam, and that in the six-month period covered by the spotlight, consumers in their 20s and 30s lost more money to investment scams than any other form of fraud. More than half of their investment scam losses were in cryptocurrency.

The FTC has more information for consumers about cryptocurrency investment scams, and how to avoid them, at ftc.gov/cryptocurrency.

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:
Consumer Response Center
877-382-4357

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

Author: jhenderson2
Posted: May 17, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission today announced its latest law enforcement action to halt deceptive health and efficacy claims in the growing market for cannabidiol (CBD) products. In the action—the first since the Commission announced a crackdown on such false claims last December—Scottsdale, Arizona-based Kushly Industries LLC (Kushly) and the company’s sole officer Cody Alt have agreed not to make false or unsupported claims or falsely claim that scientific evidence exists to back them up. They also will pay the FTC more than $30,000 in consumer redress.

The FTC alleges Kushly and Alt made false or unsubstantiated claims that their CBD products could effectively treat or cure a host of conditions—from common ailments, like acne and psoriasis, to more serious diseases, including cancer and multiple sclerosis. In addition, the complaint alleges the respondents falsely told consumers that scientific studies or research prove that CBD product effectively treat, mitigate, or cure the diseases, including hypertension, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

“This is the seventh case we’ve brought against CBD sellers who should know better than to make unsupported health claims for their products,” said Daniel Kaufman, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “There may be some benefits of CBD, but there’s no proof that it can treat the serious health conditions in Kushly’s advertising, such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, or cancer.”

According to the FTC’s complaint, the respondents have used these false or unsubstantiated claims to market or sell a range of products containing CBD, including gummies, softgel capsules, and topical ointments. They promoted their products on their website, kushly.com, and social media. The complaint alleges that Alt participated directly in promoting and advertising Kushly’s CBD products and has been featured and quoted in articles about the company, its products, and the CBD industry in general.

The proposed administrative order settling the FTC’s charges covers any dietary supplement, drug, or food product the respondents sell or market, including CBD products. It prohibits Kushly and Alt from making any representations about the health benefits, efficacy, safety or side effect about any covered product, including CBD products, unless the representations are true at the time they are made, are not misleading, and they have and rely upon competent and reliable scientific evidence to support the claims. It also requires them to secure and preserve any human clinical tests or studies they use to substantiate these health claims.

The order also prohibits Kushly and Alt from misrepresenting that any covered product is clinically proven to treat, alleviate, or cure or that scientific evidence exists to back up such claims: chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, anxiety, depression, cancer, sleep disorders, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, acne, psoriasis, and eczema.

Finally, the order requires the respondents to pay the FTC $30,583.14—the amount consumers paid Kushly for products sold using deceptive marketing.

The Commission vote approving the administrative complaint and proposed consent order was 4-0. 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 publication in the Federal Register after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Instructions for filing comments will appear in the published notice. Once processed, comments will be posted on Regulations.gov.

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 Contact:
Reid Tepfer
FTC’s Southwest Region
214-979-9395
Author: mkatz
Posted: May 17, 2021, 12:00 pm

The operators of a student loan debt relief scheme are banned from providing debt relief services and have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they collected illegal upfront fees and falsely promised to lower or even eliminate consumers’ loan payments or balances.

In its 2019 complaint the FTC alleged that Student Advocates Team and other defendants charged illegal upfront fees that they led consumers to believe went towards consumers’ student loans, and falsely promised that their services would permanently lower or even eliminate consumers’ loan payments or balances. The defendants also signed customers up for high-interest loans to pay the fees without making required disclosures.

The settlement resolves FTC litigation against the remaining defendants in the case: Student Advocates Team, LLC, Progress Advocates Group, LLC (also doing business as Student Advocates), Student Advocates Group, LLC, Assurance Solutions Services, LLC and individual defendant Bradley Jason Hunt and individual defendant Sean Quincy Lucero.  Equitable Acceptance Corporation settled the charges against it in September 2019.

The orders ban the settling defendants from providing debt relief services, prohibits them from violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and includes a monetary judgment against certain defendants of more than $24.5 million, which is partially suspended due to an inability to pay. The defendants will be required to pay $11,500, which will be used for consumer redress. The defendants are also prohibited from collecting any further payments from the consumers who purchased their debt relief services.

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

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 Contacts:
Delilah Vinzon
Western Regional Office
310-824-4328

John D. Jacobs
Western Regional Office
310-824-4360
Author: ndrayton
Posted: May 17, 2021, 12:00 pm

Funds for these payments come from the FTC’s settlements with Reckitt Benckiser Group and Indivior, Inc. who took advantage of their unique market position to scare consumers away from generic Suboxone tablets

The Federal Trade Commission is sending 51,875 payments totaling more than $59 million to consumers who were victims of an allegedly deceptive scheme by Reckitt Benckiser Group and Indivior, Inc. to thwart lower-priced generic competition with the branded drug Suboxone. The average payment amount is $1,139. The payments will be mailed today.

Suboxone is a prescription oral medication used to minimize withdrawal symptoms in patients recovering from opioid addiction. The FTC alleged that Reckitt Benckiser and Indivior sought to deny consumers a lower-cost generic alternative to maintain their lucrative monopoly on the branded drug.   

“The FTC does not tolerate the kind of deceptive practices that make it harder or more expensive to get prescription medication. The Suboxone Film scheme put Americans’ health and safety at risk by using a unique market position to scare consumers,” said FTC Acting Chairwoman Slaughter. “Today the check is in the mail for over 50,000 people suffering from opioid addition – a pandemic in its own right still ravaging our communities – who were misled by these parties. While we trust the settlement has sent a strong warning to copycat companies, the FTC remains diligent in its work to promote a safe and competitive marketplace.”

According to the complaints, before the generic versions of Suboxone tablets became available, Reckitt and its former subsidiary Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, now known as Indivior, Inc., developed a dissolvable oral film version of Suboxone and worked to shift prescriptions to this patent-protected film. Worried that doctors and patients would not want to switch to Suboxone Film, Reckitt and Indivior allegedly employed a “product hopping” scheme in which they misrepresented that the film version of Suboxone was safer than Suboxone tablets because children are less likely to be accidentally exposed to the film product. The complaints also alleged that, to buy more time to move patients to the film version of Suboxone, Indivior filed a meritless citizen petition with the FDA reciting the same unsupported safety claims and requesting that the agency reject any generic tablet application.

The FTC is mailing 37,212 checks totaling more than $42 million and 14,663 prepaid debit cards totaling more than $16 million. The checks will expire on Aug. 8, 2021, and the prepaid cards will expire on May 10, 2022.

In settlements reached with Reckitt and Indivior, the FTC required the companies to disgorge the money for these payments under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act. In 2020, FTC actions led to more than $482 million in refunds to consumers across the country, but recently the United States Supreme Court ruled the FTC lacks authority under Section 13(b) to seek monetary relief in federal court going forward. The Commission has urged Congress to restore the FTC’s ability to get money back for consumers.

The deadline to file a claim has passed. Recipients who have questions about these payments should contact the refund administrator, JND Legal Administration, at 1-877-545-0238.

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

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

Contact For Consumers:
Refund Administrator
JND Legal Administration
877-545-0238

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

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

The Federal Trade Commission finalized a settlement with the developer of a photo app that allegedly deceived consumers about its use of facial recognition technology and its retention of the photos and videos of users who deactivated their accounts.

In a complaint first announced in January 2021, the FTC alleged that Everalbum, Inc. misled users of its Ever mobile app that it would not apply facial recognition technology to users’ content unless they affirmatively chose to activate the feature. The company, however, automatically activated its face recognition feature—which could not be turned off—for all mobile app users except those who lived in three U.S. states and the European Union, according to the FTC’s complaint. The FTC alleged that the company also failed to keep its promises to delete the photos and videos of Ever users who deactivated their accounts and instead retained them indefinitely.

As part of the settlement with the FTC, Everalbum, Inc. must obtain consumers’ express consent before using facial recognition technology on their photos and videos. The proposed order also requires the company to delete the photos and videos of Ever app users who deactivated their accounts and the models and algorithms it developed by using the photos and videos uploaded by its users. In addition, if the company markets software to U.S. consumers for personal use, it must obtain users’ express consent before using biometric information it collected from them.

After receiving two comments that address the proposed settlement, the Commission voted 4-0 to finalize the settlement and send responses to the commenters.

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: May 7, 2021, 12:00 pm

In a new report to Congress, the Federal Trade Commission identifies numerous types of repair restrictions, such as using adhesives that make parts difficult to replace, limiting the availability of spare parts, and making diagnostic software unavailable.

The report’s findings, including that “there is scant evidence to support manufacturers’ justifications for repair restrictions,” are primarily based on responses to the Commission’s requests for public comments and empirical research issued in connection with its July 2019 workshop, “Nixing the Fix: A Workshop on Repair Restrictions.”  

The report explores means of expanding consumers’ repair options and how the Commission could assist in that expansion, consistent with its statutory authority. In addition, the Commission notes that it stands ready to work with lawmakers, either at the state or federal level, to ensure that consumers have choices when they need to repair products that they purchase and own.

Congress directed the FTC to issue the report, noting that it “is aware of the FTC’s ongoing review of how manufacturers—in particular mobile phone and car manufacturers—may limit repairs by consumers and repair shops, and how those limitations may increase costs, limit choice, and impact consumers’ rights under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.” Congress specifically directed the FTC to include recommendations on how to best address these problems.

The Commission voted 4-0 to authorize staff to send the report to Congress.

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:
Christine Todaro
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3711

Daniel R. Salsburg
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3402
Author: jhenderson2
Posted: May 6, 2021, 12:00 pm

Names Austin King Associate General Counsel for New Rulemaking Group

Hires Gaurav Laroia as Attorney-Advisor for Consumer Protection

Federal Trade Commission Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter announced that she has selected Austin King to be the Associate General Counsel for Rulemaking. Replacing Mr. King, who previously served as one of the Acting Chairwoman’s attorney-advisors for consumer protection, will be Gaurav Laroia.

Last month, Acting Chairwoman Slaughter announced the formation of a new rulemaking group within the FTC’s Office of the General Counsel to allow the FTC to take a strategic and harmonized approach to rulemaking across its different authorities and mission areas. Mr. King will lead this group in its work to strengthen existing rules and to explore new rulemakings to prohibit unfair or deceptive practices and unfair methods of competition.

“Protecting America’s consumers from unfair and deceptive practices is more challenging than ever, so we need to harness all the tools at the FTC’s disposal, including rulemaking,” said Acting Chairwoman Slaughter. “I’m pleased to announce that Austin King will be moving to the Office of the General Counsel as Associate General Counsel to lead our new rulemaking group. In my office, I am equally pleased to welcome Gaurav Laroia as attorney-advisor for consumer protection.”

Mr. King has served as one of Acting Chairwoman Slaughter’s attorney-advisors for consumer protection since 2018. He joined the FTC from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where he served as Counsel in the Legal Division’s Office of Law and Policy. He previously clerked for Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the Southern District of New York and for Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. He holds a J.D., summa cum laude, from New York University School of Law, an M.P.A. from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Mr. Laroia will replace Mr. King as an attorney-advisor to the Acting Chairwoman on consumer protection matters and joins the FTC from Free Press, where he served as senior policy counsel. His work there focused on civil rights and technology issues, including privacy, algorithmic accountability, intermediary liability, and antitrust enforcement. Prior to his time at Free Press, he advocated for whistleblower rights on behalf of the Government Accountability Project and on national security surveillance oversight legislation as a legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. He has also worked for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. He earned both his J.D. and B.A. from George Washington University.

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:
Lindsay Kryzak
Office of Public Affairs
202-677-0998

Author: bacree
Posted: May 5, 2021, 12:00 pm

The Federal Trade Commission is sending more than $273,500 in refunds to people who lost money to a student loan debt relief scheme that charged them illegal upfront fees and tricked them into believing their student loan payments would be permanently lowered or eliminated.Explore Data with the FTC: Learn more about FTC refunds to consumers

According to an FTC complaint filed in September 2019, Manhattan Beach Venture deceptively marketed payment relief and loan forgiveness programs to people looking for help with their student loans. MBV charged consumers up to $1,400 in upfront fees and led them to believe it went toward their student loans. MBV then funneled consumers into financing this fee through a high-interest loan with third-party financier Equitable Acceptance Corporation, another defendant in the scheme.

Under the settlement order, the defendants are banned from selling any kind of debt relief products or services, from making unsubstantiated claims about financial products and services, and from making material misrepresentations about any other kind of product or service.

The FTC is sending checks to 2,889 people, averaging about $95 each. Consumers who receive checks should cash them within 90 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 this refund program should contact the refund administrator, Analytics, at 833-689-2046.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of these refunds, as well as refund programs from other FTC cases. In 2020, FTC actions led to more than $482 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:
Analytics
1-833-689-2046

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

Ayooluwa Akintayo
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2140

Author: ndrayton
Posted: May 5, 2021, 12:00 pm

Letters remind landlords of their obligations as part of the CDC’s moratorium

The acting heads of the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) have sent joint notification letters to the nation’s largest apartment landlords, which collectively own more than 2 million units, reminding them of their obligations under the ongoing national eviction moratorium put in place as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The moratorium, which was recently extended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) until June 30, 2021, prohibits evictions in certain circumstances in order to keep people in their homes and prevent the spread of the disease.

“With millions of families nationwide at risk of eviction, it's vital that landlords and the debt collectors who work on their behalf understand and abide by their obligations,” said Acting FTC Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter. “We are continuing to monitor this area and will act as needed to protect renters.”

“Landlords should ensure that [Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)]-covered debt collectors working on their behalf, which may include attorneys, notify tenants of their rights under federal law. Nearly nine million households are at risk of eviction due to the economic effects of COVID-19, but no one should lose their home without understanding their rights,” said CFPB Acting Director Dave Uejio. “We will hold accountable debt collectors who move forward with illegal evictions.”

In the letter, FTC Acting Chairwoman Rebeca Kelly Slaughter and CFPB Acting Director Dave Uejio urge landlords to make sure that they and their debt collectors are complying with the FTC Act and the FDCPA. The CFPB recently enacted an interim final rule requiring debt collectors to give tenants written notice of their rights under the CDC’s moratorium and prohibiting debt collectors from misrepresenting tenants’ eligibility for eviction protection. The letter outlines these requirements and provides sample language for notice to tenants facing eviction.

Acting Chairwoman Slaughter and Acting Director Uejio recently issued a joint statement making clear that the agencies are monitoring eviction practices for compliance with the law. The FTC also issued guidance about the moratorium for both landlords and tenants.

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: May 3, 2021, 12:00 pm

Almost 400 sellers and marketers who received FTC warning letters have pulled unsubstantiated claims in the last year

The Federal Trade Commission announced that 30 more marketers nationwide have stopped making unsubstantiated claims that their products and therapies can prevent or treat COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The marketers removed these claims after receiving FTC warning letters citing the agency’s new civil penalty authority under the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act.

This is the tenth set of warning letters the FTC has announced as part of its ongoing efforts to protect consumers from health-related COVID-19 scams. In all, the Commission has sent similar letters to almost 400 companies and individuals.

Some of the actions involved products and “treatments” the FTC warned companies about previously, including intravenous (IV) Vitamin C infusions, ozone therapy, peptide therapy, and supplements. Others involved more obscure products and therapies that were promoted to prevent or treat COVID-19. For example, warning letters went to companies claiming that everything from exercise therapy, iodine, and infrared saunas can fight the disease. However, currently there is no scientific evidence that these products or services can prevent or treat the COVID-19.

In the letters, the FTC states that one or more of the efficacy claims made by the marketers are unsubstantiated because they are not supported by scientific evidence, and therefore violate the FTC Act. The letters advise the recipients to immediately stop making all claims that their products can prevent or treat COVID-19, and to notify the Commission within 48 hours about the specific actions they have taken to address the agency’s concerns.

Letters issued this year warn the recipients of the FTC’s new authority to seek civil penalties under the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act. Violators who make deceptive claims related to the treatment, cure, or prevention of COVID-19 are subject to penalties of up to $43,792 per violation.

As the FTC stated recently in Congressional testimony, the Commission is determined to pursue swift enforcement action against those who do not comply. Just this month, the FTC charged St. Louis-based chiropractor Eric Anthony Nepute and his company Quickwork LLC with violating the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act and the Federal Trade Commission Act, by deceptively marketing products containing vitamin D and zinc as scientifically proven to treat or prevent COVID-19. It was the first case the FTC has brought under the new law.

The actions announced today involved the companies and individuals listed below. Marketers are grouped based on the type of therapy, product, or service they pitched as preventing or treating COVID-19.

Ivermectin:

Chiropractic:

Exercise/Personal Training/Energy Treatments:

Peptide Therapies:

IV Vitamin Therapy/Vitamin Injections:

Infrared Sauna Therapy

Nasal and Oral Mists/Nasal Irrigation:

Ozone Therapy/Stem Cell Treatments:

Supplements, Colloidal Silver, Botanicals, and Prebiotics/Probiotics:

Other Recent COVID-related FTC Enforcement Actions

In August 2020, the FTC announced several federal court cases filed against marketers who allegedly made false promises about being able to quickly fulfill orders for facemasks and other personal protective equipment. One of those actions also included charges against the sellers of a product called “Basic Immune IGG” that claimed to treat or prevent COVID-19 and have FDA approval, according to the FTC’s complaint.

In November 2020, at the FTC’s request, a federal court in Ohio has issued a temporary restraining order against 25 counterfeit websites that allegedly have been playing on consumers’ COVID-19 pandemic fears to trick them into paying for Clorox and Lysol products that the defendants never deliver.

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
877-382-4357


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

Staff Contact:
Richard Cleland
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3088
Author: mkatz
Posted: April 29, 2021, 12:00 pm

Credit histories of unwitting victims were used to qualify financing for prospective customers

Smart home security and monitoring company Vivint Smart Homes Inc. has agreed to pay $20 million to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that the Utah-based firm misused credit reports to help unqualified customers obtain financing for the company’s products and services.

Under the settlement, Vivint will pay a $15 million civil penalty and an additional $5 million to compensate injured consumers.

In a complaint filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC, the Commission alleged that Vivint violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by improperly obtaining credit reports in order to qualify potential customers for financing for its smart home monitoring and security products. The FTC also alleged that Vivint violated the FTC’s Red Flags Rule by failing to implement an identity theft prevention program, which is required of certain companies that regularly use or obtain credit reports.

“Vivint’s sales staff stole people’s personal information to approve others for loans,” said Daniel Kaufman, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “For misusing consumer credit reports and other sensitive data, and harming people’s credit, this company will pay $20 million.”

Vivint uses door-to-door sales representatives working on a commission-only basis to sell the company’s home security devices and monitoring services, according to the FTC complaint.

The FTC alleged that some Vivint sales representatives used a process known as “white paging,” which involved finding another consumer with the same or a similar name on the White Pages app and using that consumer’s credit history to qualify the prospective unqualified customer. Vivint sales representatives also sometimes asked customers to provide the name of someone they knew who had better credit, such as a relative, then added that innocent third-party as a co-signer to the account without their permission, and used their credit history to qualify the prospective customer, according to the complaint.

If customers qualified using these deceptive tactics later defaulted on their loans, Vivint referred the innocent third party to its debt buyer, potentially harming that consumer’s credit and subjecting them to debt collectors, the FTC alleged. Many consumers whose credit reports were misused by Vivint sales representatives complained to the FTC that they were victims of identity theft after being contacted by Vivint’s debt collectors.

The FTC alleged that Vivint was aware of the problem, and in fact terminated many sales representatives for misconduct only to rehire some of them shortly thereafter.

In addition to the monetary judgment—the largest to date for an FTC FCRA case—the settlement requires Vivint to implement an employee monitoring and training program, as well as an identity theft prevention program. The company must also establish a customer service task force to verify that accounts belong to the right customer before referring any account to a debt collector, and must assist consumers who were improperly referred to debt collectors.

In addition, Vivint must obtain biennial assessments by an independent third party to ensure the company is complying with the FCRA. Vivint is also prohibited from engaging in the types of improper conduct detailed in the complaint.

People who did not sign up for Vivint’s services but were contacted by debt collectors or found Vivint accounts improperly listed on their credit reports may be eligible for compensation from this settlement and can sign up for email updates here.

The Commission vote to authorize the staff to refer the complaint to the Department of Justice and to approve the stipulated final order was 4-0, with Commissioner Rohit Chopra issuing a separate statement. The DOJ filed the complaint and stipulated final order on behalf of the Commission in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah.

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. 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


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

Staff Contacts:
Gorana Neskovic
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2322

Kevin Moriarty
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2949
Author: jhenderson2
Posted: April 29, 2021, 12:00 pm

Funds for payments come from FTC’s case against payment processor First Data Merchant Services

The Federal Trade Commission is sending full refunds totaling more than $11 million to consumers who lost money to a bogus credit card interest rate reduction scheme operated by E.M. Systems & Services.

The FTC and the State of Florida alleged that the company’s owners, Steven D. Short and Karissa L. Dyar, used a variety of phony business names with associated websites, cold-called consumers with credit card debt and falsely promised to save them thousands of dollars by reducing their credit card interest rates. The FTC says that the defendants charged an up-front fee between $695 and $1,495, and falsely promised to provide refunds to consumers if they failed to reduce the interest rates.

According to the complaint, the telemarketers identified themselves as “card services,” “credit services,” and “card member services,” or used one of the defendants’ phony business names. To win consumers’ trust, they said they knew the amount of consumers’ credit card debt, provided the caller’s license or badge number, mentioned the Internet domain name of the phony business, and falsely claimed they had a business relationship with consumers’ lenders.

More than 11,000 consumers are receiving full refunds, averaging $995 each. Consumers who receive checks should deposit or cash their checks within 90 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 redress payments, or who did not receive a payment but believe they are eligible should contact the refund administrator, Epiq, at 800-239-6082.

The funds for this refund program come from the FTC’s case against First Data Merchant Services, the company that processed credit card payments for the defendants in this case. According to the FTC, First Data allegedly ignored repeated warnings from employees, banks, and others that they were processing payments for companies that were breaking the law. First Data agreed to pay $40 million to settle the FTC’s charges. The FTC plans to use the remaining money to provide additional refunds to consumers in two other related cases.

The FTC’s interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of FTC refunds. FTC actions led to more than $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.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Contact For Consumers:
Refund Administrator
Epiq
800-239-6082

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

Author: jmayfield
Posted: April 28, 2021, 12:00 pm
WHAT: The Federal Trade Commission will host a virtual workshop to examine digital “dark patterns,” a range of potentially deceptive or unfair user interface designs used on websites and mobile apps.
WHEN: Thursday, April 29, 2021, 10:30 a.m. ET – 4:30 p.m. ET
WHERE: The workshop will be held online. A link to view the workshop will be posted the morning of the event to ftc.gov and the event page.
WHO: The workshop will feature opening remarks by FTC Acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., as well as five panel discussions.
TWITTER: The event will be tweeted live from the FTC’s Twitter page (@FTC) using the hashtag #DarkPatternsFTC.

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: April 28, 2021, 12:00 pm

 

The FTC’s Blog on Privacy & Identity

Business Blog Posts

By Lesley Fair

We’ll leave it to the economists to crunch the employment numbers. We’re just happy to see more Help Wanted signs in the windows of Main Street retailers. That’s good news for Americans affected by pandemic-related layoffs. As companies are getting back to business and returning to an in-person workplace, the FTC has some tips for job seekers.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: June 17, 2021, 8:04 pm
By Lesley Fair

Call it a “blessing.” Call it a “loom.” In a case just filed in federal court, the FTC and the State of Arkansas use another phrase to describe what the operators of the Blessings in No Time investment program are up to. We call it a pyramid scheme.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: June 17, 2021, 1:05 pm
By Lesley Fair

It’s exciting to see so many “open” signs appearing in store windows across the country. But some companies making the transition to an in-person workplace may find themselves in a short-term cash flow crunch. Even before the pandemic, the FTC raised concerns about deceptive practices related to small business financing. With many companies working to regain their footing, the FTC has tips on protecting yourself when looking for financing.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: June 16, 2021, 4:10 pm
By Lesley Fair

You have to say this about scammers: They’re up on current events. As early as February 2020, con artists were already using the coronavirus as a hook for swindles and scams and the FTC was sounding an alert for consumers. It didn’t take long before scammers targeted businesses, too.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: June 15, 2021, 5:20 pm
By Lesley Fair

As many companies shift to an in-person workplace, you and your employees face the opportunities and challenges of the new new normal. Today is the first in a five-part Back to Business blog series to help ease the transition back to the office, including steps you can take to reduce the risk that COVID scammers, data thieves, and financial fraudsters will follow you there. One consideration for companies: assuring you’re in control of sensitive information.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: June 14, 2021, 6:24 pm
By Lesley Fair

As the fast-talking talent scout said in a hundred Hollywood classics, “I’m gonna put you in the movies!” MoviePass promised to put consumers in the movies – or at least in movie theaters – with its $9.95 per month “one movie per day” subscription plan.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: June 7, 2021, 6:42 pm
By Lesley Fair

Even for people who work on the most arcane frontiers of technology, there is a line of questioning that leaves them scratching their heads wondering where to begin. It’s when a colleague, friend, or family member asks “OK, Mr. or Ms. Tech Guru. I read a scary article about online privacy. What should I do to protect myself?” or “I just bought this nifty smart device. How can I use it safely?” The FTC has a new resource to help you answer those questions.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: June 4, 2021, 2:53 pm
By Lesley Fair

The FTC’s Green Lights & Red Flags virtual workshop for business is “on the road again,” so it’s only appropriate that we’re heading to Dallas on June 24, 2021.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: May 27, 2021, 6:28 pm
By Lesley Fair

People facing infertility have a lot to think about in exploring the options available to them. But one thing that shouldn’t be on that list are unapproved products that make questionable claims to “treat” infertility. That’s the warning the FTC and the FDA have sent to companies that have pitched products to consumers searching for answers to what can be a complex medical condition.

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: May 26, 2021, 3:54 pm
By Lesley Fair

When it comes to consumer privacy and data security, your clients and colleagues want the word on what’s been happening at the FTC – and they want it in an accessible, to-the-point format. The agency’s 2020 Privacy and Data Security Update is ready for you to read, post, and share.

Enforcement

Building on decades of experience in consumer privacy and data security enforcement, the FTC announced a number of notable cases in 2020. Here are a few highlights:

Read more >
Author: Lesley Fair<br />
Posted: May 25, 2021, 2:57 pm

 


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