About the Region
Anna Burns, Director
Nicholas May, Assistant Director
The Southeast Region fulfills the FTC’s consumer protection mission by bringing law enforcement actions to stop unfair, deceptive and fraudulent business practices; building state and local partnerships; and educating consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities.
Headquartered in Atlanta, this regional office serves the residents of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Notable Cases and Outreach
Because of the warm and welcoming vacation destinations throughout the region, the Southeast Region (SER) has been at the forefront of the agency’s enforcement and educational efforts to halt fraudulent practices in the travel industry, where fraudsters take people’s money and turn their dream vacations into travel nightmares. Collectively, these law enforcement actions and initiatives have halted over 100 deceptive travel and vacation schemes and resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in monetary judgments. Moreover, education efforts to help consumers avoid these types of deceptive and fraudulent scams have included informative consumer materials, consumer and industry outreach events, and significant worldwide, nationwide and local press.
In the late 1990s, SER led Operation Trip Trap, a joint law enforcement and consumer education effort targeting companies that were alleged to have sold vacation packages through fraudulent telemarketing. In addition to four cases filed by the FTC, 47 state actions were filed on behalf of consumers. SER followed that law enforcement sweep in 2000 by leading an even broader initiative, Operation Travel Unravel, resulting in 85 actions by the FTC and 19 federal and state law enforcement partners.
The SER also led a 2013 sweep, Last Resort, involving 83 civil actions by the FTC and 28 states, and criminal law enforcement against more than 184 defendants. The sweep included 25 actions by international law enforcement partners from 10 other countries. The FTC law enforcement actions resulted in orders banning defendants from selling timeshare resale services and imposed tens of millions of dollars in monetary judgments.
Most recently, SER brought an action against J. William Enterprises and its owners that resulted in a judgment of $18,706,079 and permanently banned the defendants from timeshare resale services and telemarketing. As part of the settlement order, the Florida-based operators behind a purportedly deceptive timeshare resale scheme were ordered to surrender approximately $3.4 million worth of assets including bank accounts, homes, vehicles, a Rolex watch, and jewelry.
The Southeast Region (SER) has aggressively pursued operations engaged in financial fraud that impacts consumers in dire financial straits. These operations include companies deceptively marketing advance-fee loans, debt relief and consolidation, credit repair, mortgage assistance relief, foreclosure rescue, credit card interest rate reduction, student loan debt relief, debt collection, and credit card laundering. For example, in Helping America Group, SER challenged a massive scheme to defraud financially distressed consumers by offering them phony debt relief services, including fake debt consolidation loans. SER obtained an $85 million judgment and an order banning defendants from debt relief and telemarketing.
The Southeast Region (SER) has brought enforcement actions against several tech support operations including Pairsys, an operation that allegedly tricked consumers into paying millions of dollars for technical support services they did not need and for software that was otherwise free. A settlement with the company and its owners banned them from selling any technical support services, participating in any telemarketing, and making any misrepresentations to consumers in the sale of a good or service. The settlement included a monetary judgment of more than $3 million, and required the defendants to turn over numerous bank accounts, real estate, a Range Rover, and a Maserati Quattroporte.
To combat these scams, many of which target older consumers, in 2017, SER coordinated Operation Tech Trap, a nationwide and international crackdown on tech support scams that allegedly tricked consumers into believing their computers were infected with viruses and malware, and then charged them hundreds of dollars for unnecessary repairs. As part of this coordinated effort, the FTC and its law enforcement partners announced 16 law enforcement actions that resulted in orders banning defendants from deceiving consumers and imposing total judgments of tens of millions of dollars.
In addition to bringing law enforcement actions, the Southeast Region (SER) maintains strong, collaborative partnerships with other government and private partners and regularly conducts outreach to consumers and businesses in the region. SER has established consumer fraud task forces in the region’s major cities, and has hosted several Common Ground conferences with our state partners in the region. These task forces and conferences have connected state and federal consumer protection officials, legal services attorneys, and other consumer advocate groups to discuss emerging trends and continuing challenges facing Southeastern consumers. As an example of this effort, SER has hosted conferences with the NAACP in Georgia and Alabama to examine frauds affecting the African American community, and has conducted many state webinars about consumer fraud and identity theft. Additionally, SER has sponsored many other outreach events with our partners, including “Scam Jam” events with the Better Business Bureau, tele-town hall programs with AARP, and programs with legal services and other organizations that assist underserved populations. SER regularly conducts consumer outreach programs geared toward targeted groups including older Americans, military service members and their families, teachers, librarians, and students. Similarly, SER has conducted a wide variety of programs geared toward educating small and medium-sized businesses on a variety of topics, including cybersecurity, advertising and financing issues in the auto industry, and protecting business from fraud.
Have a consumer complaint? You can report it:
|By phone (toll free):
9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time
Monday through Friday
Consumer Response Center
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington DC 20580