In 2019, the operators of a sweepstakes scam that appeared to target seniors agreed to forfeit a record $30 million in cash and assets and will be permanently banned from the prize promotion business under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. In July 2022, the FTC returned almost $25 million to consumers worldwide who were defrauded by the scheme.
Every year the FTC brings hundreds of cases against individuals and companies for violating consumer protection and competition laws that the agency enforces. These cases can involve fraud, scams, identity theft, false advertising, privacy violations, anti-competitive behavior and more. The Legal Library has detailed information about cases we have brought in federal court or through our internal administrative process, called an adjudicative proceeding.
In September 2019, the operators of a deceptive negative option scheme agreed to a court-ordered preliminary injunction temporarily barring them from a wide range of conduct. The preliminary injunction stops the defendants from misleading consumers about supposedly “free trial” offers, enrolling them in unwanted continuity plans, billing them without their authorization, and making it nearly impossible for them to cancel or get their money back. In June 2022, the Commission announced it was returning $5.4 million to defrauded consumers.
The Federal Trade Commission today sued Walmart for allowing its money transfer services to be used by fraudsters, who fleeced consumers out of hundreds of millions of dollars. In its lawsuit, the FTC alleges that for years, the company turned a blind eye while scammers took advantage of its failure to properly secure the money transfer services offered at Walmart stores. The company did not properly train its employees, failed to warn customers, and used procedures that allowed fraudsters to cash out at its stores, according to the FTC’s complaint. The FTC is asking the court to order Walmart to return money to consumers and to impose civil penalties for Walmart’s violations.
The FTC sued VoIP service provider VoIP Terminator, Inc., a related company, and the firms’ owner for assisting and facilitating the transmission of millions of illegal prerecorded telemarketing robocalls, including those they knew or should have known were scams, to consumers nationwide. Many of the calls originated overseas, and related to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the defendants allegedly failing to act as a gatekeeper to stop them from entering the country. The proposed consent order bars the defendants from the allegedly illegal conduct.
The Federal Trade Commission has taken action against a for-profit medical school in the Caribbean and its Illinois-based operators, alleging they deceptively marketed the school’s medical license exam test pass rate and residency matches to lure prospective students. The school and its operators are also charged with violating the Holder Rule, which preserves rights for injured consumers, and the Credit Practices Rule, which protects consumers in credit contracts. The $1.2 million judgment against Saint James School of Medicine and its operators will go toward refunds and debt cancellation for students harmed by the deceptive marketing.
The FTC’s October 2018 complaint against Redwood Scientific charged the defendants with a scheme that used illegal robocalls to deceptively market dissolvable oral film strips as effective smoking cessation, weight-loss, and sexual-performance aids. Announced in June 2019 as part of a crackdown on illegal robocalls against operations around the country responsible for more than one billion calls, an initial settlement resolved the FTC’s charges against one defendant in the Redwood Scientific case, Danielle Cadiz. The order permanently banned Cadiz from all robocall activities, including ringless voicemails, and imposes a judgment of $18.2 million against Cadiz. In March 2022, the FTC announced the final court orders against all remaining defendants.
The FTC and the State of Maine’s complaint against Health Research Laboratories and its principal, announced in November 2017, alleged that the defendants deceptively marketed two of their health products, BioTherapex and NeuroPlus. In November 2018, the FTC mailed 16,596 checks totaling more than $750,000 to consumers who bought the two deceptively marketed supplements. The FTC and State of Maine subsequently filed a motion seeking a contempt order against the defendants in December 2019, for allegedly violating the final Commission order by continued to market and sell dietary supplements with claims that were not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. In November 2020, the FTC staff discontinued its contempt action and filed an administrative complaint against the defendants. The FTC announced a proposed order settling the complaint in March 2020.
At the request of the Federal Trade Commission and the Florida Attorney General's Office, a federal court temporarily halted an alleged sham credit card interest rate reduction operation that often targeted financially distressed consumers and older adults in July 2020. In February 2022, the FTC announced that the operators are permanently banned from the debt relief industry as part of court orders resolving charges by the FTC and Florida AG’s Office.
In November 2019, the Federal Trade Commission obtained a temporary restraining order halting an operation that bilked consumers out of millions of dollars by pretending to be affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education and falsely promising student loan debt relief. In September 2020, the FTC announced several of the operators settled FTC charges and agreed to pay at least $835,000. In January 2022, the FTC announced that the remaining defendants in the case are banned from providing student loan debt relief services in settlements with the FTC. The defendants are required to forfeit all of their frozen funds held by the receiver. The Commission plans to use the money recovered in this case for consumer refunds.
The Federal Trade Commission is returning an additional $25 million to consumers who lost money to a business coaching scheme that used the names Coaching Department and Apply Knowledge, among others. These refunds are the result of the FTC’s settlements with the scheme’s ringleaders, the companies through which the scheme operated, and a payment processor who helped facilitate the scheme.
Announced in June 2019 as part of a crackdown on illegal robocalls against operations around the country responsible for more than one billion calls, this court order contains provisions related to two sets of defendants: 1) the Lifewatch defendants, which includes Lifewatch, Inc., Evan Sirlin, and Mitchel May; and 2) the Roman defendants, which includes Safe Home Security, MedGuard Alert, Inc., and David Roman. The order permanently bans the Lifewatch defendants from telemarketing and prohibits them from misrepresenting the terms associated with the sale of any product or service. It also imposes a financial judgment of $25.3 million against Lifewatch and Sirlin. According to the FTC’s July 2015 complaint, filed jointly with the Florida Attorney General’s Office, since 2012 the defendants bombarded primarily elderly consumers with at least a billion unsolicited robocalls to pitch supposedly “free” medical alert systems. In December 2021, the FTC announce it was returning more than $1.8 million to defrauded consumers.
Announced in June 2019 as part of a crackdown on illegal robocalls against operations around the country responsible for more than one billion calls, thisFTC complaint against five corporate and four individual defendants<, alleges that since at least 2017 the defendants have used a combination of illegal telemarketing robocalls, live telephone calls, text messaging, internet ads, emails, social media, and live events to market and sell consumers fraudulent money-making opportunities. The complaint charges the defendants, who operate from California, Colorado, New York, and Tennessee, with violating the FTC Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), or both, by making deceptive earnings claims through robocalls and other marketing techniques. In September 2021, The Federal Trade Commission sent checks totaling more than $1 million to consumers who were harmed by the company.
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.
In April 2021, the FTC used funds from this case to provide $11 million in redress to consumers harmed by the E.M. Systems and Services scam.
The Federal Trade Commission, along with 46 agencies from 38 states and the District of Columbia, has stopped a massive telefunding operation that bombarded 67 million consumers with 1.3 billion deceptive charitable fundraising calls (mostly illegal robocalls). The defendants collected more than $110 million using their deceptive solicitations. Associated Community Services (ACS) and a number of related defendants have agreed to settle charges by the FTC and state agencies that they duped generous Americans into donating to charities that failed to provide the services they promised.
Online fashion retailer Fashion Nova will pay $9.3 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it didn’t properly notify consumers and give them the chance to cancel their orders when it failed to ship merchandise in a timely manner, and that it illegally used gift cards to compensate consumers for unshipped merchandise instead of providing refunds.
The owners and operators of a vast payday lending scheme that overcharged consumers millions of dollars will be permanently banned from the lending industry under the terms of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. The settlement also provides that nearly all outstanding debt—made up entirely of illegal finance charges—held by the company will be deemed as paid in full.
The FTC charged the enterprise with deceptively overcharging consumers millions of dollars and withdrawing money repeatedly from consumers’ bank accounts without their permission.
The Federal Trade Commission is sending 26,698 checks totaling more than $970,000 to consumers who were harmed by a deceptive payday lending scheme that operated under the names Harvest Moon Financial, Gentle Breeze Online, and Green Stream Lending.
In November 2018, the FTC announced that a federal district court in Maryland issued an order temporarily shutting down the largest overseas real estate investment scam the FTC has ever targeted. According to the FTC, the scam was established by Andris Pukke, a recidivist scammer currently living in California, and he perpetuated it even while serving a prison sentence for obstruction of justice. The alleged scheme took in more than $100 million, marketing lots in what supposedly would become a luxury development in Central America known by several names, including Sanctuary Belize, Sanctuary Bay, and The Reserve. In late August 2020, a district court ruled in the FTC’s favor, and BCP Director Andrew Smith issued a public statement on the memorandum opinion.
In January 2021, a federal district court entered final orders against the three primary individual defendants—Andris Pukke, Peter Baker, and Luke Chadwick, and related corporations—in the FTC’s’s case involving the allegedly deceptive sale of real estate properties in Belize to U.S. consumers. The orders finalize a September 2020 memorandum opinion requiring Pukke and Baker jointly to pay $120.2 million to the Commission with Chadwick also jointly responsible for $91.9 million of that amount.
In December 2020, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service provider Alcazar Networks Inc. and its owner settled FTC charges that they facilitated tens of millions of illegal telemarketing phone calls, including some calls from overseas and some that displayed spoofed caller ID numbers. The proposed settlement bars the defendants from similar misconduct in the future, imposes a monetary penalty, and requires them to screen and monitor their customers. This was the FTC’s second case against a VoIP service provider.
Globex Telecom, Inc. and an affiliated company will pay a total of $1.9 million to settle Federal Trade Commission and State of Ohio charges that they facilitated a scheme that peddled bogus credit card interest rate relief, illegally charging consumers millions of dollars. The settlement marks the end of the FTC’s first consumer protection case against a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service provider.
The FTC and Ohio alleged that Globex provided a company called Educare Centre Services with the means to make calls to U.S. consumers, including illegal robocalls, to market Educare’s phony credit card interest rate reduction services.
The FTC and Ohio charged that both Globex and Educare were controlled by Mohammed Souheil, Globex’s former CEO and president, who was named in the lawsuit along with a number of other corporations and individuals.