Children of the Con

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Halloween is the perfect time to watch a scary movie, but for many consumers, real-life tricks like identity theft, false advertising, and unfair billing can turn every day into Fright Night. Imagine if spine-tingling Hollywood horror flicks reflected what really causes consumers to scream – and consider what your business can do to prevent a sequel.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The risk of take-over by extraterrestrial pod people is second on our list behind what people face when con artists assume their identity. Identitytheft.gov is a one-stop resource for ID theft victims and features the FTC’s new Identity Theft Report. If your company receives an Identity Theft Report from a consumer, it may trigger obligations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Read this Business Blog post to learn more.

The Mummy.  According to the movie, the mummy’s curse was unleashed when a sarcophagus was disturbed within an ancient pyramid. Modern-day pyramids – schemes, that is – are the curse of entrepreneurs looking to supplement their income. Before investing money, consult FTC resources for tips on how to differentiate a business opportunity from a pyramid scheme.

The Hills Have Eyes.  Stalked by mutant cannibals? We hate when that happens. But when companies track consumers without their knowledge and consent, it can be a horror, too. According to a recent FTC settlement, a major ad network tracked the locations of hundreds of millions of consumers – including kids – without their knowledge or consent to serve them geo-targeted ads. There’s no trick to compliance: Explain your information practices transparently and live up to those promises.

Alien.  Remember the scene around the dining table of the spaceship Nostromo? On the surface everything looked fine – until that revolting parasite started to emerge from the crew member’s chest. Consumers relive that moment of revulsion when they learn that buried deep within a deal are hidden charges and material conditions that weren’t apparent from the outset. If the disclosure of information – or a murderous alien being – is necessary to prevent deception, keep it clear and conspicuous.

Jaws and Phantom of the Opera.  That double feature may delight scream queens, but it strikes fear in the hearts of people in financial distress. First, it’s an attack by sharks that flout the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. And before consumers can catch their breath, they’re besieged by phantom debt collectors – predators who use strong-arm tactics to collect money they’re not even owed. The FTC has resources to help keep your collection practices compliant.

Dracula.  The fang-tastic Transylvanian was famous for sucking victims’ blood. In a similar fashion, financial vampires help themselves to consumers’ cash through illegal negative options, undisclosed charges, and buried fees. Recent law enforcement actions have driven a stake through the heart of many unfair and deceptive billing schemes. To avoid a similar fate, get consumers’ express consent before charging them.

Rear Window.  If James Stewart’s character had spoken up sooner about what he suspected was going on in the adjacent apartment, the Hitchcock thriller would have had a much different ending. If you spot questionable business practices, be a good neighbor and report them to the FTC.

 

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No mention of the "War of the Worlds" the 1938 Radio Broadcast that Dramatically induced Mass Hysteria.

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