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This tax season, join a webinar, protect your data

Tax season has just begun, but tax identity thieves already are posting their “gone phishin’” signs: fake emails designed to trick companies into handing over their employees’ personal information. To help small businesses avoid the hook, the FTC and the IRS are hosting a free Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week webinar on Wednesday, February 1, at 4 p.m. EST.

Track record? Staff report explores cross-device tracking

We recently saw a fellow diner reach across the cafeteria soup station until splat! His phone fell out of his shirt pocket and into the minestrone. But even before he ladled out his soup-logged smartphone, he reached into his bag and took out his tablet. As consumers have come to rely on multiple devices, companies are using technologies to connect a consumer’s activity across those devices – smartphones, tablets, desktops, laptops, and more.

FTC challenges claims for smartphone breathalyzer pitched on “Shark Tank”

Fans of “Shark Tank” will remember it as one of the show’s most dramatic bidding wars. Charles Yim, CEO of Breathometer, pitched his smartphone-enabled breathalyzer as a way to “help people make smarter and safer decisions” about drinking and driving. All five sharks went for the product hook, line, and sinker. But according to the FTC, the defendants’ deceptive claims about the accuracy of the devices’ readings left consumers floundering.

$20 million FTC settlement requires Uber to have proof for earnings, auto financing claims

In promotional materials to attract prospective drivers, ride-hailing company Uber Technologies touted how much money drivers would earn and the favorable terms they could get by financing a car through Uber’s Vehicle Solutions Program. But according to an FTC complaint, Uber exaggerated those earnings claims and misrepresented the terms of its Vehicle Solutions Program.

Looking back at privacy in 2016, and on to the future

Protecting consumers’ privacy and personal data has long been a priority at the FTC. Over the years, we’ve helped millions of identity theft victims recover from that crime. We created the National Do Not Call Registry to limit unwanted telemarketing, and we continue to fight illegal robocalls. And we’ve brought more than sixty cases against companies that didn’t take reasonable steps to protect people’s data.

$586 million Western Union settlement: Be careful about the company your company keeps

“For many years, Western Union’s money transfer system has been used by fraudsters around the world to obtain money from their victims.” That’s how the FTC’s complaint against Western Union opens – and it tells a compelling story of a corporation the FTC says knew that massive fraud was afoot and had the ability to address it, but chose to look the other way.

What’s on? PrivacyCon

What’s that sound? It’s the buzz of the crowd gathering this morning for the FTC’s second PrivacyCon. Leaders from academia, advocacy groups, and industry have convened for a day devoted to the latest research and trends about consumer privacy and data security.

Redress checks and compliance checks: Lessons from the FTC’s Herbalife and Vemma cases

As part of the FTC’s historic $200 million settlement with Herbalife, about 350,000 Herbalife distributors should be watching their mail for a partial refund check. The FTC has more information about the refunds and advice for people thinking about investing in a multilevel marketing opportunity.

Edge of ‘17

Just like the white winged dove sings a song,” you can count on the BCP Business Blog to celebrate the “Edge of Seventeen” – 2017, of course – with a recap of in-case-you-missed-it developments from 2016. (Sorry, Stevie Nicks. That was a stretch.) In no particular order, here is our take on ten noteworthy consumer protection actions from the year gone by.

Collection Protection reflection

Before we start making New Year’s resolutions for 2017, let’s assess last year’s pledges. In announcing Operation Collection Protection, a coordinated federal-state-local initiative to take on illegal debt collection practices, we made two promises: 1) to continue our commitment in the courtroom, if necessary; and 2) to foster close working relationships with law enforcement partners across the country. Here’s what we have to report.

Pursued by zombies? Read this.

So you’ve taken every precaution against a zombie attack. You’ve sealed the windows, stockpiled kerosene, and keep a machete or two handy. But despite your best efforts, The Undead still manage to reanimate themselves and stalk their unsuspecting prey. We hate when that happens. But this time it’s not an episode of The Walking Dead.

FTC to car dealers: When making inspection claims, recall recalls

When thinking about buying a used car, some people hit a speed bump when they get to the “used” part. It’s one thing to spot a dinged fender or smudged floor mat, but it’s tougher to evaluate a used car’s essential systems. In separate complaints, the FTC charged that CarMax and two large dealership groups touted how rigorously they inspect their used cars and yet failed to clearly disclose to prospective buyers that some were subject to unrepaired safety recalls.

Dismantling a pyramid: Lessons from the Vemma settlement

Promoting a “Young People’s Revolution,” multi-level marketer Vemma pitched its business opportunity to college students and other young adults as a big-money, fast-lane alternative to “the traditional 9-to-5.” In 2015, the FTC sued Vemma and related parties, alleging that its smoke-and-mirrors earnings claims were obscuring the true nature of what Vemma was up to.  As a result of an FTC settlement, there’s a revolution underway all right.

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