How many reports did the Consumer Sentinel Network receive in 2020? What percentage of those related to fraud? And what was the most common scam that people reported? The answers: 4.7 million, 46%, and imposter scams.
A lot has been said about changes to the marketplace spurred by the gig economy, but some things remain constant, including established truth-in-advertising principles. Amazon told delivery drivers in its Amazon Flex program – as well as customers who placed orders through services like Prime Now and AmazonFresh – that 100% of tips would go directly to the drivers. But according to an FTC lawsuit, for a period of more than two years, Amazon secretly pocketed over $61 million of those tips.
Among the challenges that COVID-19 has brought, add a higher risk of identity theft to the mix. In the past year, we had about 1.4 million reports of identity theft, double the number from 2019. Repeatedly, identity thieves targeted government funds earmarked to help individuals and small businesses hard hit financially by the pandemic. Find out about identity theft in the age of COVID-19.
Today we are announcing another enforcement action seeking to hold companies responsible for consumer injury caused by others or in which they directly participated in the misconduct. In this action against Seed Consulting, we allege, among other things, that Seed assisted and facilitated several deceptive schemes that cheated consumers out of thousands of dollars.
For people who were looking to run their own businesses, the lesson of the FTC’s proposed $2.1 million proposed settlement with Las Vegas-based Seed Consulting, LLC, is that neither their future nor their fortune was in the cards – credit cards, that is. The defendants’ modus operandi was to file falsified credit card applications in consumers’ names – a service for which they charged a hefty fee – so that consumers could use those lines of credit to pay for “business seminars” offered by third-party outfits with whom Seed Consulting was in cahoots.
Remember live music? Remember the thrill of enjoying a performance or sporting event with a packed house of fans? As we look forward to a return to in-person entertainment, it’s easy to forget the frustration of trying to buy tickets as soon as online sales opened only to be shut out by companies that used tricks to grab them up and sell them at much higher prices. That’s the conduct Congress intended to stop with the passage of the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act.
Fraudsters have concocted a new COVID-related scam and this time they have businesses in their sights. According to reports, business owners are getting emails that appear to be about government-sponsored loan programs. But they’re really phishing messages trying to trick people into turning over personal information. The FTC has tips on how to spot the latest scam and how to defend your company’s good credit – and your good name – against other coronavirus cons targeting businesses.
Flo Health pitched its Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker as a way for millions of women to “take full control of [their] health.” But according to the FTC, despite express privacy claims, the company took control of users’ sensitive fertility data and shared it with third parties – a broken promise that left consumers feeling “outraged,” “victimized,” and “violated.” Read on for details, including a notable feature in the proposed settlement.
Aside from obligatory shots of the Grand Canyon or the Leaning Tower of Pisa, many photos that consumers want to keep feature the faces of friends and family. Using a service like Everalbum’s Ever app to store photos and videos in the cloud is one way to free up space on consumers’ devices. But what was Everalbum doing behind the scenes after consumers entrusted the company with those images?
If you have clients who operate assisted living facilities or nursing homes, read on. The second round of Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) is in the works and the money is already being sent to people. But like last time, the payment is meant for the person, not the place where they live.
In many ways, gift cards ushered in a win-win era. Better gift-giving (and getting) for consumers and increased sales for retailers. But leave it to scammers to try to mess up a good thing. According to an FTC Data Spotlight, gift cards are now the top method of payment favored by many fraudsters. For years, the FTC has warned consumers about gift card grifters.
At the Monterey Pop Festival, the legendary Jimi Hendrix reportedly one-upped The Who by setting fire to his guitar and his amplifier. The legendary – but fictional – Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap boasted of having an amp that “goes to 11.” Of course, those aren’t the kind of amps covered by the FTC’s Amplifier Rule.
“It’s the Wild West out there!” How often have you heard that statement made about health claims for products containing CBD? But here’s the thing: It’s not the Wild West. In fact, health-related representations for CBD products are subject to the same established requirements of scientific substantiation the FTC has applied for decades to any advertised health claim.
To meet the needs of consumers who are injured or face a medical emergency while traveling, Scottsdale-based SkyMed International sells air evacuation plans and other services. The FTC’s action against SkyMed also involves consumer injury, but not of the fractured-femur-in-France variety. According to the FTC, SkyMed put consumers’ sensitive information at risk of compromise by failing to employ a robust data security program.
To quote studio head Samuel Goldwyn’s famous malaprop, an oral contract isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. The same can be said of a written security policy if a company doesn’t carry out its provisions.
One digit can make a lot of difference. Would the Proclaimers have walked 501 miles? How effective was Love Potion #10? Did the Beatles ask would you still need me, would you still feed me when I’m 65? With so much attention on Section 5 of the FTC Act, some may overlook another important provision of the statute: Section 6(b).
There’s a standard movie trope of a group stranded in the desert. Parched and burned, their spirits soar when they see an oasis on the horizon. With their last ounce of energy, they crawl toward the lush palms and beckoning pool. But as they dip their hands in the water, they realize it was just a mirage. For consumers looking to supplement their income and gain financial independence, promoters’ promises may seem like that oasis on the horizon. But in many cases, those money-making promises are an illusion.
Imagine turning on your computer one morning to discover you and your employees are locked out of your system. A threatening message appears on the screen demanding a ransom if you ever want to see your data again. You check your backups and they’ve been destroyed. Your business is at a standstill, losing money with every passing minute. It may sound like a nightmare, but for many companies, a ransomware attack is all too real. And even more disturbing is that reported ransomware attacks have increased dramatically since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you haven’t been following The 12 Days of Consumer Protection on the FTC’s Consumer Blog, you’re in for a treat. The puns are terrific, the visuals are sharable on social media, and the holiday-themed tips are a thoughtful way to let far-flung friends and family know you’re thinking of them.