Dear Multi-Level Marketer. Stop it. Stop all promotions that push your products by claiming they prevent or treat COVID-19. Stop all misleading or unsubstantiated promotions that push your business opportunity by claiming people can earn substantial income peddling your products. The claims are unproven and deceptive. Whether you or your distributors are making them, you’re responsible. That means you could be breaking the law.
FTC staff sent the latest round of warning letters to 35 businesses alleged to have made unsubstantiated coronavirus prevention or treatment claims. What they sold diverges widely – IV vitamin treatments, products containing silver, patches purporting to block electromagnetic radiation, etc.
A large-scale scam involving phony unemployment benefits claims has been making headlines. Criminals, possibly based overseas, are filing claims for benefits, using the names and personal information of people who have not lost their jobs. The investigation is ongoing, but this much is known: the fraud is affecting tens of thousands of people, slowing the delivery of benefits to people in real need, and costing states hundreds of millions of dollars.
Ostriches get a bad rap. The popular perception is that the species Struthio camelus bury their heads in the sand. But, in fact, they flee from perceived danger at speeds that top 60 miles per hour. An FTC proposed settlement with a payment processor that ignored signs that certain clients were engaged in fraud suggests that more companies should follow the real-life example of the ostrich and hightail it away from any association with illegal conduct.
The FTC’s complaint against Bronx Honda alleges the company jacked up what consumers had to pay by fabricating fees, inflating charges, and sneaking in stealth add-ons. The lawsuit also alleges the defendants discriminated against African-American and Hispanic consumers by charging them higher financing markups and fees, in violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and Reg B.
For a company called Harvest Moon, its business practices sure leave consumers in the dark about key aspects of its payday loans. That’s what the FTC alleges in a case filed in federal court in Nevada.
Elderberry, hydrogen peroxide, iodine, mushrooms, and horse milk. (Horse milk?) The FTC just sent 50 more warning letters to companies promoting products or services advertised to prevent or treat coronavirus. Here’s the latest list of who’s been warned, what they’re selling, and some of what they’re saying.
Just as consumers are engaging in social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19, businesses, too, should distance themselves from companies using robocalls to spread coronavirus-related scams. That’s the message of joint warning letters just sent by the FTC and the Federal Communications Commission.
Companies that deceive consumers often don’t act alone. Pull back the curtain and you may find behind-the-scenes businesses that lend a hand. The FTC alleges that Atlanta-based First Data Merchant Services and its former vice president, Chi “Vincent” Ko, engaged in conduct that helped scammers rake in megabucks at consumers’ expense.
Way back in Marketing 101, we learned that consumers factor a number of features into their purchase decisions: price, performance, product positioning, and personal preference, to name just a few. The FTC’s proposed settlement with game developer Miniclip serves as a reminder of another important alliterative consideration for many consumers: privacy.
Many small businesses are looking for a financial life preserver to help them stay afloat until the COVID-19 wave subsides. But joint warning letters just sent by FTC staff and the Small Business Administration raise concerns that some companies – including lead generators – are making questionable claims about their affiliation with SBA-administered programs designed to offer emergency relief to struggling businesses.
If you have clients who operate nursing homes or assisted living residences, a word of advice from you now can save them from making a serious misstep. We’ve heard that some facilities are requiring residents on Medicaid to sign over their stimulus payments to the facility. That contradicts the CARES Act, so you’ll be doing your clients a favor by cautioning them against that practice – and here’s why.
Small businesses and nonprofits should never be on the receiving end of another company’s deceptive practices. An FTC action challenges the methods of companies that allegedly pitch offers for “no risk” business publications and then follow up with hefty bills for unauthorized orders. But it doesn’t stop there.
Next on the FTC’s regulatory review calendar: the Health Breach Notification Rule. In place since 2009, the Rule requires vendors of personal health records and related entities that aren’t covered by HIPAA to notify individuals, the FTC, and, in some cases, the media when there has been a breach of unsecured personally identifiable health data.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the FTC has released dozens of warning letters against people trying to make an illegal buck off the Coronavirus. More than a month in, it seems like a good time to look back at what’s happened. If you follow this blog, you’ll know these have been busy weeks – with advice about spotting the many scams we’re all facing, news of the warning letters sent on a wide range of scams, and some enforcement actions filed.
Attending live performances and sporting events again is just one of the things people are looking forward to. But when that time comes, the issues raised at the FTC’s That’s the Ticket workshop will still affect consumers.
FTC staff just sent letters to 45 more companies making COVID-19 prevention, treatment, or cure claims. There’s a lot to cover in this post, but it’s indicative of the breadth of questionable representations conveyed to consumers in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
As companies struggle to stay afloat financially due to the economic reverberations of COVID-19, your employees are facing the same challenges at home. The FTC has something you can share with staff members in need – and it won’t cost you a thing.
If you’re a business owner, you may be planning to apply for a loan through the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program. These programs recently got hundreds of billions of dollars in new funding. But, while you’re focused on getting a loan, scammers may be focused on you: hoping to trick you into giving them sensitive business information, like your bank account numbers, employees’ Social Security numbers, and even your money.
It’s a case that brings together eight capital letters that are making headlines: COVID and CBD. A California marketer of a product advertised to prevent or treat COVID-19 has agreed to a preliminary order that prohibits him from making those claims. Pending the resolution of a parallel FTC administrative action, the proposed order also bars the defendant from representing that three CBD-based products he sells are effective cancer treatments.