With more than a century of consumer protection experience under our belt, we at the FTC know that hard times for American families can be boom times for scammers. Today’s COVID-19 pandemic is the latest crisis creating fertile ground for fraud – and scammers today have a new and powerful weapon: social media platforms. These platforms generally earn their revenue by targeting users with advertising. The more time we spend on platforms consuming content and revealing valuable personal information, the more that platforms profit by having information to target ads.
Blog Posts Tagged with Coronavirus (COVID-19)
If businesses make coronavirus prevention or treatment claims for their products, it’s time to get up to speed on the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act.
FTC staff sent 30 warning letters to companies, raising concerns about their COVID-related advertising claims. In two notable ways, some of these letters differ from letters we’ve sent to other marketers pitching products advertised to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19.
Congress passed a law in December 2020 – the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act – that imposes monetary penalties on violators. The Department of Justice and the FTC just brought their first action under the statute, alleging that a Missouri chiropractor and his company violated both the new law and the FTC Act by deceptively marketing vitamin D and zinc products to treat or prevent COVID-19.
According to a recent CFPB report, the pandemic has left more than 8.8 million consumers behind on their rent. Tenants at risk of homelessness are disproportionately people of color, primarily Black and Hispanic families. Federal, state, and local governments, including the CDC, have put temporary holds on evictions for non-payment of rent – a measure proven to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
This time last year, we all were adjusting to a new normal. As the pandemic took hold, the FTC kicked into high gear on COVID-19-related issues, while continuing its work on other fronts, too. The just-announced 2020 Annual Highlights reflect important enforcement actions, policy initiatives, and outreach efforts undertaken in the past year.
The pandemic is still taking a toll on your customers, your employees – and your business. The new American Rescue Plan, just signed into law, gets the ball rolling to help out on many people’s financial well-being. Payments will soon be coming by direct deposit, checks, or a debit card to people eligible for the payment. You can learn more about who’s eligible, and the timing, at IRS.gov/coronavirus. Share that link with your staff to help keep them informed.
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.
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.
For people dealing with student loan debt – your employees, a family member, or maybe you – the CARES Act gives emergency grants to qualifying borrowers. But like other financial assistance programs, consumers need to know key details up front.
The FTC continues to monitor the marketplace to protect consumers from allegedly unsubstantiated COVID-19 claims. What are we seeing? Whether they’re selling tablets, treatments, or trinkets, companies are still making questionable representations about their products or services. The following 20 businesses are the latest to receive warning letters from the FTC about unsupported prevention or treatment claims, bringing the total to more than 330.
For years, the FTC has warned about imposters – scammers who masquerade as government officials, financial institutions, family members, etc., in an attempt to flimflam consumers and businesses. The FTC just filed a lawsuit alleging a variation on the imposter scheme. According to the complaint, the defendants set up dozens of look-alike websites to fool people into thinking they were ordering name-brand merchandise from established national companies.
If you saw an email from FTC Chairman Joseph Simons, it wasn’t. From him, that is. Scammers pretending to be him are emailing, though. They’re trying to trick you into turning over personal information, like your birth date and home address, which could help them scam you. So: if you get an email from the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission about getting money because of an inheritance or relief funds related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic — or anything else — do not respond. Do not give out your personal information. But do hit “delete.”
What’s in a name? According to an FTC lawsuit filed in April, if you’re an outfit that uses the name “SBA Loan Program” – and you falsely claim to be an approved lender for the Small Business Administration’s coronavirus relief lending program – what’s in your name is deception. Under the terms of a settlement, that shady tactic stops right here, right now.
It’s National Small Business Week, a time set aside annually to salute American’s 30 million small businesses – companies that employ almost half of the country’s private sector workforce. The special focus this year is on the resilience and resolve of entrepreneurs and workers as they battle back against the impact of the pandemic.
Every day, the FTC is collecting data, watching the numbers, and spotting the trends. We’re also spreading the word about COVID-19-related scams that target consumers and businesses. Because the more you know about what’s happening, the easier it will be to protect yourself and others from these scams.
Coronavirus claims for zappers, virus-busting cards, sage, oregano, and bay leaves are among the representations called into question in the latest round of warning letters sent by FTC staff. With the total closing in on 300, the letters make it clear that companies need to clean up their claims about preventing or curing COVID-19. Here are the products and promises that have raised the most recent concerns.
Consumers and small businesses want personal protective equipment now. So when companies advertise those items online with promises of in-stock merchandise and fast shipping, those claims may be the difference between a big sale and no sale.
Small businesses are a critical part of the U.S. economy, providing opportunity and employment to consumers across the country. Unfortunately, the current health crisis has brought financial strain to small businesses and their ability to secure the financing they need to survive. So now more than ever, struggling businesses and their owners need protection from deceptive and unfair practices. And the FTC is working swiftly to provide it.