Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200. And possibly face criminal charges. That’s the message of Operation Corrupt Collector, a coast-to-coast crackdown by the FTC, three other federal agencies, and partners from 16 states.
Blog Posts Tagged with Credit and Finance
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.
Online subscription services can be a convenience for consumers and a boon for business – especially now that so many people are shopping from home. But under the law, companies have an obligation to explain the details of the deal up front, clearly disclose any automatic renewal terms, get consumers’ express consent before billing, and offer simple ways to cancel.
Tenth anniversaries are traditionally for tin. So we’re commemorating the tenth anniversary of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Business Center and Business Blog by doing some tin-kering that regular readers may have noticed. (Sorry. After a decade, the wordplay is second nature.)
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.
As adage-writers go, whoever penned, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” should have looked for another line of work. And, the writer should have hoped that prospective employers wouldn’t spot a promotion for MyLife.com, saying they could see the writer’s criminal and sexual offender records by subscribing to MyLife’s background reports.
In the face of COVID-19, many small businesses are looking for help from the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program. They may apply for PPP loans through Small Business Administration-authorized lenders and others the SBA has determined to be eligible. But there are concerns that some companies have falsely claimed an affiliation with the SBA or approved PPP lenders, or have represented untruthfully that people can get PPP or other SBA loans by applying on their sites.
Many small businesses, medical offices, non-profits, and religious organizations turned to a New York company called Richmond Capital for financing, but according to a lawsuit filed by the FTC, they got less – and way more – than they bargained for. The just-filed law enforcement action against a network of related companies and individuals is the latest step in the FTC’s ongoing effort against questionable financing practices that target small businesses.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In these unprecedented times, the Commission is working on all fronts to stop pandemic-related scams or deception – and to warn consumers and businesses about them. But our work in other areas continues, too. Today, we’re taking a minute to take stock of some of the highlights from 2019.
Some things have changed in the rent-to-own business, but a $175 million proposed settlement with Progressive Leasing reminds companies that bedrock consumer protection principles apply, especially the fundamental proposition that deceiving people about cost strikes at the heart of the FTC Act. Not in the rent-to-own industry? Not so fast. The case offers compliance pointers for your company, too.
The COVID-19 crisis has many small businesses on the ropes, so it’s unfortunate we have to warn them about another threat. According to a lawsuit just filed by the FTC, a Rhode Island company that goes by the name “SBA Loan Program” has been soliciting applications from small businesses, but has no affiliation with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the loan programs that agency is currently running.
For small businesses, there’s never been a time when “business as usual” has been so unusual. With many companies facing coronavirus-related challenges, the FTC has tips for business owners – and for those offering small business financing – about navigating today’s uncharted financial waters.