Blog Posts Tagged with Finance

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$108 million for homeowners in distress

Homeowners in financial trouble aren’t getting a lot of great news these days.  But 450,177 of them will be getting a check in the mail that represents their share of the FTC’s $108 million settlement with mortgage giant Countrywide. And companies that take advantage of Americans struggling to pay the bills will be getting a little something, too:  a strong message from the FTC that unfair or deceptive practices targeting cash-strapped consumers won’t be tolerated.

Accounts deceivable

Perhaps you see cops on the beat when they pass by your office. Maybe you serve on a committee with the Chief of Police or have a relative in the Sheriff’s Department. However you cross paths with local law enforcement, do them — and yourself — a favor by telling them about Consumer Sentinel.

Room with review

Is your briefcase feeling lighter? That’s because your dog-eared copy of Volume 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations (where most FTC rules and guides live) is decidedly thinner these days. For the past two decades, the agency has undertaken a systematic review of its rules and guides to make sure they’re up to date, effective, and not overly burdensome. As each rule comes up for review, we ask ourselves — and you — four questions:

Double duty?

Sometimes it’s great to put stuff to more than one use.  Think the versatile Swiss Army knife, the iconic Little Black Dress, or the typical elementary school “cafetorium” where kids can eat lunch, shoot hoops, and put on plays.  But when what’s at issue is information from people’s credit reports, that kind of double duty can violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act — as the FTC’s $1.8 million settlement with Teletrack, Inc., makes clear.

“Find ‘em, list ‘em, and make money”? Not so fast, say the FTC and Colorado AG

You run a successful business or maybe you work with some of the top companies in the country. A friend or relative is struggling to climb out of a financial hole. They ask for advice about a can’t-miss “wealth-building program.” Do them a favor and suggest they apply the brakes before shelling out a penny.

Debt Collection 2.0

Cell phones, email, social media, auto-dialers, databases, and payment portals.  This ain’t your Father’s debt collection business.  That’s why an April 28, 2011, FTC workshop, Debt Collection 2.0:  Protecting Consumers as Technologies Change, will focus on the impact developments like these are having on the consumer debt collection system.  As the agenda shows, the conversation will center on how technologies affect debt collectors’ compliance with the law and the consumer protection concerns these new methods

Hacked Off by an Email Data Breach?

According to news reports, hackers recently accessed the database of Epsilon, a large marketing company that sends emails on behalf of banks, stores and other businesses.  Was your company an Epsilon client?  If so, the stolen information could make it easier for crooks to send emails that appear to be from your brand.

Here are a few things you can do to help your customers avoid a phishing attack that abuses your brand.

NCP Double-YOU

Break out the bubbly and raise a toast:  It's National Consumer Protection Week.  NCPW is an annual campaign sponsored by the FTC and nearly 30 other federal agencies, consumer groups, and advocacy organizations, in conjunction with state, county, and local government offices that are sponsoring events nationwide.  The goal?  To encourage consumers to take full advantage of their rights and make better-informed decisions.

Data Resellers Liable for Downstream Security Failures

Of course, no legitimate business would put out a welcome mat for crooks.  But as the FTC’s data security cases make clear, that’s the effect when companies fail to take reasonable steps to secure sensitive information in their possession — or data they allow others to access.  Three recent settlements with companies that resell credit reports illustrate that point.

Upfront fees for mortgage relief services are history

America’s homeowners just gained new protections.  While parts of the Mortgage Assistance Relief Service (MARS) Rule requiring disclosures in advertising and other communications went into effect on December 29, 2010, the ban on upfront fees kicked in on January 31st.  Now, companies that claim to help consumers avoid foreclosure or modify their loans can’t collect a penny until they get their customers what they want.

Four Steps to Protecting Your Business from Con Artists

You've just opened an invoice for office supplies you didn't order or for a listing in a business directory. It’s the same invoice you got last week – but this one is stamped "Past Due." Perhaps one of your colleagues says there's someone hounding her on the phone, demanding payment for Internet services your business didn’t request. You refuse to pay, and the next thing you know, they're threatening to take you to court, or turn the bill over to a collection agency and ruin your credit.

Data Security: Copi-er That!

If your company keeps sensitive data like Social Security numbers, credit reports, account numbers, health records, or business secrets, you’ve probably instituted safeguards to protect that information, whether it’s stored in computers or on paper. That’s great.  But it’s time to take those safeguards a step further.

It's in the cards

The hot present this holiday season is plastic: gift cards from popular online and brick-and-mortar retailers. But this year’s cards come wrapped in important new protections for people who buy and use them.

Second Largest Debt Collection Civil Penalty in FTC History – and New Compliance Resource for Business

The FTC’s recent settlement with Allied Interstate, one of the nation’s largest debt collectors, sends a timely reminder to industry members to comply with the law – and an important message to consumers that the FTC has their back when it comes to companies that cross the line.

Tales From the Unencrypted

Does your business have a wireless network?  Do you or your employees ever use wifi to catch up on work from home?  Think about all the data that could be transmitted over your wireless network – credit card numbers, bank account information, business secrets.  You probably don’t want to share that information with everyone who passes through your neighborhood.  But that’s what you’re doing if you don’t use strong encryption and take other steps to secure your home network.  Someone nearby could “piggyback” on your network, or even access the information on your computer.

New Compliance Resources for the Debt Relief Industry

The last thing people struggling to keep their heads above perilous financial waters need is an anchor weighing them down. That's why, as of today, businesses must comply with all provisions of new amendments to the Telemarketing Sales Rule designed to curb deception in the sale of debt relief services.

Most importantly, companies that use outbound telemarketing -- or have customers call them in response to ads or other solicitations -- can’t collect fees from customers until:


• they successfully settle or change the terms of at least one of their debts;

On the Road Again

This is National Chemistry Week. It’s also National School Bus Week. And be sure to wish members of Team Jacob a happy National Wolf Awareness Week. But for most business travelers, the annual observance that really hits home – or the road – is National Protect Your Identity Week, October 17th through 23rd.

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