No one has ever described us as the rugged, mountaineering type, but this much we know: It’s unwise to set off an avalanche.
Blog Posts Tagged with Franchises, Business Opportunities, and Investments
We’ll confess a certain fondness for the Hobby Protection Act. Based on the name, we were hoping it safeguards our right to watch reality TV while eating ice cream – our favorite hobby – but the real purpose is much different.
Wily deception. Masters of impersonation. International intrigue. We could be describing PBS’ re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes, but we’re not. We’re talking about a scam that’s been around almost as long as the famous resident of 221B Baker Street – and still leaves small businesses barking like the Hound of the Baskervilles.
It’s an illegal pyramid scheme. That’s the conclusion reached by a federal appellate court in upholding a trial judge’s ruling in an FTC action challenging a multi-level marketing business operated by BurnLounge, Inc. If you have clients in the business opportunity arena, the opinion is a must-read.
Promotional materials and live presentations for Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing used a lot of organizational jargon to recruit new people. The first step: Shell out start-up fees and monthly charges. Next: Recruit enough “independent reps” so you can work your way up through the ranks to Regional Sales Manager, Executive Sales Manager, National Sales Manager, Platinum Sales Manager, and ultimately “Presidential Ambassador.” But the FTC and the State AGs of Illinois, Kentucky and North Carolina have another term for FHTM’s convoluted system of recruiting and compensation:
Every so often, the FTC announces a law enforcement sweep targeting a particular kind of deceptive practice. Sometimes there’s a press conference featuring federal agencies and state AGs. Blue suits and official seals abound. A typical headline: “More Than 70 Actions Brought By FTC and Its Law Enforcement Partners.” But do you ever wonder what happens after the cameras stop rolling?
Remember the cases the FTC announced last year against a software developer and rent-to-own stores that secretly monitored people in their homes? Unbeknownst to consumers, computers came installed with a program called PC Rental Agent. When the software was in “Detective Mode,” companies could remotely activate the camera — meaning they were surreptitiously snapping, transmitting, and storing pictures of anything in the range of the webcam.
It’s not often we can draw a connection between Motown recording artist Freda Payne and an FTC law enforcement action, but here goes: Ms. Payne topped the charts in the 70s with “Band of Gold” and the FTC recently announced a “Banned of Sterling” — a settlement with business opportunity pitchman Christopher Andrew Sterling that will ban him for life from marketing work-at-home promotions.
According to the ubiquitous infomercials, to rake in the big bucks with Russell Dalbey’s “wealth-building” programs, all you had to do was “Find ‘Em,” “List ‘Em,” and “Make Money" — the “‘Em” being seller-financed promissory notes. The pitch was convincing to the close to one million people who bought the programs. But according to the FTC and Colorado AG, the defendants’ claims of quick and easy money were deceptive.
The FTC is always working to know more about the types of fraud being committed and who spends money on them. Periodically, we survey consumers and ask them to share details about their recent marketplace experiences and a bit about themselves. Our most recent survey found that nearly 11% of U.S. adults — an estimated 25.6 million people — paid for fraudulent products and services in 2011.
Fair Guide. Is it a list of consumer protection laws? With summer coming, maybe ratings of the best funnel cakes and Ferris wheels? Forgive the flight of fancy, but we see it as a great title for a compendium of blog posts about business compliance. But that’s not what it is — not by a longshot.
Coaching isn’t just about clipboards, lanyards, and saying “Listen up” a lot. What do winning coaches bring to a team? Leadership, personal attention, and a proven system for success. The people who spent more than $100 million on “coaching” services sold by Ivy Capital and related companies thought that's what they were buying. But according to an FTC lawsuit filed against dozens of defendants — and a settlement with all but five of them — that’s not what Ivy Capital delivered.
A favorite trick for rip-off artists is to pretend to represent a trustworthy and respected organization. Today — and we mean that literally — we’re hearing from businesses that have received email exploiting the good name of the Federal Trade Commission. We don’t want you to lose money or valuable information to a scam artist sending a phony message claiming you’re a target of the FTC.
Call them contrepreneurs — marketers who use hyped-up promises to sell business opportunities to people eager to be their own boss. As part of a federal-state blitz on bogus bizopps, the FTC announced seven law enforcement actions and developments in five other cases against outfits the agency says used illegal tactics to take more than half a billion dollars from two million Americans trying to make ends meet in a challenging economy.
There are lots of good reasons for infomercial marketers and other retailers to abide by truth-in-advertising principles. But for people who insist on a dollars-and-cents rationale, the Court-ordered $478 million price tag for violations related to national ads for money-making systems makes legal compliance look like a bargain.
It’s not an easy time to be a timeshare owner. And the last thing they need is a company making false promises that corporate buyers and renters are clamoring for their timeshares — if owners will just pony up a “registration fee” between $500 and $2,000. According to a lawsuit filed by the FTC and Florida AG, that’s what was going on with an Orlando-based outfit called Information Management Forum.
Last week saw FTC announcements involving allegations of foreclosure rescue fraud, deception aimed at people trying to resell their timeshares, complaints against payday lenders, and lawsuits against outfits claiming to help consumers behind on their car payments. Is there a theme here? You bet. But the message isn't just for companies engaged in practices targeting consumers struggling to stay afloat. There are words to the wise for businesses of any size and every stripe.
If you or your clients work in the multi-level marketing (MLM) arena, a decision by a federal judge in the FTC's lawsuit against BurnLounge, Inc., merits your attention. The defendants — the company, the CEO, and top salesmen — used claims of hefty profits to sell opportunities to run online digital music stores. According to the FTC, the outfit masqueraded as a legitimate MLM program, but really was an illegal pyramid scheme.
The BCP Business Center is here to help you comply with applicable laws. But we’re also committed to protecting business owners from deception. That’s why it’s important you have accurate information if you’re thinking about investing in precious metals. An ongoing FTC law enforcement action suggests that potential investors should step on the brakes if salespeople tout big money and low risks.
In celebration of Halloween — and with apologies to Edgar Allen Poe — here’s our take on what companies can do to make sure spooky business practices don’t come back to haunt them.
Once upon a midnight lawful
Pondering practices, good and awful,
Reading through the U.S. Code
For dos and don’ts I parse and claw.
I came upon the Trade Commission’s
Section 5 with all revisions.