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.
Blog Posts Tagged with Real Estate and Mortgages
The FTC has filed another action against defendants who allegedly attempted to squeeze the last drop from homeowners already under water. This case, however, involves a disturbing new variation on foreclosure "rescue" operations.
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.
The FTC just announced more settlements with companies that falsely promised to help homeowners facing foreclosure. “Not relevant to our business,” you say? Think again.
“You can settle your credit card debt for pennies on the dollar without filing for bankruptcy.”
For people struggling to stay afloat, Debt Relief USA’s national TV ads must have seemed like a lifeline. When consumers called the company, representatives assured them that low monthly payments to Debt Relief USA would cover both the settlement of their reduced debts and the company’s fees. For the service to work, said the reps, people had to stop making payments to their creditors — and stop talking to them at all.
Savvy executives like to stay in the loop on FTC activities that could affect their industry. They make it a habit to scan the headlines or check for relevant workshops or reports. But there’s a third category of information a bit less understood: closing letters from BCP staff.
In the spirit of transparency, the agency posts them online. Here in the BCP Business Center, recent letters appear in the Compliance Documents section of each topic area.
It’s called the MAP Rule — and it will help chart the course for people in the market for a mortgage by banning deceptive claims about mortgages in advertising and other commercial communications. If you’re in the mortgage business, it’s worth your time to find out more about the rules of the road.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Consumers have found their voice. And last year they raised it more than 1.3 million times to complain about identity theft, fraud, and products that didn’t live up to the advertising hype.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today the FTC announced the new Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) Rule, putting in place sweeping changes to protect homeowners from scams that have fallen on the heels of the mortgage crisis.
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.
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.