A sweepstakes operator that took millions of dollars from consumers throughout the United States and dozens of other countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Japan, is banned from the prize promotion business under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.
According to the FTC, consumers received personalized mail that falsely claimed they had won a cash prize, typically more than $2 million, and that to collect it they had to pay a fee, usually from $20 to $30. Those who paid got nothing of value in return. The vast majority of the victims appeared to be seniors over the age of 65.
Last year, the FTC charged Universal Information Services defendants with violating federal law in connection with their deceptive prize promotion letters. The court subsequently halted the operation, froze the defendants’ assets, and appointed a receiver over the corporate defendants pending resolution of the case.
The defendants are Liam O. Moran of Ventura, California, and his companies, Applied Marketing Sciences LLC; Standard Registration Corporation, also doing business as Consolidated Research Authority and CRA; and Worldwide Information Systems Incorporated, also d/b/a Specific Monitoring Service, SMS, Specific Reporting Service, SRS, Universal Information Services, UIS, Compendium Sampler Services, and CSS.
Under the settlement order, in addition to being banned from any conduct involving prize promotions, the defendants are permanently prohibited from misrepresenting any good or service, selling or otherwise benefitting from consumers’ personal information, and failing to properly dispose of customer information. The order imposes a judgment of more than $11 million, which represents the amount of money consumers lost. The judgment will be suspended when Moran turns over the proceeds of the sale of his home. The full judgment will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.
The FTC would like to thank the United States Postal Inspection Service, Los Angeles Division, the Vancouver Police Department, the Metropolitan Police in the United Kingdom, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, and the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission for their assistance in this case.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the proposed stipulated order was 5-0. The order was entered by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on October 3, 2014.
NOTE: Stipulated orders have the force of law when signed by the District Court judge.
To learn how to avoid these kinds of scams, read the FTC's Prize Scams.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
Office of Public Affairs
Joannie T. Wei
FTC’s Midwest Region