Amazing Wealth System Settlement Update

In 2018, the FTC settled claims against the companies and individuals responsible for the Amazing Wealth System — also known as Amazon Wealth Systems, FBA Stores, AWS, Insider Online Secrets, Online Auction Learning Center, and Online Seller. The defendants ran ads and held live workshops promoting a business opportunity scheme, and claimed people could use their system to “Get started on Amazon and Make $5,000-$10,000 in the next 30 days . . . even if you have never sold anything online before.”

The settlements ban the defendants from selling business opportunities and business coaching services and require them to surrender money they took from consumers. The FTC and a court-appointed receiver have been working to collect as much money as possible with the aim of returning it to people affected by the scheme.

Here is information for people who paid Amazing Wealth System or a related company:

I paid for an Amazing Wealth System workshop. How can I make sure the FTC knows?

Report your experience to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint. Include as much personal information as you choose. Your information will go into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations. When you go to FTC.gov/complaint, click on:

  • Education, Jobs, and Making Money, then
  • Business Opportunities, Work-at-Home-Plans, Franchise or Distributorships, then
  • Business Opportunity or Work-at-Home Plan.

I saved my receipts and other paperwork. What should I do with them?

Keep the originals and copies of:

  • payment records, including invoices, bank statements, credit card statements and cancelled checks;
  • postal mail, email and material that you received from the defendants, including messages about your account, marketing material and handouts you received at workshops; and
  • other documents, postal mail or email that refers to your Amazon account or business with Amazing Wealth System or the related companies.

Will I get my money back?

The FTC is working to return as much money as possible to each person affected by this scheme. The amount the FTC is likely to return to affected consumers depends on various factors, including how much the defendants are able to pay, how many people were affected, and the amount each person paid to the defendants. Sometimes the FTC can’t return any money.

How long will it take to get my money back?

The FTC and the receiver must complete their collection efforts before the FTC can determine whether it will be able to give refunds and to whom. It could take the FTC and the receiver several more months to collect the assets that may be used for consumer refunds.

I saw another business that looked like Amazing Wealth System.

Please report what you saw to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint.

Where can I get more information about the case?

You can read the press release or related case documents. When there is new information, we will publish another blog post or press release, and list it with the case documents.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

FTC Charges Operator of Crowdfunding Scheme

Defendants failed to use consumer funds to produce high-tech backpack

The Federal Trade Commission has taken legal action against the operator of a deceptive crowdfunding scheme who told consumers he was raising money to develop a high-tech backpack and other products, but failed to deliver any of the products and instead used much of the funds for himself.

In its complaint, the FTC alleges that Douglas Monahan, operating through his company, iBackPack of Texas, LLC, raised more than $800,000 from consumers through four crowdfunding campaigns, falsely claiming the funds would be used to develop a handful of products. This included an “iBackPack” that would incorporate batteries for charging laptops and phones, cables and a Bluetooth speaker.

“If you raise money by crowdfunding, you don’t have to guarantee that your idea will work,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But you do have to use the money to work on your idea—or expect to hear from the FTC.”

According to the FTC’s complaint, Monahan first sought funding in 2015 for the iBackPack through the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, saying contributions would go to develop, produce, and distribute the product by March 2016. The campaign raised more than $720,000 by November 2016, according to the complaint.

Despite missing the delivery date for the iBackPack, Monahan started a second crowdfunding campaign in March 2016 via Kickstarter to produce and distribute the iBackPack 2.0, an updated version of the still-unproduced original iBackPack, according to the complaint. This campaign ended in April 2016 after raising more than $76,000 without ever delivering the promised product.

During the same time period, Monahan started two additional crowdfunding campaigns on Indiegogo, which raised a total of about $11,000, according to the complaint. One campaign claimed it was raising funds to produce and distribute the “MOJO,” a shoulder bag that incorporated batteries, cables and other features. The other campaign claimed to be raising money to produce and distribute the “POW” Smart Cable, a magnetic USB cable system with various technological features.

Monahan made a number of false statements to consumers about the status of products as well as to the crowdfunding sites to keep from being kicked off their platforms. These include announcing in August 2016 that the POW Cables were “on their way here” or were “done/finished/shipped over with” or would be received within six weeks.

Despite repeated assurances, Monahan did not use the contributions received from the crowdfunding campaigns for the promised products, the FTC alleged. Instead, he spent most of the money on personal expenses and marketing efforts to try to raise additional funds, according to the complaint. Hundreds of consumers complained on the crowdfunding platforms about Monahan and his company’s failure to provide the promised products and about threats they received from Monahan after they contacted him with their concerns.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Malware From Illegal Video Streaming Apps: What to know

The popularity of video streaming services has taken off in the past few years. It’s become easier to stream video through smart TVs, streaming boxes that connect to your not-so-smart TV, and even streaming sticks. These devices let you stream video through popular apps like Hulu, Netflix, SlingTV, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube TV. Unfortunately, there are other apps that let you watch illegal pirated content. And hackers are using those apps to spread malware. Here’s what you need to know.

Illegal pirated content is nothing new. We’ve alerted you that websites offering free movies and TV shows can infect your computer with malware. But the landscape is shifting. Purveyors of pirated content are now spreading apps and add-ons that work with popular streaming devices. If you download one of these illegal pirate apps or add-ons, the chances are good that you’ll also download malware.

If malicious software on the pirate app gets inside your wireless network, it may try to infect other devices connected to your network. That could put at risk the computer you use for sensitive transactions like online banking or shopping. It could also expose your photos and other personal information. The malware could allow hackers to:

  • Steal your credit card information and sell it to other hackers on the dark web.
  • Steal the log in credentials for sites you shop on and go on a spending spree.
  • Steal the log in credentials for your bank account and steal your money.
  • Use your computer to commit crimes.

Malware may also make your computer slow or non-responsive, serve pop-up windows or ads, or take you to sites you didn’t want to visit.

If you want to avoid downloading malware when you stream video, don’t watch pirated content. Period. Not online and not through a video streaming device.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Files Suit Against Lexington Law, PGX Holdings, and Related Entities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Bureau) today filed a complaint against PGX Holdings Inc. and subsidiaries Progrexion Marketing Inc., Progrexion Teleservices Inc., eFolks LLC, and CreditRepair.com Inc.; and against John C. Heath, Attorney at Law PLLC, which does business as Lexington Law.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. district court in Utah, alleges the defendants violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) by requesting and receiving payment of prohibited upfront fees for their credit repair services. Under the rule, companies can only charge fees for telemarketed credit repair services after providing consumers with documentation reflecting that the promised results have been achieved. That documentation cannot be provided to consumers until more than six months after the results were achieved. The Bureau also alleges that Progrexion and its subsidiaries violated the TSR and the Consumer Financial Protection Act by making deceptive representations in its marketing, or by substantially assisting others in doing so. 

Heath and Progrexion are headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah and do business throughout the United States.

A copy of the complaint filed in federal district court in the District of Utah is available at: https://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/cfpb_pgx-holdings_complaint_2019-05.pdf

This article by was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

FTC Stops Operators of Fake Credit Repair Scheme

Alleges scammers charged upfront fees and falsely promised to improve credit scores

At the Federal Trade Commission’s request, a federal court has temporarily halted and frozen the assets of Grand Teton Professionals, an alleged credit repair scheme that charged illegal upfront fees and falsely claimed to repair consumers’ credit. The company and other defendants are charged with violating the FTC Act and several provisions of the Credit Repair Organizations Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, the Consumer Review Fairness Act, the Truth in Lending Act, and the Electronic Funds Transfer Act.

According to the FTC’s complaint, since at least 2014, two of the defendants, Douglas Filter and Marcio G. Andrade, have operated an unlawful credit repair scam that bilked consumers out of at least $6.2 million.

“A good credit score can help you buy a home, get a business loan, or finance an education,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “These companies preyed on consumers who wanted to clean up their credit by making false promises and taking illegal upfront fees.”

The FTC charges that the defendants, using such trade names as Deletion Experts, Inquiry Busters, and Top Tradelines, used deceptive websites, unsolicited emails, and text messages to target consumers with false promises of substantially improving consumers’ credit scores by claiming to remove all negative items and hard inquiries from consumers’ credit reports. The defendants also falsely claimed to substantially improve consumers’ credit scores by promising to add consumers as “authorized users” to other individuals’ credit accounts, a practice known as adding “tradelines” or “piggybacking” credit. In most instances, however, the defendants were not able to substantially improve consumers’ credit scores.

The complaint also alleges that the defendants charged illegal upfront fees and failed to provide consumers with required disclosures about their credit repair services. The defendants also advised consumers to mislead credit bureaus by filing false identity theft affidavits and to mislead lenders by claiming to be authorized users on other individuals’ credit accounts, according to the FTC.

In its complaint, the FTC charges that if a consumer complained about the lack of results or attempted to exercise their statutory rights to dispute the defendants’ illegal advance fees, the defendants would threaten them with legal action for violating purported anti-disparagement and anti-chargeback contract clauses. The defendants offered consumers the option of financing these substantial fees, but failed to make critical required disclosures. When the defendants processed fees, they routinely engaged in electronic fund transfers from consumers’ bank accounts without obtaining proper authorization. The defendants often used illegal remotely created checks to pay for the credit repair services they offered through telemarketing, according the FTC’s complaint.

Under the terms of the temporary restraining order granted by the court, the company has temporarily ceased operations and the defendants’ assets are frozen.

The corporate defendants are: Grand Teton Professionals, LLC; 99th Floor, LLC; Mait Management Inc.; Demand Dynamics LLC; Atomium Corps Inc. (a Wyoming company); Atomium Corps Inc. (a Colorado company); Startup Masters NJ Inc. (a Wyoming company); Startup Masters NJ Inc. (a New Jersey company); First Incorporation Services, Inc. (a Wyoming company); First Incorporation Services, Inc. (a Florida company); and individual defendants Douglas Filter and Marcio G. Andrade.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

FTC, Law Enforcement Partners Announce New Crackdown on Illegal Robocalls

U.S., state, and local enforcement stops companies responsible for over one billion calls

The Federal Trade Commission and its law enforcement partners today announced a major crackdown on illegal robocalls, including 94 actions targeting operations around the country that are responsible for more than one billion calls pitching a variety of products and services including credit card interest rate reduction services, money-making opportunities, and medical alert systems.

Call it Quits - Robocall Law Enforcement Operation 2019 logoThe joint crackdown, “Operation Call it Quits,” is part of the Commission’s ongoing effort to help stem the tide of universally loathed pre-recorded telemarketing calls. It also includes new information to help educate consumers about illegal robocalls. In addition, the FTC continues to promote the development of technology-based solutions to block robocalls and combat caller ID spoofing.

“Operation Call it Quits” includes four new cases and three new settlements from the FTC alone. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed two of the new cases on the FTC’s behalf. Collectively, the defendants in these cases were responsible for making more than a billion illegal robocalls to consumers nationwide. Today’s announcement brings the number of cases the FTC has brought against illegal robocallers and Do Not Call (DNC) violators to 145.

“We’re all fed up with the tens of billions of illegal robocalls we get every year,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Today’s joint effort shows that combatting this scourge remains a top priority for law enforcement agencies around the nation.”

In addition to the actions by the FTC, 25 federal, state, and local agencies have brought 87 enforcement actions as part of the initiative. State partners announcing enforcement actions today include the Attorneys General Offices for Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia; the Consumer Protection Divisions of the District Attorneys for the Counties of Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, and Santa Clara, California; the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; and the Los Angeles City Attorney. In addition, the United States Attorneys’ Offices for the Northern District of Georgia, Middle District of Florida, and Southern District of Texas, with support from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, have contributed five criminal actions.

“Every year, our office gets more consumer complaints about unwanted robocalls than just about any other issue,” said Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill. “At best, these calls represent a nuisance for families just wanting to enjoy peace and privacy without needless disturbances interrupting their routines. At worst, they represent scams that successfully steal people’s identities or hard-earned money. In Indiana, we are quite serious about stopping illegal robocalls, and our alliances with such partners as the FTC will prove a valuable asset in this mission.”

Each FTC case is described below:

Robocalls - If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it's a robocall. Companies need your written permission to use robocalls to sell things to you. Why you're getting so many robocalls: Often it's scammers. The internet makes it cheap and easy for them to call from anywhere in the world. What you can do about them: 1. Hang up. If you press any numbers, you might get even more calls. 2. Use call blocking. Talk to your phone carrier and read expert reviews about your options. Report robocalls to the ftc at ftc.gov/complaint. Learn more at ftc.gov/calls.First Choice Horizon LLC

According to the FTC’s complaint against six corporate and three individual defendants jointly doing business as Second Choice Horizon and CSG Solutions, Raymond Gonzalez, Carlos S. Guerrero, and Joshua Hernandez ran a maze of interrelated operations that used illegal robocalls to contact financially distressed consumers with offers of bogus credit card interest rate reduction services. The FTC contends many of the consumers targeted were seniors. According to the complaint, the defendants deceptively told consumers that, for a fee, the defendants could lower their credit card interest rates to zero for the life of the debt, thereby saving the consumers thousands of dollars on their credit card debt.

The complaint alleges that the defendants robocalled consumers, including many whose phone numbers were on the DNC Registry. Under the guise of confirming consumers’ identities, the defendants tricked them into providing their personal financial information, including their Social Security and credit card numbers.

The FTC also alleges the defendants did not disclose to consumers that they would have to pay substantial additional bank or transaction fees. Finally, the FTC alleges that in many instances, consumers who did not buy the services later found out that the defendants had applied for one or more credit cards without their knowledge or consent.

The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division, on June 3, 2019. On June 4, 2019, the court granted the FTC’s request for a temporary restraining order against the defendants, including an asset freeze and the appointment of a receiver. The FTC acknowledges the assistance of the Better Business Bureau Serving Central Florida and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

8 Figure Dream Lifestyle

According to the FTC’s complaint against five corporate and four individual defendants, since at least 2017 the defendants have used a combination of illegal telemarketing robocalls, live telephone calls, text messaging, internet ads, emails, social media, and live events to market and sell consumers fraudulent money-making opportunities. The defendants operated under the names 8 Figure Dream Lifestyle and Online Entrepreneur Academy.

Throughout their marketing, according to the FTC, the defendants consistently made false or unsubstantiated claims about how much consumers can earn through their programs, often claiming that a typical consumer with no prior skills can make $5,000 to $10,000 in 10 to 14 days and $10,000 or more within 60 to 90 days of buying the program. In reality, the complaint states, consumers who bought the 8 Figure Dream Lifestyle program for between $2,395 and $22,495 rarely earned substantial income, typically lost their entire investment, and often incurred significant loans and credit card debt.

The complaint further states that in marketing the Online Entrepreneur Academy—a spin-off of 8 Figure Dream Lifestyle—defendants Alex Dee, Brian M. Kaplan, and Jerrold S. Maurer deceptively promoted the program in the same way and claimed without substantiation that consumers who joined would make tens of thousands of dollars in 60 to 90 days.

The Commission’s complaint charges the defendants, who operate from California, Colorado, New York, and Tennessee, with violating the FTC Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), or both, by making deceptive earnings claims through robocalls and other marketing techniques.

The case was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on June 12, 2019. On June 13, 2019, the court granted the FTC’s request for a temporary restraining order against the defendants, including an asset freeze. The full list of defendants is included in the FTC’s complaint.

Derek Jason Bartoli

According to the FTC’s complaint against Derek Jason Bartoli, the Florida-based defendant has been an active participant in the illegal telemarketing industry for several years, serving as the “dialer,” “information technology (IT) guy,” and at times the seller for various telemarketing companies, including companies that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies have sued. He provided services in his own name and in the names of Phoenix Innovative Solutions LLC, Marketing Consultation Solutions LLC, and KimRain Marketing LLC.

The FTC alleges that Bartoli is the developer, operator, and provider of a computer-based telephone dialing platform, also known as an autodialer. He used the autodialer to blast out millions of illegal robocalls and calls to phone numbers listed on the DNC Registry. In the last six months of 2017 alone, the complaint alleges that Bartoli sent more than 57 million calls to registered phone numbers. In addition, the complaint alleges that he initiated millions of calls using fake or “spoofed” caller ID information.

The proposed court order settling the FTC’s charges permanently bans Bartoli from calling phone numbers listed on the DNC Registry, from sending robocalls, and from using deceptive caller ID practices, such as “spoofing.”

The order also prohibits Bartoli from a range of deceptive and abusive telemarketing practices, including interfering with a person’s right to be placed on a do not call registry, calling consumers who have previously said they do not want to be called, violating the FTC’s TSR, and failing to pay for access to DNC Registry information. Finally, the order imposes a $2.1 million civil penalty against Bartoli, which will be suspended due to his inability to pay.

The DOJ filed the complaint and order on the FTC’s behalf in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. The defendants in this case include Derek Jason Bartoli, individually and doing business as Phoenix Innovative Solutions LLC, Marketing Consultation Solutions LLC, and KimRain Marketing LLC. The FTC acknowledges the assistance of USTelecom and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Media Mix 365, LLC

According to the FTC’s complaint against Media Mix 365, also doing business as Solar Research Group and Solar Nation, and its owners Nicholas J. Long and Nicole J. Long, a/k/a Nicole Leonard and Nicole Leonard-Long, the defendants made illegal calls to develop leads for home solar energy companies.

The FTC alleges that since at least 2015, Media Mix has called millions of phone numbers on the DNC Registry and has repeatedly or continuously called consumers with the intent of annoying, abusing, or harassing them. The defendants allegedly called one number more than 1,000 times in a single year. The FTC alleges the California-based defendants were named in at least three other lawsuits, including two class action cases charging them with DNC Registry violations.

The proposed court order settling the FTC’s charges permanently bans Nicholas and Nicole Long from calling phone numbers listed on the DNC Registry and from robocalling. It also prohibits Media Mix 365 from calling phone numbers listed on the DNC Registry unless it has the express, written agreement of the recipient to receive such calls or has an established business relationship with the recipient.

The order bars Media Mix from robocalling unless the recipient has provided an express written agreement to be robocalled. The order further prohibits the defendants from repeatedly or continuously calling with the intent to annoy, abuse, or harass the call recipients and from violating any provisions of the TSR. Finally, the order imposes a $7.6 million civil penalty, which will be suspended upon payment of $264,000.

The DOJ filed the complaint and order on the FTC’s behalf in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The FTC acknowledges the assistance of the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

Other FTC Actions

In addition to the new cases announced today, the Commission has also settled several cases brought previously. Each complaint and proposed settlement order is described below:

Lifewatch, Inc.

According to the FTC’s July 2015 complaint, filed jointly with the Florida Attorney General’s Office, since 2012 the defendants bombarded primarily elderly consumers with at least a billion unsolicited robocalls to pitch supposedly “free” medical alert systems. The defendants often called consumers whose numbers were on the DNC Registry and typically “spoofed” caller ID information.

The defendants used pre-recorded messages, including one supposedly from “John from the shipping department,” which were meant to sound like a live person that falsely told consumers that a medical alert system had been purchased for them, and they could receive it “at no cost whatsoever.” The complaint alleges that the pre-recorded messages frequently falsely claimed that their medical alert system had been endorsed or recommended by reputable organizations like the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, National Institute on Aging, or the AARP.

Consumers who eventually spoke with a live operator allegedly were told that even though the system cost over $400, they would get it for free. However, the complaint alleges the telemarketers refused to answer questions about who bought the system for them. The telemarketers also allegedly told consumers they would not be charged any monitoring fee until they received and “activated” the system, even though the consumers’ credit or debit cards were charged immediately. According to the complaint, the telemarketers also often falsely reassured consumers that they could cancel their service at any time without any further financial obligation.

The court order announced today contains provisions related to two sets of defendants: 1) the Lifewatch defendants, which includes Lifewatch, Inc., Evan Sirlin, and Mitchel May; and 2) the Roman defendants, which includes Safe Home Security, MedGuard Alert, Inc., and David Roman. The order permanently bans the Lifewatch defendants from telemarketing and prohibits them from misrepresenting the terms associated with the sale of any product or service. It also imposes a financial judgment of $25.3 million against Lifewatch and Sirlin.

The order permanently bans the Roman defendants from robocalling, calling consumers whose phone numbers are on the DNC Registry, and calling anyone who is on an entity-specific do not call list. It also bans the Roman defendants from “spoofing” caller ID information and prohibits them from abusive telemarketing practices, including failing to identify themselves to consumers they call, violating the TSR, and misrepresenting the terms associated with the sale of any product or service. Finally, it imposes financial judgments of $8.9 million against the Roman defendants. The financial judgments will be partially suspended after the Lifewatch and Roman defendants pay $2 million.

The order also requires that the defendants notify all current customers about the false claims and illegal robocalls made on their behalf, and give those customers the opportunity to cancel their service.

The FTC filed the order in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. The FTC thanks its co-plaintiff, the Florida Attorney General’s Office, and acknowledges the assistance of the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Better Business Bureau of Eastern Missouri, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, the National Institute on Aging, and AARP.

Redwood Scientific

The FTC’s October 2018 complaint against Redwood Scientific charged the defendants with a scheme that used illegal robocalls to deceptively market dissolvable oral film strips as effective smoking cessation, weight-loss, and sexual-performance aids. The FTC’s complaint alleges that in addition to making misleading claims about the strips, the company enrolled customers in auto-ship continuity plans without their consent, and did not honor the advertised money-back guarantees.

The court-approved settlement announced today resolves the FTC’s charges against one defendant in the case, Danielle Cadiz. The order permanently bans Cadiz from all robocall activities, including ringless voicemails. The order prohibits her from making a wide range of misleading or deceptive health-related claims. It also prohibits deceptive claims related to third-party endorsements and testimonials, and the U.S. origin of a product. The order requires Cadiz to get consumers’ express consent before enrolling them in auto-ship continuity plans and to enable consumers to easily cancel their enrollment.

The order imposes a judgment of $18.2 million against Cadiz, which will be suspended based on her inability to pay. The order was entered by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Litigation continues against the remaining defendants.

Life Management Services

According to the FTC’s June 2016 complaint, brought jointly with the Florida Attorney General’s Office, the Life Management defendants bombarded consumers with illegal robocalls in attempts to sell them bogus credit card interest rate reduction services. According to the complaint, the defendants guaranteed that they could substantially and permanently lower consumers’ credit card interest rates and save them thousands of dollars in interest payments. Consumers allegedly made up-front payments but rarely, if ever, got the promised services. The complaint also alleges that the defendants used illegal robocalls to pitch a bogus credit card debt elimination service.

The court order announced today permanently bans 17 Life Management defendants from engaging in telemarketing and debt relief services. It also imposes a judgment of $23.1 million against them, jointly and severally, which will be suspended after they turn over virtually all their assets. The order also resolves the Commission’s claims against two relief defendants who were not directly involved in the scheme, but benefitted from it financially. It settles the FTC’s charges against all remaining defendants in this matter. The FTC won summary judgment and obtained a permanent injunction and monetary relief against scheme leader Kevin Guice in December 2018.

The FTC filed the orders in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division. The FTC thanks its co-plaintiff, the Florida Attorney General’s Office, and acknowledges the assistance of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The Commission votes approving all the aforementioned law enforcement actions were 5-0, except for the proposed final orders in the Life Management Services case, which was 2-0.

Information for Consumers

The FTC’s one-stop shop for consumers looking for information on what to do about robocalls and other unwanted calls can be found at ftc.gov/calls. In addition to updated articles and infographics, consumers will find three new short videos about stopping unwanted calls. Consumers looking for additional information on ways to limit illegal robocalls can click here.

The FTC would like to thank its partners for providing consumer education outreach and support for “Operation Call it Quits,” including the Attorneys General Offices for Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming; the Alaska Department of Law; the Consumer Protection Division of the District Attorney for the County of Los Angeles, California; the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; the Los Angeles City Attorney; the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection; and the Utah Department of Commerce’s Division of Consumer Protection.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court. Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the district court judge.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

The lead-generation bait-and-switch

You’ve probably shared your contact information online to, say, get details about a job opening. Usually, that’s fine. But sometimes you might be looking for one thing and wind up getting something else – like calls about stuff you never asked for or wanted.

Lead generators are companies that collect your contact information, then sell it to marketers who use it to promote their own products and services. While some lead generators are upfront about what they do with your information, others trick you into sharing it for their own profit – regardless of what you asked for.

The FTC sued Day Pacer, LLC for allegedly making unwanted calls as part of a scheme that used just this kind of bait-and-switch. According to the lawsuit, Day Pacer is a lead generator that got its leads from websites with convincing graphics and language to make people think they were in the right place to get what they needed. People went to these websites and shared their phone numbers to get help applying for jobs, health insurance, unemployment benefits and other assistance. But that’s not what they got. Instead, people got unwanted phone calls from Day Pacer with sales pitches to enroll in post-secondary and vocational schools operated by its clients. The company disturbed millions of people with these calls – even though their numbers were on the National Do Not Call Registry.

When you search online for jobs, benefits, or government assistance, you want to be sure you wind up where you need to be. So, once you have your search results:

  • Check out the URL before you click. Search online for that URL, plus the words “review” or “complaint.” Do the same thing with the company name, if you can find it. That will tell you what other people have experienced with that site.
  • Look for sites with “.gov” in the URL. Of course, there are many reliable, non-government, online sources. But government sites are the safest bet. So, for example:

And if you know someone who’s gone through this kind of bait-and-switch, report it to the FTC.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Jumpstart your savings with Start Small, Save Up

National Tax Day was April 15. For many Americans, their tax refund is one of the biggest checks they’ll receive all year. If you received a tax refund, consider setting some of it aside as savings. Sometimes “life happens,” so having a rainy day fund to cover unexpected expenses throughout the year may help you breathe a little easier.

If you feel like you’re living paycheck to paycheck or always coming up short, it’s difficult to think about putting any money aside. And, you’re not alone. According to a study conducted by the Federal Reserve Board, 40 percent of Americans could not come up with $400 to cover an emergency expense, or would do so by borrowing money or selling something. 

CFPB recently launched the Start Small, Save Up campaign to provide tools and strategies to help Americans to save. A few small steps can really add up and help you realize your dreams for the future, regardless of whether it’s creating security for a rainy day, saving for your dream house, or building towards retirement.    

Learn how you can start small now and create lasting change.

This article by was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

SSA imposters top IRS in consumer loss reports

Have you gotten calls about supposed problems with your Social Security number from callers pretending they’re with the Social Security Administration (SSA)? If so, you’re not alone. Our latest Data Spotlight finds that reports about SSA imposters are surging, while reports about IRS imposters have taken a dive.

As the Spotlight puts it, “In the shady world of government imposters, the SSA scam may be the new IRS scam.” While reports of SSA imposters have swelled – nearly half of the reports we’ve gotten in the last year have come in the past two months alone – reports of IRS scammers have plunged. What’s more, people told us they lost $19 million to SSA imposters in the past year. That overtakes the $17 million reported lost to IRS imposters in 2016, the peak year of the IRS scam.

How can you spot SSA imposters? They often use robocalls to reach you, then launch into a story aimed at tricking you into giving them your money, your Social Security number (SSN), or both. They may say your SSN has been suspended and you need to confirm your SSN to reactivate it. Or, they may say your SSN has been involved in a crime and your bank account is about to be seized or frozen, but you can protect your money if you put it on a gift card and give them the code. Never do that – your money will disappear.

If you get one of these calls, remember – the real SSA will never contact you out of the blue or tell you to put money on a gift card or, for that matter, visit a Bitcoin ATM, or wire money. If your caller ID shows a number that looks like it belongs to the SSA, don’t trust the number – scammers fake their caller ID all the time. If you’re worried, hang up and call the SSA yourself at 1-800-772-1213.

Check out the Data Spotlight for more information. If you think a scammer has your Social Security number, visit IdentityTheft.gov/ssa to learn what you can do.

Hang up on Social Security Scammers

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

A no-cost way to prepare your credit for a big purchase

Thinking about buying a house, car, or other big ticket item, and know you’ll be using credit? Before making a big purchase, your first step should be to take a look at all of your finances. Check out these five steps to prepare your finances that won’t cost you a penny.

1. Take advantage of your free annual credit reports.

You can visit AnnualCreditReport.com to get a copy of your credit reports for free. The three nationwide credit reporting companies – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax — each have to provide your free credit reports every 12 months – but only if you request them. You can check the three reports periodically throughout the year or all at once. If you decide to request one report every four months, you can monitor your credit reports more frequently throughout the year.

2. Review your credit reports for inaccurate information.

Take a close look at your credit reports to make sure all the information on your report is correct. According to an FTC study , one in five people have errors on their credit report. Not sure what to look for? Here’s a list of common credit report errors to help you through the process.

3. Dispute credit report errors with the credit reporting company that sent you the report.

Incorrect information on your credit report may hurt your ability to get new lines of credit or may make the terms of credit more expensive. You can dispute inaccurate information with the credit reporting company. You can use these instructions and template letter as a guide.

4. Dispute credit report errors to the company that provided the information.

The company that provided or “furnished” the information to the credit reporting company is known as the “furnisher.” Furnishers could be your bank, your landlord, or your credit card company. You can dispute inaccurate information directly with the furnisher. Use this template to send a letter to the company that provided the information you’re disputing.

5. Make a plan.

Even if you don’t have errors on your credit report, reviewing your report can help you make a plan for how to improve your credit. For more help putting your plan together, download this guide to Rebuilding Your Credit .

This article by was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.