FOR THE CONSUMER
The FTC's monthly newsletter for the Congressional community
It's the news you - and your constituents - can use.
Volume 7 - Number 4
IN THIS ISSUE
CLICK TRICK. Online advertiser ValueClick, Inc., will pay $2.9 million to settle FTC charges that it violated federal law when it told consumers, in deceptive ad and email claims, that they could get free laptops, iPods and other gifts. The FTC also alleged that the company and its subsidiaries promised --- and failed --- to secure consumers’ financial information. This is the largest settlement in a case based on the CAN-SPAM Act, enacted in 2003. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/03/vc.shtm
CRAM SCAM BAN. Three companies will pay $1.9 million in consumer redress to settle FTC charges that they placed more than $30 million in bogus collect call charges on consumers’ telephone bills. BSG Clearing Solutions North America, LLC, and its related companies control more than 85 percent of the billing aggregation market, in which aggregators contract with local telephone companies to bill on behalf of third parties. Willoughby Farr, the owner of the companies, agreed to a lifetime ban from all billing on local telephone bills. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/03/phone.shtm.
MALICIOUS SOFTWARE. A federal judge has granted the FTC’s request for judgment against a software developer who helped scammers infect millions of computers with spyware hidden in free programs. The FTC alleged that ERG Ventures, LLC, its principals, and their affiliate, Timothy Taylor, tricked consumers into downloading software that tracked Internet activity, disabled anti-virus software, altered browser settings, and degraded computer performance. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/03/spyware.shtm.
PRUDENT LOAN SECURITY. A student loan company has agreed to settle FTC charges that it failed to provide reasonable and appropriate security for consumers’ sensitive personal information, in violation of federal law. The FTC alleged that Goal Financial, LLC, collected personal information from applicants for loans and other services. Employees transferred more than 7,000 files with consumer information to third parties without authorization. One employee sold to the public surplus hard drives that contained information about 34,000 consumers. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/03/studlend.shtm.
The FTC will host the following events, which are free and open to the public. They will be held at the FTC's Conference Center, 601 New Jersey Ave., NW, Washington, DC. A government-issued ID is required for entry.
HEALTH CARE: INNOVATIONS IN DELIVERY. This public workshop on April 24, 2008 will examine competition and consumer protection issues in health care delivery. Comments accepted until May 26. Press release: www.ftc.gov/bc/healthcare/hcd/index.shtm.
GREEN GUIDES. This workshop on April 30, will examine developments in --- and consumer perceptions of --- green packaging claims. Deadline for filing comments for discussion at the workshop is April 11. A live webcast will be available at www.ftc.gov. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/02/greenguides.shtm.
MOBILE MARKETPLACE. This meeting, to be held May 6-7, will explore consumer protection issues in mobile and wireless commerce. A live webcast will be available at www.ftc.gov. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/02/townhall.shtm.
HEALTH CARE: CLINICAL INTEGRATION. This May 29 workshop will explore collaborations between health care providers to improve health care services and costs. It is part of the Commission’s effort to study how the health care industry protects consumers from anticompetitive conduct, and ensures that legitimate efficiency-enhancing ventures aren’t discouraged. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/03/checkup.shtm.
The FTC and local partners host one-day "back to basics" workshops on complying with truth-in-advertising laws. "Green Lights & Red Flags: FTC-BBB Rules of the Road for Advertisers" features a roster of national experts discussing the latest developments in advertising law for attorneys, business owners, and marketing executives. To learn more, visit www.ftc.gov/greenlights.
Minneapolis, Minnesota - Thursday, April 24, 2008, 8 am to 3 pm, at the Metropolitan Ballroom & Clubroom, 5418 Wayzata Boulevard, Golden Valley.
Sponsored by the FTC and the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota, this workshop features the Honorable Lori Swanson, Attorney General of Minnesota. The sponsors have applied for 4.5 hours of Minnesota CLE credit. The admission fee of $130 ($100 for BBB members) includes breakfast, lunch, and a CD of all workshop materials. Seating is limited, so please register early. For more information, visit www.thefirstbbb.org or call 651-695-2491.
Nashville, Tennessee - Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 8:45 am to 3:30 pm, at the Tennessee Bar Association, 221 Fourth Avenue North. This workshop is sponsored by the FTC and the Office of the Tennessee Attorney General. The sponsors have applied for 3.5 hours of general Tennessee CLE credit and one hour of ethics and professionalism credit. The admission fee of $100 includes continental breakfast, lunch, and a CD of all workshop materials. Seating is limited, so please register early. For more information, visit www.tba.org.
BUYING TIME: THE FACTS ABOUT PRE-PAID PHONE CARDS. Explains how pre-paid calling cards work, how to avoid common consumer complaints, and how to buy telephone time and value. 8.5"x11", 2 pages. English: www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/products/pro04.htm;
YOUR ACCESS TO FREE CREDIT REPORTS. Tells consumers how to order a free copy of their credit report from each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — once every 12 months. 8.5"x11", 6 pages.www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre34.shtm.
Consumers looking forward to rebate checks from the government may be targets of scammers who claim to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or the Social Security Administration (SSA). They call or email, claiming that they need your information to be able to deposit your rebate directly into your account. You may be asked to provide your social security number, bank account number, or another piece of personal information that a skillful crook can use to commit identity theft. Emails often include a link for you to click: that link may take you to an official-looking --- but phony --- website that is simply phishing for your information. Or, the link may take you to a legitimate site, but install spyware or some other form of malware on the way.
The FTC cautions consumers not to give out personal or financial information in response to an unsolicited call or email. Keep in mind:
- The IRS does not gather information for rebates by telephone. Nor does it send unsolicited email to taxpayers about tax account matters. Filing a tax return is the only way to apply for a tax refund; there is no separate application form.
- If you get an email out of the blue from someone claiming to be from the IRS that asks you to call a phone number or email back your personal information, don't click on any links. Forward it to email@example.com, and then delete it. Clicking on a link in an unsolicited email carries risks of spyware, pagejacking, and phishing --- threats that can lead to the theft of your identity. The only official IRS Web site is located at www.irs.gov.
- If you get a call from someone who claims to be from the SSA and who asks for your personal information, say you’re not interested, and politely hang up. Then call the SSA’s toll-free telephone number yourself, 1-800-772-1213, to verify the reason for the contact and the caller’s identity. The SSA will not send unsolicited email. For more information, visit www.ssa.gov.
- If you think you’ve been scammed, file a complaint at ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP. If you think your identity’s been stolen, visit www.ftc.gov/idtheft or call 1-877-ID-THEFT.
Visit OnGuardOnline.gov/phishing for more information about phishing scams.
FTC'S OFFICE OF CONGRESSIONAL RELATIONS: 202-326-2195.
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