FOR THE CONSUMER
The FTC's monthly newsletter for the Congressional community
It's the news you - and your constituents - can use.
Volume 8- Number 7
IN THIS ISSUE
OPERATION SHORT CHANGE. The FTC and its partners are cracking down on scammers who are taking advantage of the economic downturn to bilk vulnerable people. The con artists promise non-existent jobs, promote get-rich-quick plans, bogus government grants, and phony debt-reduction services or make unauthorized charges on peoples’ credit or debit cards. Operation Short Change, includes 15 FTC cases, 44 Department of Justice actions, and suits brought by at least 13 states. The FTC also has a video at www.ftc.gov, featuring a former telemarketer of fraudulent business opportunities telling how he got people to part with their money. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/07/shortchange.shtm.
FORECLOSURE FRAUD. The FTC has filed a civil contempt action charging a deceptive mortgage foreclosure rescue and loan modification operation with violating a 2001 court order. According to the FTC, Bryan D’Antonio and his companies told homeowners that his operation had never lost a customer’s home to foreclosure. Many people paid the defendants up to $5,500 each and ultimately lost their homes to foreclosure. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/06/medicalcapital.shtm.
MALWARE AND BOTNETS. At the request of the FTC, a district court has shut down a rogue Internet service provider that hosted and took part in distributing harmful electronic content. According to the FTC, the defendant, Pricewert LLC, colluded with criminals seeking to distribute child pornography, spyware, viruses, trojan horses, botnet command and control servers, and pornography featuring violence, bestiality, and incest. The defendant allegedly operated botnets, large networks of compromised computers to send spam and launch denial of service attacks, and distributed programs capable of keystroke logging, password stealing, and data stealing. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/06/3fn.shtm.
OPERATION MIRAGE. The FTC is suing to stop three telemarketing boiler rooms in Montreal that allegedly bilked millions of dollars from thousands of small- and medium-sized U.S. businesses and non-profits, including churches, schools, and charities. Reed Publishing and its affiliates allegedly deceived these organizations into paying for listings they never ordered in worthless business directories. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/06/optmirage.shtm.
PREPAID CALLING CARDS. A leading U.S. distributor of prepaid calling cards has agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle FTC charges that the calling cards failed to deliver the number of minutes advertised. According to the FTC, the calling cards, sold in denominations ranging from $2 to $20, provided on average less than half of the advertised calling minutes. The settlement is part of an ongoing FTC crackdown on fraud in the prepaid calling card industry. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/06/cta.shtm.
PAYMENT PROCESSOR. A federal court has ordered a payment processor that debited peoples’ bank accounts without their authorization to pay $1.7 million in consumer redress. Payment processors serve as middlemen between merchants and banks or credit card companies. The defendant, InterBill, processed payments for a fraudulent enterprise known as “Pharmacycards.com.” According to the FTC, the payment processor didn’t check addresses, phone numbers, or references the bogus merchant provided and continued to process charges after receiving complaints from consumers. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/06/interbill.shtm.
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform --- Identity Theft
Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives
The FTC testified that Congress should establish data security standards across the private sector and that all organizations that hold sensitive consumer data should take reasonable measures to safeguard it. The FTC also recommended that organizations should notify people when the security of their information has been breached. The Commission requests the authority to seek civil penalties in data security cases. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/06/idtheft.shtm.
House Committee on Energy and Commerce --- Biologic Drug Competition
Subcommittee on Health
The FTC discussed its report, “Follow-on Biologic Drug Competition,” which examines how the price of biologic drugs --- products made with living tissues and microorganisms --- could be reduced by competition from so-called follow-on biologics (FOBs). Biologics are increasingly used to treat arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and other diseases. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/06/biologicdrugs.shtm.
The FTC and the Departments of Justice and Education have issued their annual mandated report to Congress, describing their continued efforts to combat scholarship and financial aid fraud. Each year, millions of students seek help in financing their higher education, and some fall prey to scholarship and financial aid scams that “guarantee” money for college in exchange for a fee. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/06/scholarfraud.shtm.
FUTURE OF NEWS MEDIA. The FTC will hold a series of workshops, starting September 15, about the news media in the internet age. The series will consider possible business and non-profit models for news organizations, the role of targeted behavioral and other online advertising, whether additional limited antitrust exemptions may be necessary, and the implications of online news for both copyright protection and the availability of broadband access. Participants will include journalists, representatives of news and new media organizations, privacy experts, direct marketers, online advertisers, academics, and consumer advocates. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/05/news2009.shtm.
DEBT COLLECTION ROUNDTABLE. The FTC and the Searle Center on Law, Regulation, and Economic Growth at Northwestern University School of Law will host a two-day public roundtable discussion about debt collection litigation and arbitration August 5 and 6. This will be the first of several events for state court judges, government officials, debt collectors and their representatives, consumer advocates, and academics. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/06/chicagoround.shtm.
PAYING THE DEBTS OF A DECEASED RELATIVE: WHO IS RESPONSIBLE? Explains what the law has to say about who has responsibility for a dead relative’s debts. 8.5”x11”, 2 pages. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt159.shtm. (withdrawn)
A JOLT FROM THE BLUE: JAMAICAN FRAUDSTERS USING TELEMARKETING TO TARGET U.S. CONSUMERS. Warns of fraudulent telemarketers based in Jamaica who are calling people in the U.S. and telling them that they’ve won a sweepstakes or foreign lottery. 8.5”x11”, 2 pages. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt148.shtm.
As part of the Operation Short Change initiative, the FTC produced a video to help consumers understand how con artists work --- and how to avoid fraud. It features two victims and a former scammer who hawked phony business opportunities and ultimately served prison time for deceiving investors. The former scammer gives an insider account of how he tricked prospective buyers into spending thousands of dollars for a product they knew nothing about. View the video at www.ftc.gov or YouTube.com/ftcvideos.
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