Scam of the day – October 13, 2017 – FTC sending refunds to victims of “free trial” weight loss scams

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is mailing 227,000 refund checks to victims of phony weight loss products and supplements sold by Health Formulas LLC and a number of other related companies.  According to the FTC, Health Formulas LLC lured victims with “free trials” and tricked their victims into providing their credit and debit card information.  Health Formulas LLC then enrolled their victims into a program with continuing automatic monthly payments for their bogus weight loss products.

The FTC is administering the refunds through Epiq systems, Inc, which began mailing checks earlier this week.  The checks must be cashed within 60 days and there is no fee or charge to obtain the refunds.

TIPS

For more information about this refund program go to the tab at the top of this page entitled “FTC Scam Refunds.”  You can also call the refund administrator directly at 800-690-2366 if you have questions about the refund program.

As for weight loss products, the truth is that there are no quick fixes when it comes to weight loss and you should be wary of any product that promises you can lose tremendous amounts of weight quickly without dieting or exercise.  You should also be wary of any weight loss product that is sold exclusively either over the Internet or through mail-order advertisements.  It is also important to remember that no cream that you rub in your skin can help you lose substantial weight and no product can block the absorption of fat or calories.  The best course of action is to ask your physician about the effectiveness of a particular weight loss product or program before you reduce your wallet in an effort to reduce your waistline.

Finally, there never is a reason to provide your credit or debit card information for a “free” offer.

Scam of the day – September 2, 2017 – Tech support scam refunds

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently settled charges brought against a company that did business as Advanced Tech Support and Inbound Call Experts.  This company used online ads to lure its victims into calling Advanced Tech Support where through misleading, high pressure sales tactics their victims were tricked into believing their computers were infected with malware and convinced to buy unnecessary technical support services.

As a part of the settlement with the FTC, the company will be paying ten million dollars to the FTC to be refunded to victimized consumers.  The FTC will be sending emails to the victims from the address subscribe@subscribe.ftc.gov and will provide a claim number and a PIN for victims of the scam to use to get their refund.  However, you also can apply directly for your refund as indicated below.

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If you did business with Advanced Tech Support or Inbound Call Experts between April 2012 and November 2014, you may be eligible for a refund. For more information or to apply for your refund go to the top of the first page of Scamicide to the section entitled “FTC Claim Refunds” and click on the Advanced Tech Support Refund.  You must file your claim prior to October 27, 2017 to be eligible for the refund.

Scam of the day – February 7, 2017 – FTC refunding victims of T-Mobile cramming scam

For years I have been warning you about the dangers of cramming.  Cramming is the name for putting unauthorized third party charges on to a consumer’s telephone bill without the knowledge or approval of the consumer.  This has long been a problem with landline phones and in recent years has become a major problem with cellular service.  There are many ways that these unauthorized charges make their way to a victim’s phone, sometimes, consumers actually unknowingly sign up for premium texting services that may be for things such as flirting tips, horoscopes or celebrity gossip.  Whatever the source of the charges, they are fraudulent and typically cost about $9.99 per month and continue to appear for months without end.

As I reported to you in December of 2014 when it occurred, the FTC settled cramming charges with T-Mobile under the terms of which T-Mobile would pay refunds to affected customers.  According to the term of the settlement, T-Mobile was required to contact all of its present and former customers who were subjected to cramming and inform them of the refund program and claims process.  Now, more than two years later, the FTC is finally sending about 20 million dollars to the victims of this scam. Check out the tab at the top of this page entitled “FTC Scam Refunds” if this settlement affects you for more information about receiving your check.

TIPS

If you were or are a T-Mobile customer, you should carefully review your phone bill to identify if cramming charges appeared anywhere on your bill and follow the procedure indicated by T-Mobile to make a claim.  Even if you are not a T-Mobile customer you should always carefully review your phone bill each month to make sure that there are no unauthorized charges.  These charges often appear with vague descriptions so if you don’t recognize any charge, you should contact your provider to explain the charges to you.

Scam of the day – November 19, 2016 – FTC refunding funds to victims of debt collection scam

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has settled its complaint against Centro Natural Corp. and Sumor LLC who used international telemarketers to call Spanish speaking Americans threatening them with arrest if they did not pay non-existent debts.  Under the terms of the settlement, the two companies are banned from further debt collection and telemarketing activities.  The FTC is refunding funds  to the victims of the scam.  Victims should get their checks shortly and must deposit their checks within 60 days.

TIPS

If you were a victim of this scam and receive a check from the FTC, you must cash the check within sixty days of the date of the mailing.  You do not need to provide any personal information or pay any fee in order to be eligible for this refund.  Anyone asking for such information or asking for such a fee is just another scammer.  If you have questions about this case you can contact the FTC’s refund administrator at 1-844-499-3585.

Subject to strict federal laws, legitimate debt collectors are permitted to call debtors, however, the law prohibits them from threatening imprisonment for the failure to pay a debt.  It can be difficult to know when someone calls attempting to collect a debt if indeed they are legitimate or not, so the best course of action if you receive such a call is to not discuss the debt with the person calling, but instead demand that they send you a written “validation notice” by regular mail which describes the debt they allege you owe and includes a listing of your rights under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  Never give personal information over the phone to anyone who calls you attempting to collect a debt.  You can never be sure who they are.  If you receive the validation notice and it appears to be legitimate, you may be better off contacting your creditor directly because the person who called you may not be representing the creditor, but may merely have information about the debt.

Scam of the day – October 11, 2016 – FTC refunding 20 million dollars to victims of “free” credit monitoring scam

Following the settlement of lawsuits brought by Illinois, Ohio and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against One Technologies, a company that offered free credit monitoring and then without the knowledge or assent of its customers charged them $29.95 per month for the “free” service, the FTC is now sending out refunds checks to victims of the scam.  One Technologies marketed their scam through at least fifty websites using the names MyCreditHealth, Score Sense, FreeScore360.com, FreeScoreOnine.com and ScoreSense.com.  One Technologies paid for advertising on Google, Bing and other search engines so that their advertisements would appear near the top of the page when searching for free credit reports and similar terms.

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For specific information about the refunds, go to the top of this page to the tab entitled FTC Scam Refunds.  People interested in getting a free copy of their credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion should remember that the only government authorized way to access your credit reports free is by going to www.annualcreditreport.com.  Many companies offer what appear to be free credit reports, however, if you read the fine print, you may find that, as in this case, you are unwittingly signing up for a continuing service.  When signing up for any free service, you should never provide your credit card number.  Sometimes scammers lie to you by saying that they need your credit card number merely for confirmation purposes.  Finally, it is important to remember that merely because a company appears high on the page in a search engine inquiry, does not mean that the company is legitimate.  It may only mean that the company either paid for the spot, as One Technologies did, or the company is adept at manipulating the algorithms used by the search engines to determine placement.  It does not mean that the company has been checked out to be legitimate.

Scam of the day – August 21, 2016 – FTC refunding money to victims of credit card fraud

The FTC first took action against J. K. Publications, Inc in 1998.  J.K. Publications  purchased access to the account numbers of more than three million Visa and MasterCard holders from a California bank purportedly to confirm that the customers had valid credit cards and debit cards.  Instead, they made illegal charges on the cards for X-rated Websites.  Some of the people who had these charges put on their bills didn’t even own computers at that time.  The charges appeared under the names “Netfill,” “N-Bill,” “MJD ServiceCorp,” and “Webtel.”  The FTC managed to quickly shut down the scam, but J.K. Publications and the people involved in the scam managed to hide millions of the fraudulently obtained dollars in off-shore banks.  Fortunately, over time the FTC has been successful in getting the money back and is now mailing out checks to the victims of the scam.

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The FTC is presently mailing 322,000 checks to victims of this scam.  If you have questions about this scam or were a victim of this scam, you can go to the top of this page to the tab entitled “FTC scam refunds” for more information.

Scam of the day – April 11, 2016 – FTC sending refunds to victims of fake debt collectors

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has settled its complaint against Kirit Patel and two companies he operated, Broadway Global Master Inc. and In-Arabia Solutions regarding bogus debt collection practices. People seeking personal loans will often turn to online companies, many of which are somewhat less than reputable.  The information supplied by the people applying for these loans including Social Security numbers, bank account numbers and other personal information was accessed by Patel and his companies who then contacted their victims by phone, sometimes posing as federal agents of the non-existent “Federal Crime Unit of the Department of Justice” and threatened their victims with prison and other consequences if they did not pay the caller for debts that did not even exist, but sounded legitimate because the caller had such personal information about the victim when the scammer called.  As a part of the settlement with the FTC, checks averaging $350.39 will be sent by the FTC to the victims of this scam.  For more information about the refunds go the tab at the top of this page entitled “FTC Scam Refunds.”

Patel has also pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to this scam and has been sentenced to a year in prison.

TIPS

If you were a victim of this scam and receive a check from the FTC, you must cash the check within sixty days of the date of the mailing.  You do not need to provide any personal information or pay any fee in order to be eligible for this refund.  Anyone asking for such information or asking for such a fee is just another scammer.

Subject to strict federal laws, legitimate debt collectors are permitted to call debtors, however, the law prohibits them from threatening imprisonment for the failure to pay a debt.  It can be difficult to know when someone calls attempting to collect a debt if indeed they are legitimate or not, so the best course of action if you receive such a call is to not discuss the debt with the person calling, but instead demand that they send you a written “validation notice” by regular mail which describes the debt they allege you owe and includes a listing of your rights under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  Never give personal information over the phone to anyone who calls you attempting to collect a debt.  You can never be sure who they are.  If you receive the validation notice and it appears to be legitimate, you may be better off contacting your creditor directly because the person who called you may not be representing the creditor, but may merely have information about the debt.

Scam of the day – December 10, 2015 – FTC refunding money to victims of online Yellow Pages scam

The FTC, through its refund administrator for this case, Gilardi & Co. LLC is sending checks to victims of  a scam involving Your Yellow Book which sent out invoices bearing a logo like the famous walking fingers logo used by the legitimate Yellow Pages to various companies.  The invoices indicated that they were only verifying or updating an already existing business relationship when in fact there was no prior business relationship and no prior contract for a listing in the Your Yellow Book’s online business directory, which had no relationship with the legitimate Yellow Pages.  Many people paid the invoices that ranged up to $487 not realizing that the bill was a total misrepresentation.   Victims that initially refused to pay the phony invoices were harassed by phony debt collectors.  Many small businesses, doctor’s offices, retirement homes and charitable organizations were victimized by this scam.

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If you were a victim of this scam and have not yet received your check, click on the tab at the top of this page marked “FTC Scam Refunds” for information as to how to claim your refund.   Refund checks must be cashed by February 2, 2016. However, everyone else should take a lesson from this common scam and never pay an invoice merely because you get what appears to be a legitimate looking bill until you have confirmed that the bill is indeed legitimate and that you or your company actually received the services for which you are billed.  This particular scam is both simple and effective so it is up to you to be on the lookout for it.

Scam of the day – November 18, 2015 – Debt collection scams

Debt collection scams essentially come in two varieties.  One occurs when scammers use deceptive and abusive tactics to collect on debts such as credit card debt in violation of the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  Often these scammers misrepresent who they are, often claiming to be sheriffs or other process servers, and falsely threaten their victims with arrest and other serious consequences.  Presently the FTC is returning millions of dollars to people who were abused by Asset Capital and Management Group, in such a debt collection scam.  Victims of this particular company can get more information about receiving a check for their losses by calling 855-312-3324.  You also can click on the tab entitled “FTC Scam Refunds” at the top of this page.  I urge everyone to check out this particular tab from time to time to see if you are eligible for refunds relating to various FTC actions.

The second debt collection scam involves scammers harassing their victims about totally non-existent debts.  They manage to sound convincing to their unfortunate victims because the scammers have previously gathered much personal information about their potential victims so that when they talk to them on the phone they sound convincing and legitimate.  Using illegal collection tactics, they threaten arrest and garnishment of wages unless the victim pays the non-existent debt immediately.  Often out of fear, their victims pay.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken action against 61 such scammers over the last three years, but the scam continues.  One particular phony debt collection scam shut down by the FTC operated out of call centers in India and scammed unsuspecting victims out of more than five million dollars before it was closed by the FTC.

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Debtors have considerable rights pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act including the right of the debtor who may have been first contacted by phone to request that written documentation in support of the claimed debt be sent to the debtor before any further action is taken.  In addition, debtors have the right to demand that they not be contacted by phone, after which no legitimate debt collector will contact the debtor.  To do so would violate federal law.   For more information about your rights as a debtor and what to do if you are in debt or being hounded by someone posing as a legitimate debt collector you can find much helpful information by clicking on this link from usa.gov which is an interagency website for a number of different federal agencies.   https://www.usa.gov/debt

 

Scam of the day – April 13, 2015 – FTC refunding money to victims of tax relief scam

As we approach the April 15th deadline for filing income taxes, it is a good time to look at a scam involving a company that fraudulently promised to reduce the tax debts of many Americans.  In my February 11, 2013 Scam of the day, I told you about American Tax Relief LLC.   In 2013 the FTC announced that it had come to a settlement with the  American Tax Relief company in regard to charges that the company had stolen more than a hundred million dollars from frightened taxpayers who had turned to them to help them reduce or eliminate their income tax debts.  You may have heard or seen American Tax Relief’s advertisements in which they promised to be able to settle tax debts for pennies on the dollar, stop wage garnishments and stop property seizures.  American Tax Relief misled consumers into believing that the IRS’ Offer in Compromise program by which taxpayers are permitted to settle their tax debts for less than what they owe is easy to achieve when, according to IRS figures, only about 30% of people applying for this program achieve any level of reduction of tax debt.  If you haven’t heard or seen these advertisements of American Tax Relief, you certainly have seen or heard them from other companies.  Unfortunately, many, if not most of these companies are phony.  You end up paying large up front costs and get little relief.   Now the FTC is sending refund checks to 18,571 of the victims of American Tax Relief totaling more than 16 million dollars.  If you were a victim of American Tax Relief and have not received a check,  you can use this link for more information about the refund program of the FTC.  https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/refunds?utm_source=govdelivery  This link also provides information about the FTC’s refund programs involved with other FTC cases against such companies as L’Occitane, AdvaCal, and Lean Spa.

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Just because you have seen advertising in legitimate media does not mean that the companies advertising are legitimate.    If you owe income taxes, the IRS has programs to assist you including the Installment Agreement Program by which you may be able to make payments on your tax debt over time.  In some limited circumstances the Offer in Compromise Program may be available to you, but you are best off utilizing a CPA or a lawyer in negotiating with the IRS over any offer in compromise.   The IRS also has a Taxpayer Advocate Service which you can reach at irs.gov/advocate or by phone at 1-877-777-4778.  I urge you to be particularly wary of companies that claim that they can reduce or eliminate your tax debts.  Check them out with the IRS and the FTC before considering using their services.  Frankly, you would be much better off with the assistance of a knowledgeable tax lawyer or CPA.