Posts Tagged: ‘FTC’

Scam of the day – November 24, 2013 – Phony Yellow Pages scam

November 24, 2013 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

The Federal Trade Commission recently got an injunction stopping the operation of a scam based in Montreal, Canada, but aimed at American businesses and churches involving phony online business directory listings.  At the time that the FTC acted, the scammers, Mohamad Khaled Kaddoura, Derek Cessford and Aaron Kirby as well as the fifteen companies under which they operated had stolen more than fourteen million dollars from unsuspecting victims.  The scam would start with a phone call in which the scammers said that they were verifying contact information to update or confirm existing directory listings.  Other times they said that they were calling to verify information for cancellation of a listing.  In every instance, these were total misrepresentations because the businesses and churches called had no previous relationship with the callers.  The calls were then followed up with bills averaging about $500.  When the victims complained, the scammers played back portions of the initial telephone calls that made it sound like they actually did purchase the listing services.  If the victims still refused to pay, the then received calls purporting to be from collection agencies threatening legal action.

TIPS

Never provide information to anyone over the phone or in response to an email or text message unless you are absolutely sure that the person contacting you is legitimate and they have a legitimate need for the information you are providing.   In this case,  people receiving the original call should have refused to provide any information until they had verified that their company or church actually had an account with the caller, which, of course they did not.  Had they taken this simple step rather than provide information to someone they did not know, they could have avoided much trouble.  This is a valuable lesson for all of us.  Scammers will often sound legitimate, but being aware of that, you should always decline to provide information to anyone who contacts you until you have absolutely verified that the call is legitimate and the need for the information is legitimate.

Scam of the day – September 13, 2013 – A Nigerian letter that will help you

September 13, 2013 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

For years, we have all been receiving emails from Nigeria offering money for nothing (although not chicks for free as Dire Straits used to sing).  The emails had various premises including dead relatives, deposed dictators and bank schemes, but they all shared one thing in common – once the victim was lured into the scheme, the victim ended up actually paying more and more money to get the vast riches that never came.  Well now for the first time, the Federal Trade Commission which deals with these scams has signed a memorandum of understanding with two Nigerian agencies to increase cooperation in their joint efforts to stop this type of fraud.  This is the first memorandum of understanding that the FTC has ever done with a foreign criminal enforcement authority, in this case, the Nigerian Consumer Protection Council and the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.  Hopefully, this new joint effort will help reduce Nigerian scams, however, it is important to remember that when it comes to scams, the best place to look for a helping hand is at the end of your own arm.

TIPS

Certainly if you ever receive an email from Nigeria promising something for nothing, you should be incredibly skeptical.  Whenever you receive such an offer regardless of where it is from you should ask yourself, why are you getting something for nothing.  Remember if it looks too good to be true, it usually is.   You should also ask why you are being singled out for this great opportunity.   The way most of these scams work is that once you are lured into the scheme you are told that you need to supply some small amount of money for bribes, fees, taxes or whatever.  This amount keeps getting larger and larger although the promise of receiving a great amount of money blinds the victims into continuing to make payments.  You can find out more specific information about various Nigerian scams here in the archives of Scamicide or in my book, “The Truth About Avoiding Scams” which can be ordered as a paperback or electronic book from Amazon by clicking on the links at the right hand side of the page on the icon for the book.

Scam of the day – June 8, 2013 – FTC takes action against timeshare resale scammers

June 8, 2013 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

The Federal Trade Commission has just announced the filing of charges against three companies who the FTC claims have been guilty of fraudulent and deceptive practices.  The companies involved are Resort Solution Trust, Inc.,  Resort Property Depot, Inc. and Vacation Communications Inc, doing business as Universal Timeshares Sales Associates.  The scam generally starts when the victim is contacted and told that the company has a ready, willing and able buyer for the victim’s timeshare unit.  The victim is told that they must pay upfront fees, which can be as much as $3,400.  The truth is that their are no buyers and often the victims are even called on the telephone in violation of the Federal Do Not Call List.  When the victims have demanded refunds, the scammers refused to return the funds paid to them.

TIPS

Many timeshare owners have become desperate to sell their timeshare units and scam artists take advantage of this desperation. However, regardless of how desperate you are, you should never pay anyone promising to sell your timeshare unit in advance of the actual sale.  If you follow this rule, you will save yourself a lot of headaches.  Before signing on with anyone to sell your timeshare unit, you should also investigate the company to make sure that they are legitimate.  Check with your state attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission to see if their are complaints or legal actions against the company.

Scam of the day – May 13, 2013 – FTC refunding 1.7 million dollars to victims of government grant scam

May 13, 2013 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Unfortunately, it is not very often that I get an opportunity to tell victims of a scam that they can get some of their money back, but today is one of those happy exceptions.  In 2009 the Federal Trade Commission first took action against a number of phony websites that promised that they could provide the consumer with tools to be able to easily locate fifteen billion dollars worth of free grant money and to qualify for those grants.  The websites looked official with pictures of President Obama and Vice President Biden.  The one-time charge was indicated to be between 99 cents and $2.78, however people signing on for the service actually ended up being charged monthly fees of $70 per month for unrelated services.  To make things worse, the information provided about obtaining grants was misleading, false or useless.

TIPS

Under a settlement with some of the scammers and court orders regarding the others by which the scammers approximately 1.7 million dollars is being paid to the FTC to be paid back to 22,764 victimized consumers.  The money is being administered by Gillardi & Co. a third-party refund administrator.  Checks are being sent now and must be cashed within 60 days of receipt.  It is expected that victims can expect to receive about 80% of the money they paid for the worthless service.  If you have been victimized by this scam and have not been contacted by the FTC, you should contact them at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or go to the FTC’s website at www.ftc.gov.

In the future, you should always be skeptical of any service that sounds too good to be true.  Scammers sometimes say that they are from the Federal Grants Administration, but in truth, there is no such entity.  Government grants are not easy to get and if you have to pay money to obtain a free grant, it isn’t free.  The government does not charge for lists of grant providers.  If you are truly interested in information about federal grants, the only place to go is the federal government’s grant website of www.grants.gov.

Scam of the day – April 3, 2013 – Robocalls update

April 2, 2013 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Automated robocalls, such as those which we have all received from “Rachel from card services” that try to induce us to get a new credit card or any other service are a scam that has been with us for many years and despite the best efforts of the Federal Trade Commission, still is victimizing many people.  The calls sound legitmate and if you are not sufficiently skeptical, you can end up having your identity stolen or scammed out of money for a worthless product being sold.  It is easy to identify a robocall that is a scam.  If you get a robocall, it is a scam.  Robocalls are illegal.  Recently the FTC, in an effort to combat robocalls held a contest with a $50,000 prize to the person who came up with the best solution to stop robocalls.  Yesterday, the winners were announced.  They are Aaron Foss and Serdar Danis who split the prize.  Their solution involves new software that will filter out calls being placed by a computer or someone identified as an unwanted caller.

TIPS

The software developed by Foss and Danis is not yet readily available, however, a good low-tech solution to the problem which I have been using for years is to merely hangup whenever I get an automated call without a real person on the line.  Robocalls are illegal and anyone who is making them to sell me a product or service cannot be trusted.  Bye Bye Rachel.  I can’t say it was good knowing you.

Scam of the day – November 17, 2012 – FTC files actions against job scammers

November 17, 2012 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

The FTC just announced that it has brought actions against Shopper Systems, LLC, Revenue Works, LLC, The Veracity Group LP, American Business Builders LLC, ENF LLC, UMS Groupp LLC, The online Entrepreneur, Smart Tools LLC, The Zaken Corp and other companies for operating scams promising business opportunities as mystery shoppers, credit card processors, website operators and government insurance refund processors.  Unfortunately, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleges that all these companies were doing was stealing people’s money and providing them with worthless information.  The sad truth is that the actions by the FTC represent just the tip of the iceberg and as soon as one fraudulent enterprise is shut down, another springs up.  Particularly in hard economic times, people are particularly vulnerable to job scams out of desperation.

TIPS

Many of these job scams had the common theme of promises of large amounts of money for little effort.  Not quite “Money for nothing and chicks for free” as sung by the band Dire Straits, but pretty close.  You should always be skeptical of such promises.  If indeed these jobs were legitimate, why isn’t everyone doing it?  Before giving money to any company promising you an employment opportunity you should research the company with the FTC, your local state attorney general, the Better Business Bureau and even use the easy tactic of going to Google and typing in the name of the company along with the word “scam” and see what comes up.

Scam of the day – July 1, 2012 – Wyndham Hotel Data Breach

July 1, 2012 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

The Federal Trade Commission has just sued Wyndham Worldwide Corporation, the franchiser for Days Inn and Super 8 Motels in regard to data breaches that caused its customers to lose more than 10.6 million dollars in identity theft fraud losses.    According to the FTC, Wyndham misrepresented the security measures that the company took to protect the private data of its customers.  The FTC alleges that Wyndham’s security measures to prevent large scale data breaches are inadequate.  Wyhdam is disputing the charges.

TIP

The lesson here is that it is important to remember that your private information such as credit card numbers and Social Security numbers are only as secure as the weakest place that holds this information.   Before you do business with anyone where you will need to provide personal information that if it fell into the wrong hands could put you in danger of identity theft, confirm that they take adequate measures to protect your data that they hold.

Scam of the day – May 18, 2012 – Skechers shoe scam

May 18, 2012 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Skechers is a shoe manufacturer that in 2010 alone made almost a billion dollars selling fitness shoes that it claimed could help people lose weight, strengthen and tone their buttocks, legs and abdominal muscles although there is no evidence that these expensive shoes could help achieve any of these goals.  Their advertising, including ads with celebrities such as Brooke Burke and Kim Kardashian, were quite convincing.  But it was a scam.  Forty-three states and the FTC brought legal action against Skechers that ended this week with a settlement under the terms of which Skechers is agreeing to pay 40 million dollars back to consumers.  As is quite common in settlements like this, Skechers agreed to pay the substantial financial penalty, denied any wrongdoing and promised not to do it again.

TIPS

Just because a celebrity endorses a particular product and the advertisements appear in legitimate media does not mean that the product is legitimate.  Always be skeptical of any weight loss or fitness product without evidence that offers an easy solution.  If you bought a pair of these shoes, it is still too early to get your refund and beware of scammers when you do try to get your money back.  There will be scammers trying to trick you into making payments to participate in the settlement.  For legitimate information about the settlement, you can call the FTC’s Skechers Hotline at 866-325-4186 or go to the FTC’s website at www.ftc.gov.  Once the real refund information is available, we will also have it here at www.scamicide.com so check out our scam of the day every day.

Scam of the day – May 16, 2012 – Deceptive website business scam

May 16, 2012 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

This week the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) obtained a court order halting North America Marketing and Associates LLC and a number of other associated individuals and companies from marketing a scam in which they promised to build websites for their victims that would permit them to earn commissions when online purchasers clicked through these websites to make purchases at major companies , such as Wal-Mart and Starbucks.  The companies also promised free marketing help which never happened.  Instead when the profits failed to materialize for the victims, the company just sold them more advertising.

TIPS

Always beware of get-rich-quick schemes, particularly ones that permit you to work from home with little effort.  Do your research about the companies and people offering you these business opportunities with the FTC, the Better Business Bureau and your state’s attorney general.  In this particular case you could also check with the companies, such as Wal-Mart that the scammers purported to have a relationship with.