February 2014

Welcome to NCPW 2014

Sunday marks the 16th annual National Consumer Protection Week. The Federal Trade Commission stands with 74 federal, state and local agencies and organizations to stand up for consumers by highlighting the very best in consumer education resources.

NCPW Banner

Random text? Wait, wait, don’t click that!

Here’s a tip that’s worth repeating:
Don’t click on a link in a text message you get on your phone that says you’ve won a terrific prize or a gift card. Don’t reply either. It’s probably a scam.
The Federal Trade Commission settled charges with a group of marketers that were part of a scheme that sent millions of unsolicited spam text messages promoting supposedly free merchandise like $1,000 gift cards for Wal-Mart and Best Buy.

Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

Identity theft tops list of consumer complaints for 14th consecutive year

The FTC announced its top 10 consumer complaints for 2013 today.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

FTC hosts Twitter chat to answer consumer questions

To highlight National Consumer Protection Week, the FTC will host a Twitter chat to answer consumers’ questions about common scams on Tuesday, March 4 at 2:00 p.m. EST.

Share the National Consumer Protection Week video

National Consumer Protection Week — March 2-8 this year — is a time to highlight free consumer resources that help people avoid scams, prevent identity theft and make more informed buying decisions.

Bad call, coach

Ever thought about responding to an enticing email or ad saying you could make money working from home? Then you might be interested to hear about the FTC’s case against the Coaching Department and its related companies, which the FTC alleges strung people along in a three-part scam that raked in tens of millions of dollars. For out-of-work people who got caught up in this business opportunity scam, it was a problem that went from bad to worse.

Blog Topics: 
Jobs & Making Money

‘Green’ lumber claims must stack up

When spring finally comes, you may want to spruce up your outdoor space with new furniture, fences or even a deck. And chances are you’ll rely on advertising for solid information about the products you’re going to buy.

The Federal Trade Commission recently settled allegations that N.E.W. Plastics Corp. made deceptive environmental benefit claims for its plastic lumber products. According to the FTC, N.E.W. Plastics exaggerated how much recycled plastic it used in some products, and falsely claimed all its products could be recycled.

Blog Topics: 
Homes & Mortgages

Another chapter in free grant fiction

Free grants for regular people? The chance at some string-free money might seem like a godsend. But promises of free grants are just another scam to get your money.

That was the case with Cash Grant Institute, the FTC says. In fact, the man behind the scam — Paul Navestad — was ordered to pay more than $20 million. But he didn’t. So today the FTC announced that a federal judge has ordered Navestad to be jailed until he pays up.

money in the shape of a present with a bow

 

Blog Topics: 
Jobs & Making Money

Light at the end of the tunnel . . .

Thanks to a request by the Federal Trade Commission, a federal court has ordered a light bulb company to ante up $21 million for refunds to consumers who bought their LED bulbs. At issue were misleading and exaggerated claims by a company called Lights of America Inc.

Blog Topics: 
Homes & Mortgages

Mystery shopper scam strikes again

It sounds pretty good: you walk into a store like any other customer. Then 20 minutes later, you’re done, ready to write a report that will earn you $50. And then you can do it again.

If Shopper Systems and some companies like it were to be believed, mystery shopping jobs like this were not only widely available, but could generate “insane profit.” All for just $2.95 for training and a week’s trial, then $49.95 a month after that for an up-to-date list of interested retailers — and you’d be free to cancel any time.

But they couldn’t be believed, the FTC says.

picture of shopping bags

Blog Topics: 
Jobs & Making Money

Back, back, back it up

You’ve heard it a million times: Don’t click on links in an email unless you know who sent it and what it is.

But sometimes the link in an email is just so darned convenient. For example, you ship a package to a friend, and then you get an email with a link to track the delivery. It’s safe to click that link, right?

Maybe not.

Cryptolocker Ransom Note

Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

Random text message? No real prize is waiting for you

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Don’t reply to — or click on — a link for a random text message you see on your phone saying that you’ve won a prize, gift card or an expensive electronic like an iPad. It’s most likely a scam.

Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

When your phone speaks volumes

People share information about themselves every day by using store loyalty cards, internet search engines, social networking sites, and online coupons. Many people — like the character in this video — decide that the benefits of these services are worth sharing some personal information with businesses, ad networks, and others.

But what if you shared information simply by walking through your local mall with your phone? What if businesses used your phone’s Wi-Fi signal to track your movements through their stores? And what if they did it without your knowledge or okay?  The FTC plans to raise those questions in a seminar on Mobile Device Tracking on February 19, 2014. It’s the first event of our Spring Privacy Series.

Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

Managing someone else’s money

A friend at the office was just asked to serve as the guardian of her aunt’s property and help manage her finances. That started a conversation around the lunch table: It turns out that several of us know people who have signed papers making them responsible for helping a friend or family member manage their money or property — that is, who serve as fiduciaries. 

Fiduciary responsibilities depend on the needs and circumstances of the person you’re helping and on state law, but all fiduciaries have basic legal duties. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau describes the duties in a new series of publications

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Fake funeral notice can be deadly — for your computer

Scam artists are forever trying to trick people into clicking on links that will download malware to their computers. But the latest scam takes the tricks to a new low. Scammers are sending bogus emails with the subject line "funeral notification." The message appears to be from a legitimate funeral home, offers condolences, and invites you to click on a link for more information about the upcoming "celebration of your friend’s life service." But instead of sending you to the funeral home's website, the link sends you to a foreign domain where the scammers download malware to your computer.

Malware, short for “malicious software," includes viruses and spyware that get installed on your computer without your consent. These programs can cause your device to crash and can be used to monitor and control your online activity. Criminals use malware to steal personal information, send spam, and commit fraud.

Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

It might not be you they’re after

If you’re lookin’ for love (sometimes in all the wrong places), chances are you’ll wind up on an online dating site at some point. Those who use dating sites can attest: you’ll meet some nice people there – and you’ll probably meet some weird people, too. You’ll have good dates and bad (and great and awful). And, unfortunately, as some people can attest, you might just meet some scammers.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Busted flat, but not in Baton Rouge

As an agency with civil law enforcement authority, the FTC likes a criminal bust as much as anyone. And, just last month, our colleagues at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) delivered a good one. Listen to this.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Reset a resolution for Safer Internet Day

It’s been 42 days since New Year’s. Have you broken any resolutions? Safer Internet Day is the perfect day for a “replacement” resolution.

Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

“One-ring” cell phone scam can ding your wallet

Who’s calling now? That number doesn’t ring a bell. Hold the phone, says the Federal Trade Commission. You could be a potential victim of the growing "one-ring” cell phone scam.

 

Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

Are you and your Valentine financially compatible?

The most romantic day of the year is almost here. And while you’re daydreaming about the great chemistry between you and your Valentine, you also might think about whether you’re a financially compatible couple.

So how can you tell if you’ve got fiscal attraction? Play our quiz to check out how your significant other stacks up in the financial department.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Phantom debts and fake collection notices

Imagine getting an official-looking letter — with a seal, signed by a judge — that says you owe a lot of money for an unpaid payday loan. Awfully intimidating, right? Especially if it included your correct name, address, and maybe even your Social Security number.

In a new twist on an old scam, criminals are impersonating law firms, judges, and court officials. They send out scary letters and make threatening phone calls about phantom debts to try to convince people to send them money.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

A text message that’s no prize

A free iPad?! A $1,000 gift card? And all for clicking on a “YOU HAVE BEEN SELECTED FOR A PRIZE” text message you got out of the blue?

Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

When a Business Doesn’t Protect Your Information

Say someone searched your name online. What do you think they’d find? What if some clicking brought them to things like your medical history, notes from psychiatric sessions or kids’ medical exams, or your Social Security and driver’s license number?

If you don’t like the sound of that, you might be interested to know that the FTC has announced a settlement with GMR Transcription Services, a company that promised “Security Measures to Protect Your Confidentiality,” for failing to protect personal information.

Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity