June 2014

Driving a deal on a used set of wheels

With the average price of a new car idling at over $31,000, you might be thinking about buying used. After all, the average price for a used car from a dealership is about $18,000. You can buy used cars through a variety of commercial outlets: franchise and independent dealers, rental car companies, leasing companies, used car superstores, and online. Of course, you can buy directly from an individual, too, but that route comes with limited consumer protections. Here are a few tips from the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Cosmetics company crosses the line(s)

Check out ads for some skincare products and you might have to flip back to the cover to see if you’re reading a beauty magazine or a science text. A company may use technical terms and say its claims are “clinically proven,” but the Federal Trade Commission is concerned that’s not always the case.

Blog Topics: 
Health & Fitness

A scam-free vacation

Heading out of town? Make sure you come back with a nice post-vacation glow and not a case of identity theft. Here are some things you can do to lessen the chances you’ll be a victim.

Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

A call to collect, loaded with lies

The law is clear: debt collectors can’t use abusive, deceptive or unfair practices. Debt collectors who cross that line will end up in trouble with the FTC. That’s what happened to RTB Enterprises, Inc., a Houston company that collected debt as “Allied Data Corporation.” Collectors for Allied called people and pretended to be lawyers, made false threats to sue, and told lies to get people to pay unnecessary fees. Now Allied and its owner are the ones in court.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Librarians gather in Vegas, and the FTC is there

Next week, the city known for high-rolling gamblers, world famous entertainers, and The Mob Museum will host another fascinating and diverse group of people – librarians. Librarians serving students, scientists, historians, the military and communities across the country will be at the American Library Association’s 2014 Annual Conference at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

A “work at home” scheme that didn’t work

Claims you can “Make Big Money Working From Home!” can show up online, on utility poles in the neighborhood, even on your phone. Some promotions that sound promising are cover-ups for a con, like the sham payment processing business that took more than $5.4 million from people in less than a year. The FTC stopped the operation, and has reached a settlement with two individuals and six of the companies involved

Blog Topics: 
Jobs & Making Money

Home-based businesses: Do you really need these services?

The operators of a telemarketing scheme that allegedly took millions of dollars from people trying to start home-based businesses have agreed to settle charges brought by the FTC and the New York and Florida Attorneys General. As part of the settlement, the defendants are banned from selling business development services and work-at-home opportunities, and must surrender more than $15 million in assets.

Blog Topics: 
Jobs & Making Money

The latest scam targeting Spanish-speaking consumers

You know those commercials you see on national TV selling everything from clothing to electronics, even weight-loss products? It’s tempting to call the number on the screen, many of us do. When you place an order, you trust that the company you call will send quality products. But the latest scam targeting Spanish-speaking consumers shows that isn’t always what happens.

A handy consumer resource

How does a fixed rate mortgage compare to a variable rate mortgage?
What can you do about a store that doesn’t honor its refund policy?

What if you have a complaint about an insurance company?

The world can be a tricky place for consumers. It takes time and energy to research companies, compare products, and stay up-to-date on the latest scams. At times, it might feel like a full time job. The 2014 Consumer Action Handbook can help, and it’s now available to order or download for free.

It’s getting hot out there…

It’s plenty warm in much of the country, signaling the official start of the summer. Need some ideas on how to make the price tag linked to hot weather burn a little less? We’ve got some tips for you. 

Image of thermostat

“Green” lumber claims require sturdy support

People often rely on advertising to provide information about products. So regardless of the pitch, it’s critical that the information be accurate.

American Plastic Lumber (APL) advertised its plastic lumber products — including picnic tables, benches and trash cans — as being made almost completely of recycled plastic from items consumers already used, like milk jugs or detergent bottles. According to the FTC’s settlement with APL, the company’s claims that its lumber was made from plastic that consumers had used were false.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Credit repair operator’s bogus letter writing earns an “F”

RMCN Credit Services, Inc. — one of the nation’s largest credit repair companies — has agreed to settle charges that it lied to credit bureaus about information in people’s credit reports and illegally collected fees before performing any services.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

It’s Game Over for Gameover Zeus

The Department of Justice recently announced a multinational law enforcement effort to disrupt the Gameover Zeus Botnet.

What is it and why care about it? Gameover Zeus is malware designed to steal banking and other credentials from home and business computers.

Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

Weight loss: Fact vs. Fiction

Thinking about squeezing into that itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini — or baring your bod in that form-fitting suit? It’s beach season, and those quick weight loss products might seem appealing. You’ve probably seen the ads for pills, powders, patches, belts, and creams promising to melt the pounds away without any diet or exercise. But do those products really work?

Learn how to tell fact from fiction when it comes to weight loss products. Play the FTC’s new Weight Loss Challenge game, and have fun getting the skinny on safe and effective weight loss!

Weight loss challenge game

Blog Topics: 
Health & Fitness

Whoa there! Watch out for cell phone ‘credit muling’

Scammers have found yet another way to exploit people who need money fast, including cash-strapped college students: Pay them to open wireless contracts that include new smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices. The scammers target people to act as “credit mules.” That’s when a scammer uses someone else's identity, personal information and credit to get something of value. In this case, it’s a wireless device.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Mortgage ads without credibility: “ZIP. ZERO. NADA.”

If you’re looking for a mortgage, ads for “$0 money down” may be tempting. But if they hide fees or don’t disclose the true terms of the deal, they’re misleading, and they violate the law. In fact, the FTC recently settled charges with a Pennsylvania homebuilder that deceived consumers with ads for low-cost mortgages that hid fees and didn’t disclose vital information about the true cost of the mortgages.

Blog Topics: 
Homes & Mortgages

What’s in a health claim? Should be a healthy dose of proof

Name a common health concern, and there’s probably a dietary supplement that promises a solution. But when advertised promises aren’t backed up with adequate proof, the Federal Trade Commission sees a problem. The makers of the BrainStrong Adult dietary supplement agreed to settle FTC charges of deceptive advertising for making unsupported health claims about BrainStrong with DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid.

Blog Topics: 
Health & Fitness

A Word of Caution about World Cup Ticket Scams

There are only 7 days to go until the opening match of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and World Cup fever is in the air! In just a few days, soccer fans from around the world will descend on Brazil to watch their squad take the pitch to play “el jogo bonito” – the beautiful game.

Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who already scored tickets. But if you’re still looking to buy tickets to see your team play in Brazil, you might feel like it’s the 90th minute and you're down a goal. If you’re in the market for World Cup tickets, the Federal Trade Commission has some words of caution for you about ticket scams.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Building a Better Credit Report 2.0

If you’re shopping for a car, applying for a job, looking for a home, or simply getting your financial house in order, then it’s time to check your credit report.

The Federal Trade Commission recently updated one of its most popular consumer publications, Building a Better Credit Report.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

How do you spell debt relief? Certainly not DebtPro 123, LLC

If you’re looking for help to improve your financial situation, the last thing you need is a company that will take you out of the frying pan and into the fire. And yet that’s just what an Irvine, California-based debt relief operation did to some consumers.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit