July 2014

Lost your wallet? Here’s what to do

With vacation season in full swing, it’s easier than ever to lose track of a wallet in a winding airport security line, or on a crowded, sunbaked beach. Rather than spiraling into a panic about your wallet taking a vacation of its own, here are some steps to take right away.

Image of credit and debit cards

Court tells tech support scammers to pay up

A U.S. District Court recently ordered the operators of several international tech support scams to pay more than $5.1 million for convincing people that their computers were riddled with viruses and then charging for bogus support services.

We’ve written before about tech support scammers. They call and claim to work for well-known companies like Microsoft, Norton or McAfee. They say your computer is infected with malware and then ask for remote access so they can “fix” it. Or they place ads in online search results to trick you into calling them.

computer and phone

Did you get a call from area code (876)?

Ring, ring… you get a call from a number starting with area code (876). They call to say you’ve won the “Mega Millions” Jamaican lottery, and you could even win a car! All you have to do is pay a few thousand bucks in taxes or fees, and the big jackpot is yours. That’s great news, right? Wrong.

Don’t send money to anyone who claims to have a prize for you. Odds are good that it’s a scam. And just so you know, playing a foreign lottery is against federal law.

Image of phone
 

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

How to say scram to crammed charges on your mobile bill

If you are budget-conscious, you’re probably great at tracking where your money goes every month. You pore over receipts, take advantage of sales, and even research prices on big-ticket items to save the most. So how often do you review your mobile phone bill for fraudulent charges that could be draining your wallet?

Pension advances come at a very steep price

If you’re retired and trying to make ends meet, here’s a pitch that might catch your interest: “Convert tomorrow’s pension checks into hard cash today.” Sound tempting? Think again.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

New report highlights recommendations to protect consumers from mobile cramming

Chances are you have a mobile phone – according to a Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project survey, almost 90 percent of us do. And like most of us, you may not pore over every line on your monthly phone bill to understand what you are really paying for. Too bad, because mobile cramming –  adding charges to mobile bills that people didn’t authorize or know about – is an illegal practice – and it has become practically epidemic, according to the FTC. 

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Weight loss double-talk

Many people would give just about anything to eat like a Sumo wrestler, yet have the body of a tennis pro. And, unfortunately, many people have — given their money, that is — for pills and products falsely promising significant weight loss with little or no effort.

Blog Topics: 
Health & Fitness

Timeshare resellers & quick-money promises

Con artists are adept at selling — or selling you on  — just about anything. When it comes to timeshare resale services, they may claim to have a buyer for your property. Or that they can sell your place quickly and for a good price. But first, you’ll have to pay a hefty fee.

Blog Topics: 
Homes & Mortgages

Ticket resellers settle misleading advertising charges

If you’re looking to score tickets for a sporting event, concert, play, or other entertainment event, you might start with the venue that’s hosting the event, right? Well, that’s what some consumers thought they were doing. But looks can be deceiving.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Six things you can do to avoid a mortgage mis-modification

If you’re a homeowner who is struggling to pay the mortgage, a website, phone call or mailer that offers to reduce your mortgage payment by several hundred dollars a month sounds awfully tempting. Unfortunately, it could turn out to be just plain awful.

Today, the FTC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced Operation Mortgage Mis-Modification, a group of lawsuits that charged companies with taking hundreds — sometimes thousands — of dollars for loan modifications, and then leaving homeowners worse off.

mortgage statement and calculator

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Stop a debt collector’s empty threats

Calls from debt collectors can add to the stress of having financial problems. When those calls involve harassment, threats and intimidation, the situation can get even worse — especially if you don’t know your rights.

The FTC enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) to protect consumers from deceptive, abusive, or unfair debt collection tactics. On June 23, 2014, the FTC filed a joint complaint with the State of New York against National Check Registry for violating the FDCPA by allegedly using outrageous and intimidating methods to get people to pay debts immediately — often debts that were in dispute.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

A contest to combat robocalls

“Rachel from Cardholder Services” is one of the most notorious — and most annoying — robocallers ever. Advances in technology have made it cheap and easy for Rachel and her buddies to send out thousands of calls every minute — and to spoof caller ID information, hiding their true location and identity. It’s the perfect environment for telephone spam.

Because technology is the crux of the problem, the FTC is tapping one of the world’s largest hacking conferences for some high-caliber technical support. The FTC is sponsoring a contest at DEF CON 22 in Las Vegas, Aug. 7-10, to inspire innovative tech solutions in the fight against illegal robocalls.

Zapping Rachel from Cardholder Services

Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

Promises here today, gone tomorrow

We’ve all probably seen ads online, on TV, and in newpapers: “Job placement – Guaranteed!” “Interview Today. Start Tomorrow.” When we’re out of work, an ad promising a job starts to look really good. But what happens if we follow through with a click or a call? Do we get that "guaranteed" job?

Blog Topics: 
Jobs & Making Money

The business directory scam strikes again

You work at a small business, nonprofit, church or local government agency, and you get a call:  Someone wants you to confirm your contact information for a directory. Sure, no problem.   

But there is a problem:  Soon, you’re opening an invoice for hundreds of dollars for a listing in an online business directory — something you never asked for or wanted.

Blog Topics: 
Jobs & Making Money

Government imposters’ tricks revealed in full color

As part of our ongoing effort to raise awareness about scams targeting the Latino community, we’ve developed a new publication about government imposter scams. Impostores del Gobierno is our first Spanish-language “fotonovela” and we hope we can count on you to help us distribute it.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Debt Collection & the Latino Community: October 23 Roundtable in Long Beach, CA

On October 23rd, 2014, staff from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will be at The Pointe Conference Center at California State University in Long Beach to co-host a roundtable featuring consumer advocates, industry leaders, state and federal regulators and academics. “Debt Collection & the Latino Community” will examine debt collection issues pertaining to Latino consumers who have limited English proficiency.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

A juice with prickly claims

A wellness drink derived from the “prickly pear” cactus fruit that does wonders for your skin, relieves inflammation, improves breathing, and reduces swelling of your joints and muscles? If only there were scientific studies to back up those claims for this tasty concoction, called Nopalea.

Blog Topics: 
Health & Fitness

Military Consumer Protection Day partners to host Twitter chat

To help celebrate the second annual MCPD, MilitarySaves, the Department of Defense, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission will host a town hall/Twitter chat at 2  p.m. EST, July 16.

Visit the FTC at the NCLR Annual Conference in Los Angeles

The FTC is going to sunny California!

If you are near Los Angeles July 19 – 22, visit the FTC booth at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) annual conference! I’ll be there, with other bilingual staffers, to answer your questions relating to frauds and scams, as well as how to file a complaint.

Playing with Fire

Ready for a discussion that’s likely to upset the whole family? First, explain these concepts to your four-year-old: online shopping accounts that are linked to your credit card, unlimited in-app charges, and store policies that state all sales final. Then, explain how the virtual coins your child uses in a game can cost real money charged instantly to your account. Sounds like fun, right?

The experience has been anything but fun for parents whose children racked up hundreds of dollars playing “free” games on the Kindle Fire.

kids playing on tablet

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Military consumers: Salutes to you!

Frequent relocation, separation from family and friends, the stresses of deployment and a steady paycheck from Uncle Sam can make military households an attractive target for scam artists. That’s why the Department of Defense, the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs, and Military Saves have joined to sponsor Military Consumer — a campaign to empower military and veteran communities with tips and tools to be informed consumers. 

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

A new kind of low

We’ve written about notarios and scams in the immigration process time and time and time again. The story is nearly always along these lines:

  • Person needs immigration help.
  • Person finds “help” from someone claiming to be qualified – a notario, for example.
  • Person loses a whole lot of money – and possibly the chance to immigrate – because the notario charged them but did nothing. Or charged them and did everything wrong.

Unfortunately, it’s a story we hear often from legal services, attorneys general, other federal agencies, and community partners across the country.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Hiding in plain sight?

Could your mobile carrier be hiding third-party charges on your phone bill that you never authorized? The FTC has alleged that T-Mobile has done just that.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Is that debt collector for real?

It’s stressful enough getting calls from debt collectors for bills you actually owe. But if you’ve ever been harassed and threatened for debts you’ve never even heard about, let alone accrued, it can be downright harrowing – and quite possibly illegal.

Today, the FTC announced that a U.S. district court has temporarily halted a Georgia-based operation from using deception and threats to collect millions in phantom payday loan “debts.”  The FTC says Williams, Scott & Associates and company president John Williams lied and threatened people to pay on debts they didn’t owe – or debts the company didn’t have the authority to collect.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

The hazards of hoteling

Booking a hotel stay for a summer vacation? Before you check in, check out how scammers try to take advantage of travelers.