August 2014

Drum roll, please…

The FTC recently attended DEF CON 22, and challenged the tech-savvy to help us zap “Rachel from Cardholder Services” and her robocall buddies. How? The agency hosted a contest to see who could develop a cutting-edge robocall honeypot — an information system designed to attract robocallers, and help researchers and investigators understand and minimize illegal calls. Today, the FTC announced the winners, who will receive a combined total of $12,000 in prizes.

Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

Can you spot a government imposter?

Your caller ID says “FTC” or “IRS,” and the phone number has the “202” Washington, DC area code. You might even look the number up and see that it’s a real government phone number.

But the person calling isn’t really from the FTC, IRS, or any other agency. It’s a government imposter whose goal is to convince you to send money before you figure out it’s a scam. The big giveaway? They want you to send money.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

A bossy business scam

You get an email from your boss’s boss requesting that you make a wire transfer to a new vendor. The email is marked urgent, so you ignore the 20 others that need your attention to take care of it. You handle wire transfers all the time, and you’ll definitely score points for responding so quickly, right? Maybe not.

In a recent scheme, sometimes called “masquerading,” a hacker poses as a senior executive and asks an employee to complete a financial transaction, like a confidential business investment or a payment to a vendor.  Once money is wired to a bogus account, it can be nearly impossible to recover.

Blog Topics: 
Jobs & Making Money

Debt relief scammers falsely claim government affiliation

What do you get when you mix a fraction of truth and a whole lot of lies? The FTC’s case against scammers who allegedly operated websites that promote a fictitious “Bill Payment Government Assistance Program” — a debt relief program claiming to pay consumers’ bills and repair their credit in exchange for an advance fee.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Wow! Your baby can read? Really?

All parents think their babies rock. But when a company says its product will help a kid master reading Harry Potter during the potty-training years, it needs solid science to support those claims.

The FTC says Dr. Robert Titzer and his company, Infant Learning, Inc., deceived consumers with ads for Your Baby Can Read, a set of DVDs, books and word cards that cost around $200. These ads and other promotional materials promoted the program’s ability to teach babies as young as nine months to read — with their skills advancing to books like Charlotte’s Web by ages three or four.

Blog Topics: 
Health & Fitness

Concussion claims

Concussions and their long-term effects on the brain are a hot topic — for good reason. If you play sports, a claim that a product could protect you from a concussion would be mighty compelling. And you’d expect it would be a claim you could trust, right?

Blog Topics: 
Health & Fitness

Order free consumer resources for your Hispanic Heritage Month celebration

The calendar says August: time for TV re-runs, back-to-school sales and the beginning of the futbol season. It’s also time to start planning for Hispanic Heritage Month. The FTC has free resources to help people learn their rights and avoid fraud.

Think it’s E-Z?

Love breezing through tollbooths with your E-Z Pass? A new scam is taking advantage of that.  

Here’s how it works: You get an email that appears to be from E-Z Pass. It has the E-Z Pass logo, and says you owe money for driving on a toll road. It also provides a link to click for your invoice. 

Guess what? The email isn’t from E-Z Pass. If you click on the link, the crooks running this scam may put malware on your machine. And if you respond to the email with your personal information, they’re likely to steal your identity.

Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

Scamming the families of migrant children

Scammers are contacting the families of children who have recently crossed the border into the U.S. When they call, the scammers:

  • speak Spanish
  • claim to be a charity worker, social worker, or from the government
  • know details about the children and their location, and indicate that the child is about to be released
  • ask for money - for travel or processing costs - to be sent through wire transfer, money order, or a debit from your bank account
Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

FTC to host workshop on big data and underserved communities

With today’s technology, organizations and companies can collect and analyze massive amounts of consumer data at lightning speed. What people search online, buy in stores, and do and say on social media is information that helps companies market more efficiently. This era of "big data" may hold lots of promise – but also some pitfalls.

Next month, the FTC will explore the use of big data for marketing and other purposes.

Big Data Logo

Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

Russian hackers might have your info — now what?

You may have heard about it in the news: reports that Russian hackers have stolen more than a billion unique username and password combinations, and more than 500 million email addresses, grabbed from thousands of websites. What should you do about it? We asked our resident expert, Maneesha Mithal, director of our Division of Privacy and Identity Protection.

Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

When is debt collection illegal?

If you’re behind on your bills, you’ll probably get calls from debt collectors. Their job is to get you to pay or make arrangements to pay. But any debt collector who harasses or threatens you is breaking the law. The Federal Trade Commission’s cases against Credit Smart and Regional Adjustment Bureau highlight the facts of life every consumer facing debt collection should know.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Relief from tax relief

The FTC is mailing refund checks totaling more than $16 million to 18,571 people who paid American Tax Relief, a company that claimed it could reduce their tax debts. Under the settlement, the defendants turned over millions of dollars in assets, and are banned from telemarketing and selling debt relief services.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Credit scores: The higher, the better

The World Cup may be over, but it’s still important to know the score…your credit score, that is.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Deploying Servicemembers: Consider an active duty alert

If you’re a servicemember getting ready to deploy, you most likely have a “To Do” list. FTC staff suggest your list include placing an active duty alert on your credit reports to help minimize your risk of identity theft.

Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

FTC sues scammer’s little helper

What do you call a company that helps scammers drain people’s accounts without authorization? At the FTC, we call them “Defendants.” Badum bum.

In fact, the Commission just charged three companies and four individuals with helping a fraudulent internet operation withdraw $26 million without the permission of the account holders.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Is your shopping buddy app-y?

A good shopping buddy has a sharp eye, knows the lay of the land, and can find the best deals on the products you want. A great shopping buddy might even share coupons with you.

Millions of people have found new shopping buddies — their smartphones. Shopping apps for use in brick-and-mortar stores have been downloaded millions of times.

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