May 2015

Paying your friends through an app? Read this.

Imagine you’re at a restaurant with your friend. She pays the check, and says you can pay her back. Do you:
a) write an IOU on a napkin?
b) pull out a wad of cash and give her exact change?
c) take out your phone and pay her through a mobile payment app?

If you answered c), this post is for you.

Like apps that let you pay at stores with your phone, “peer-to-peer” payment services can be a convenient way to pay friends. But before you use one — or use one again — check the app’s settings for available security features.

Older adults get into the act online

As May ends, we’re wrapping up Older Americans Month, with its theme “get into the act.” But it’s not too late for older Americans to get into the act online. If you’re an older adult who’s active online (or maybe you know one), here are some online safety tips to share. 

Your best bet for pet meds

Americans love their pets – 65% of households have one. But when Fido or Felix gets sick, most pet owners end up paying out-of-pocket for medications, and few people have pet health insurance that covers this expense. This is an important economic issue for consumers, so the FTC hosted a public workshop and gathered information about the sale of pet medications. Here are some of the findings.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Lessons learned

Getting a professional certification or earning your degree can help move your career to the next level. But some for-profit schools promise a lot more than they can deliver, leaving you on the hook to pay for schooling but not qualified to do the job you paid to train for. To stop those unsupported – and sometimes outright false – promises, the FTC brought charges against Professional Career Development Institute. You may know them as Ashworth College. The FTC announced today that Ashworth settled the FTC’s charges that they misrepresented what their programs could do for students.

Blog Topics: 
Jobs & Making Money

Sham charities inflate gift-in-kind numbers to deceive donors

Charities rely on generous donations – cash and gifts-in-kind – to help people in your community, across the country, and around the world. Gifts-in-kind are non-cash donations – things like food, clothing, equipment and medical supplies.

Normally, charities give those gifts directly to people in need, or to other charities for redistribution. But a recent complaint against four sham charities by the FTC and law enforcement partners in every state and the District of Columbia shows that’s not always what happens.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Shutting down a sweepstakes scam that sought out seniors

In the past few years, you’ve heard warnings from us about different scams that offered prizes like money, jewelry, or vacations – all in exchange for a fee. And we’ve heard from you to the tune of more than a quarter of a million complaints about prize and sweepstakes scams in the last three years. Thanks in part to those complaints, today the FTC put a stop to a sweepstakes scam targeting older people.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Can debt collectors message you for money?

It could start with an unexpected text message or email like this:

ALERT! YOUR PAYMENT FOR $$
IS SCHEDULED FOR 6/19/15
CALL XXX-XXX-XXXX

Hold on. The message is a lie. You don’t have payment arrangements with anyone. So who’s messaging you for money?

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Did you get a consumer complaint notification from the FTC? It’s a scam.

Thanks to emails and calls from people who sensed something wasn’t right, we’ve heard that an FTC imposter scam we’ve written about before is back.

The email tells you there’s a complaint against your business, and wants you to click on a link. Here’s what one of the scammy emails said:

Sham charity operators turn the Big C into a Big Con

If you know someone with cancer, you may have considered donating to a cancer-related charity. Many legitimate charities use donations to find treatments and cures. Some support patients and families. But there also are bogus charities that lie, exploit your generosity, and use donations to help their managers, their friends, and their families, not the causes described to donors.4 Sham cancer charities: $187 million in donations

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Wipes in pipes cause clogs and gripes

For most people, plumbing problems rank right up there with root canals on the list of “experiences to avoid.” We’re careful about what we flush. We may rely on ads or product labels for information about what’s safe to put in the system, so it’s important those are accurate. According to the FTC, Nice-Pak Products lacked proof to support its claims that its wipes were safe for sewer and septic systems. Under a proposed settlement, the company can’t say the wipes are safe to flush unless it has new tests proving they are.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Recovering from identity theft is easier with a plan

Hollywood might have you believe that identity theft means a dozen maxed out credit cards, a warrant for your arrest, and a bill for a spa appointment 2,000 miles away. But in real life, identity theft can be sneakier.

It might start with a small credit card charge you don’t recognize. Or a strange new account that shows up on your credit report. Or a letter from the IRS that says you already filed taxes this year. Only you didn’t.

Wash that hype right outta your hair

Most of us know better than to seek the Fountain of Youth, take a sip from it, and expect to reverse the signs of aging. That’s called a myth.

When ads claim a product will permanently remove or prevent the growth of gray hair, but the claim isn’t backed by science, the FTC calls that deception – and we hold companies accountable for it.

Blog Topics: 
Health & Fitness

Attention Women Over 40: Claims may slim your wallet, not your waist

Weight gain and stubborn belly fat: the bane of many middle-aged women. But what if there were a clinically-proven supplement that could help you lose substantial weight, reduce that pouch, and increase your metabolism? Well, one company claimed that’s just what they were offering. Only one problem, says the FTC: the company doesn’t have the evidence to support its claims.

Blog Topics: 
Health & Fitness

Get into the act and pass it on

 Get into the act — that’s the theme for Older Americans Month this May. Wondering how you can get into the act in your community? Try using Pass it On — the FTC’s consumer education materials designed to start older adults talking about scams. 

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

International collaboration to protect children’s privacy

The Federal Trade Commission and 27 members of the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN), a group of privacy enforcement agencies around the world, are marshaling resources to protect the privacy of children online.

A friendly reminder

Just a friendly reminder...if you haven’t changed your passwords in a while, today is a great day to do it. Why? Because it’s Password Day!

A Navajo Nation roundtable

At the FTC we want to serve every community, and we work to educate and protect consumers everywhere. For that reason, we were delighted to be invited by the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission to talk consumer issues with members of one of our nation’s oldest communities: the Navajo Nation.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Spammy, phony weight loss promises

You get an email from a friend, with a link and a message: “Hi! Oprah says it’s excellent!” But did your friend really send this message? And what’s so excellent?

Millions of people got emails like this one, but not from their friends. Instead, according to the FTC, marketers hired by Sale Slash sent spam emails from hacked email and social media accounts. Why? To trick people into thinking the messages came from a friend. And, of course, to sell stuff.

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Privacy matters

Did you know that May 3-9, 2015 is Privacy Awareness Week? It’s an initiative of the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities Forum.

Privacy Awareness Week highlights the importance of protecting your personal information. This year’s theme is Privacy Matters — a message we promote year-round at the FTC. Whether you’re at home, work, school, or a doctor’s office — there are things you can do to help keep your information private and safe.

Privacy matters image

A pack rat’s guide to shredding

Is your home a pack rat’s paradise? You’re not alone.

As you start spring cleaning, are you wondering what to keep and what to shred? We’ve looked at experts’ advice and compiled this summary of how long they recommend keeping certain documents. Put our handy graphic near your shredder as a guide. 

When should I shred it?