December 2015

Top 10 consumer protection blog posts of the year

It’s time to dust off the red carpet—actually, it’s more of a government-issued gray, but we’re dusting it off nonetheless—to bring you our top 10 consumer blog posts of the year.

Having charitable thoughts? Give thoughtfully!

As the year comes to a close, you might be getting lots of requests for charitable donations. If a cause tugs at your heartstrings, but the charity is unfamiliar to you, take a few minutes – and a few steps – before giving.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Kicking Back for the New Year? Just Don’t Serve Teens Alcohol.

We all kick back a little during the holidays to enjoy fun times with family and friends. But having fun doesn’t mean relaxing the rules – especially when it comes to teens and alcohol. If you’re throwing a New Year’s party – or attending one – keep the celebrations safe by keeping an eye on people under the age of 21.

We Don't Serve Teen's Logo

Blog Topics: 
Health & Fitness

Checking in with the older adults in your life

Chances are, the older people in your life are wise to scams – and may even have taught you how to spot and avoid them. But, if you’re spending time together over the holidays, here are some things you can do to make sure that your friend or loved one is safe from a fraudster’s grasp.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

What’s worse than stale coffee? Stale Java.

If you own a computer, you’ve probably seen this message before: Java Update Available. You know that leaving outdated software on your computer can make it more vulnerable to viruses and malware, so you’ve always agreed to the updates. Unfortunately, the FTC says keeping Java updated didn’t necessarily keep it secure.

Shopping for cash?

Who isn’t looking for a little extra cash at the holidays? An offer for an easy – and fun – job could seem like just what you need. That’s the email offer I got from a major retailer (or so it said) last week:

“Holidays are coming we need you in our team. We are hiring holiday shoppers. No experience needed, just an honest opinion. The job requires you to shop and evaluate our employees. You will get paid to shop and keep the products.”

While there are legit mystery shopper jobs out there, we almost never see them in offers that show up in your inbox. Or in the classified ads. Or on telephone poles. Or on your phone. So, before you apply, here are some things to think about.

LifeLock agrees to pay $100 million for allegedly violating FTC order

Have you ever wondered what happens when a company is charged with violating a settlement order with the FTC? Well, ya got trouble. I mean trouble with a capital “T”. And for LifeLock, that trouble comes partly in the form of full refunds of up to $100 million for consumers affected by its alleged order violations.

Companies pay for collecting kids’ information without permission

As a parent, you have control over the personal information companies collect online from your kids under 13. This includes your child’s name, address, phone number, email address, and information the companies can use to track your child’s online activities. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) gives you tools to do that. If a site or service is covered by COPPA, it has to get your permission before collecting personal information from your child and it has to honor your choices about how that information is used.

NCPW 2016 is March 6-12 — but consumer savvy is an everyday thing

What’s going on with you?

Concerned about data breaches and identity theft? Living on your own for the first time and thinking about budgeting, credit, renting an apartment or buying a car? Were you the victim of a scam? Misled by false advertising claims? Or do you just want to get smarter about products and services you’re considering?

Whatever’s happening in your world, when it comes to protecting your money and guarding your information, National Consumer Protection Week is a great time to get the best consumer resources from federal, state and local agencies and consumer advocacy groups across the nation. NCPW 2016 is March 6-12.

What have we done for you lately?

If you’re a regular reader here, you might know the FTC gets more complaints about debt collection than about any other industry. And you might have read a thing or two about what we do about debt collection. Like the giant law enforcement sweep last month, where 70 partners nationwide brought more than 115 cases against bad debt collectors. Or the cases we bring ourselves – and the refunds we’ve gotten for people. Or the nearly 100 debt collectors we’ve banned from the industry.

These efforts have stopped a lot of bad guys: put them out of business, taken the cars and houses they bought with the money they stole, and helped clean up the debt collection industry. But your reports of ongoing bad behavior tell us there’s more to do. So this year, we decided to add a new approach into the mix.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Not thinking about your 2016 tax return yet? Identity thieves are.

Here’s a thought to warm the Grinch’s heart: while you’re focused on the holiday season, identity thieves are thinking about how to steal your information. One of the ways they try to do that is by filing a fake tax return using your information — like your Social Security number — to get a tax refund. You may only find out about it when you get a letter from the IRS. Or when you file your return, only to hear from the IRS that someone else already did. That’s tax identity theft, a problem we hear more about each year.

Your route to security

Setting up your home network? To keep it secure, don’t forget about your router.

And then a light bulb went off in your head

The days are suddenly getting shorter and you want to add some brightness without spinning the electricity meter like a dreidel.  But you haven’t bought light bulbs in a very long time and the light bulb aisle at the store seems, well, different.

As it turns out, things have changed. Shopping for light bulbs isn’t what you’re used to, and might not feel as simple. The good news is that bulbs are more efficient than ever.  And, when it comes to brightness, it’s not about wattage anymore – it’s about “lumens.” But the other good news? Here’s a quick video to, ahem, shine a light on shopping for the right light bulbs for you.

Light bulb video

Blog Topics: 
Homes & Mortgages

Is that gift really “green”? What to know about “bamboo”

Looking to be eco-friendly as you shop this holiday season? Maybe it’s bamboo socks from J.C. Penney or as stocking stuffers. Or those cute bamboo baby swaddles from buybuy BABY for your newborn niece. For your next holiday party, maybe those silky bamboo napkins from Bed Bath & Beyond, or that soft bamboo dress you’ve been eyeing from Nordstrom.

But wait a second. The FTC recently sued those retailers for selling products labeled or advertised as “bamboo.” Why? Because those products were actually made of rayon, according to the FTC, and calling them bamboo is wrong — and misleading.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Don’t recognize that debt? Here’s what to do.

Debt collectors make up to one billion contacts with consumers each year. It’s their job to make sure they’re collecting from the right people. But sometimes, they reach the wrong person. Other times, they’re actually part of a fake debt collection scam. 

If you don’t recognize a debt, here’s what you can do.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Veterans and identity theft Twitter chat

You probably know a few veterans. You might even be a vet yourself. If so, you’ll want to get some valuable tips from the FTC’s Military Consumer campaign, the Department of Veteran Affairs and the US Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). We’re joining forces for a Twitter chat about how vets can protect themselves against identity theft and IRS imposter scams – and how to use to recover from this crime. Follow @MilConsumer and be part of the conversation at #VeteranIDTheft tomorrow, Tuesday, December 8 at 1:00 pm (ET).

Making a budget, checking it twice...

In case you hadn’t noticed, the holidays are here. In other words, “Attention holiday shoppers: start your search engines!” But wouldn’t it be nice to know how much gas you’ve got in the tank before you’re off to the races? 

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Sound financial planning begins with a sensible budget.  Many of us welcome the New Year realizing we’ve spent more than we can afford. So why not take a quick look at our brief video about staying within a budget before you start spending?

Budget video

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Is that online review true? Watch this video.

If you’re like me, you probably look up online reviews before you go holiday shopping, make vacation plans, or even hire a plumber.

But did you know that some people are paid to say good things about a company, product, or service? That means you can’t always know if someone is giving a true and impartial opinion.

online reviews and recommendations video

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Copper clothing to the rescue?

Could what you wear today be the difference between a day of severe pain and one of total relief?

According to Tommie Copper infomercials, TV spots, YouTube videos, print ads, and brochures, wearing the company’s copper-infused compression garments could relieve severe pain and inflammation — whether it’s chronic joint pain, or pain caused by diseases like multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. 

Unfortunately, the FTC says, Tommie Copper and its founder didn’t have the science to back up those claims.

Blog Topics: 
Health & Fitness