Associate Director, Division of Marketing Practices, FTC
The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced the extradition of six Nigerian nationals from South Africa to Mississippi to face a nine-count federal indictment for various Internet frauds. These six people join 15 others who were previously charged with, among other things, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, identity theft, and money laundering.
What were the scams? According to the indictment, the defendants found and reached out to their potential victims through online dating websites and work-at-home opportunities.
We know scammers are out there, impersonating the authorities and conjuring up different schemes to fool people into giving them money. They might say they’re calling from the IRS because you owe taxes. Or claim they’re from the FTC, calling to help you recover money lost to a scammer. But now we’re hearing about a new ploy: scammers are impersonating the police! That takes some chutzpah, huh? Here’s how it works.
At the Oscars, the best acceptance speeches are those with the story behind the thank you. Which is why, when we’re thanking all the legal services attorneys we get to work with, I’m going to tell you a few stories, rather than simply list the dozens of names.
In 2010, the FTC launched a Legal Services Collaboration: holding Common Ground conferences to bring together law enforcement and legal services; rethinking our consumer education to better serve legal services clients; talking regularly with our legal services colleagues – and getting their case referrals and help.
Not everyone using online dating sites is looking for love. Scammers create fake online profiles using photos of other people — even stolen pictures of real military personnel. They profess their love quickly. And they tug at your heartstrings with made-up stories about how they need money — for emergencies, hospital bills, or travel. Why all of the tricks? They’re looking to steal your money.
Whether you travel a lot or just a little, you’ve probably gone online to book a hotel stay. Sometimes you might find a travel comparison site gets you the best deal. Other times, you might book directly at a hotel’s website — maybe to earn points for the company’s reward program, or because you have some special requests for your stay.
For those times you’re looking to book directly with a hotel, make sure that’s what you’re doing. The FTC has heard from people who searched online and thought they were booking on a hotel website, only to find they’d unknowingly been doing business with someone else.
Counsel, FTC's Division of Consumer and Business Education
School’s out and your kids have days overflowing with fun and free time. You might be at the amusement park concessions while they’re riding the SuperVomitron Adventure Ride. Or maybe they’re at the pool bellyflopping with friends. Whatever the kids are up to, many parents like being able to stay in constant contact by getting them a mobile phone. If so, it’s time to teach them to think about safety and responsibility when using it.
My grandma kept an eye out for cheaters. (No, not that kind.) Back in the day, if a salesman knocked on her front door, she waved them off. Before caller ID, she hung up on telemarketers. But a call from a phony debt collector? She might have fallen for that one. Especially if the debt collector said she was responsible for her grandchild’s debt.
In the largest FTC debt collection refund program to date, the FTC is returning nearly $4 million to people who were harassed by Asset & Capital Management Group, a debt collection business that used dozens of fake names.
It’s no secret that servicemembers and their families face particular challenges and stresses. Scam artists are skilled at knowing exactly how to exploit those challenges. They’ll lie or try any trickery to make a grab for a servicemember’s cash. That’s why the FTC has teamed up with the Department of Defense, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs, and Military Saves on Military Consumer — a campaign to empower military and veteran communities with tips and tools to be informed consumers.
With aging, stress and being just plain busy, you might sometimes feel like you’re forgetting more things than you used to. So when an ad suggests a pill can reverse 10 to 15 years of memory loss, you might be tempted to buy it.
You may want to rethink that — even if the ad includes supposed backing by scientists, statistics and satisfied customers.