ICFE eNEWS #11-35 - November 17th 2011

News from the Federal Trade Commission - November 2011

News from the Federal Trade Commission - November 2011

Tracked in A Flash

Tracked in a flash
An online ad network that uses cookies to track people’s browsing and deliver ads targeted to them has agreed to settle FTC charges over deceptive claims. A cookie is information saved by your web browser that can be used to customize your browsing experience — like saving your shopping cart on a website. But it also can be used to track your behavior across sites. According to the FTC, ScanScout  told people they could opt out of targeted ads by changing their computer’s browser settings to block cookies. But ScanScout used Flash cookies, which browser settings couldn’t block. Even after someone may have changed their privacy settings, the company still could collect the data and serve up targeted ads, the FTC says. For more on what cookies do and how you can control them, read OnGuardOnline.gov’s cookie Q & A. 

Medical Discount Scam

medical discount scam
Telemarketers who allegedly passed off bogus medical discount plans as health insurance have agreed to settle charges brought by the FTC and the Attorney General of Tennessee. According to the FTC, United States Benefits, LLC, claimed it was offering comprehensive health insurance to people who paid to enroll and then paid more in fact, up to $1,300 a month more. But instead of health insurance, which generally covers a broad range of services and pays health care providers for a portion of a patient’s medical bills, people ended up with memberships in a “benefits association” that gave them health care discounts worth little or nothing, the FTC says. Learn more about medical discount plans at ftc.gov/medicaldiscountscams.

Permission Slip

permission slip
The man behind Skid-e-kids, a social networking website that advertises itself as the “Facebook and Myspace for Kids,” has agreed to settle FTC charges that the site collected personal information from more than five thousand kids without getting their parent’s permission — a requirement under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, aka COPPA. This, despite the fact that the site’s privacy policy said the site required a parent’s email address and okay for a kid to register. Kids who signed up were able to provide personal information, including their date of birth, email address, first and last name, and city. Learn more about parents’ rights under COPPA in Kids’ Privacy.

Federal Job Info Is Free

federal job info is free
The FTC has stopped a nationwide scheme that allegedly tricked people into paying for information about federal jobs — information that’s available for free. According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants, doing business as American Data Group, put ads in local newspapers and on job websites announcing available government jobs. People who responded were told that, for a fee, they would get special access to federal government job listings and sample questions for a “Federal Employment Test,” the FTC says. But information about federal jobs is free at usajobs.gov, and most federal jobs don’t require a standardized test. Applying for federal jobs is free, too. Read Federal and Postal Job Scams: Tip-offs to Rip-offs to learn more.

Phony Threats

phony threats
At the request of the FTC, a U.S. district court has stopped a debt collection operation for allegedly making up lawsuits and threatening arrest if people didn’t pay debts that many of them didn’t owe. Doing business as Rincon Debt Management, the defendants called people and their employers, families, friends, and neighbors, and posed as process servers trying to deliver papers for phony lawsuits, or as attorneys or law office employees demanding court costs and legal fees, the FTC says. According to the FTC, the operation made at least $9.4 million since 2009. Learn more about dealing with debt collectors in Debt Collection FAQs: A Guide for Consumers. 

A Win for Home Buyers

a win for home buyers
The U.S. Supreme Court recently denied a request from Realcomp II Ltd., a Michigan-based realtors’ group, to reconsider an FTC finding that the group violated antitrust law by restricting the publication of certain low-cost real estate listings. The high court's denial leaves in place a Sixth Circuit Court ruling from April backing the FTC's decision that Realcomp's policy of blocking nontraditional, low-cost listings from being published through their realtor data service narrowed consumer choice and hampered homebuyers by improperly limiting access to information about those properties. 

"A consumer who has no problem revealing her browsing history to advertising companies targeting their pitches to her interests may feel very differently about the collection of that information if it’s going to the financial company deciding whether to give her a mortgage, or the health insurer setting her rates, or the prospective employer determining her career path."

Jon Leibowitz, FTC Chairman

‘Tis the Season

Ready or not, here it comes: The FTC has some advice for getting great products at great prices this holiday season. Some extra research really can really pay off. Find out how at OnGuardOnline.gov.

The Company Doth Dispute Too Much

The FTC has charged the operators of a credit repair company with making false statements to credit bureaus. Instead of disputing only inaccurate negative information in people’s credit reports, RMCN Credit Services Inc. disputed all negative information, even if it was true. The company also illegally collected fees from people in advance. To find out how to repair credit the right way, read Credit Repair: How to Help Yourself.

Refunds on the Way

The FTC is mailing 188 refund checks totaling nearly $19,000 to small businesses and non-profits defrauded by two telemarketing operations. Doing business as GoAm Media and The Official Yellow Pages, among other names, the telemarketers allegedly tricked organizations into paying for business directory listings they didn’t order.


                More >


  • Before you shop for the holidays, check out the FTC’s new online shopping infographic and send it to a friend: http://go.usa.gov/I5S
  • Pour a glass of milk and read more about cookies and the trail you leave when you browse online: http://go.usa.gov/I5h
  • In the military? Here are resources to help keep your personal data safe and your computers secure: http://go.usa.gov/XK0