ICFE eNEWS #17-07 - February 2017
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FTC Says Western Union Was Complicit in Scams
Western Union agreed to pay $586 million to settle FTC and Department of Justice charges that the company allowed scammers to use its money transfer system to collect money from their victims. The FTC says that the company's failures - including not taking effective action against complicit agents - resulted in hundreds of millions in fraudulent transfers since 2004. As part of this global settlement, the FTC also requires Western Union to implement an effective anti-fraud program. The Department of Justice and the FTC will use the $586 million payment to redress defrauded consumers.
Uber Exaggerated Earnings Claims, FTC Says
Uber agreed to pay $20 million to settle charges that it made false or unsupported claims about drivers' earning potential and the benefits of its Vehicle Solutions Program. According to the FTC, most of Uber's drivers were not likely to earn the claimed annual and hourly wages. The complaint also says Uber falsely claimed its Vehicle Solutions Program offered the "best financing options available." But drivers participating in the program paid more than the weekly advertised amounts and were offered higher interest rate loans than the industry average.
"Many consumers sign up to drive for Uber, but they shouldn't be taken for a ride about their earnings potential or the cost of financing a car through Uber. This settlement will put millions of dollars back in Uber drivers' pockets."
- Jessica Rich, Director, Bureau of Consumer Protection, FTC on the Uber settlement
FTC Cracks Down on Illegal Robocall Operations
The FTC shut down two massive robocall operations that were allegedly contacting people on the Do Not Call Registry. Justin Ramsey and others illegally blasted millions of robocalls in 2012 and 2013 to sell home security systems or generate leads, the FTC says. In one week alone, defendants allegedly made over 1.3 million robocalls - 80 percent to numbers on the Registry. In the case against Aaron Michael Jones and others, the FTC says defendants made billions of robocalls between 2009 and 2016 to numbers on the Registry, trying to sell a variety of goods and services.
Questcor to Settle FTC Antitrust Charges
The maker of a brand-name drug agreed to pay $100 million to settle FTC charges that it violated antitrust laws by acquiring the rights to a drug that threatened its monopoly over Acthar, a specialty drug used to treat infants. According to the FTC, Questcor Pharmaceuticals illegally maintained its monopoly when it acquired the rights to develop a synthetic version of the drug in the U.S., which stopped any other company from developing a lower-priced version that is available in other counties. Questcor took advantage of its monopoly to repeatedly raise the price of Acthar, from $40 per vial in 2001 to more than $34,000 per vial today - an 85,000 percent increase, according to the FTC. In addition to the monetary settlement, Questcor must grant a license to allow another company to develop a synthetic version.
Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week 2017
Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week (January 30-February 3) marked the start of tax season with activities focused on guarding against and recovering from tax identity theft. Working with the IRS, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the National Association of Tax Professionals, the AARP Fraud Watch Network, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Identity Theft Resource Center, the FTC hosted three webinars, reaching 800 participants, and Twitter chats reaching about 560,000 people.
Volkswagen to Repair, Buy Back Vehicles in Lawsuit
Volkswagen agreed to compensate people who purchased its 3.0-liter TDI diesel vehicles, which the company falsely claimed had low levels of harmful emissions. The FTC's settlement affects more than 77,000 cars made by VW, Audi, or Porsche. Volkswagen will compensate owners and lessees through repairs or buybacks, and additional payments.
National Consumer Protection Week is Almost Here
National Consumer Protection Week, March 5-11, 2017, is a time when consumer protection groups and others come together to help people understand their rights, make well-informed decisions about money, and spot scams. For resources to help plan an event or spread the word, visit ncpw.gov. Need consumer education materials for your event? Order free copies at ftc.gov/bulkorder.
FTC Stops Rental, "Free" Credit Report Scam
Credit Bureau Center LLC and three individuals lured consumers into signing up for a costly credit monitoring service with fake rental property ads and deceptive promises of "free" credit reports, according to charges brought by the FTC. A federal court temporarily stopped the operation, which has raked in millions of dollars.
Breathometer Marketers Settle FTC Charges
Marketers of Breathometer must pay full refunds to customers to settle FTC charges that its breathalyzer devices don't reliably calculate blood alcohol content. The company claimed that its "rigorous government lab-grade tests" proved the devices accurately measured blood alcohol content - implying they were tested in a manner consistent with government criteria. The FTC says that is false.
Stratford to Settle FTC Charges
Stratford Career Institute has agreed to pay $250,000 in partial refunds and notify current students of their right to cancel enrollment to settle FTC charges that it misled people about its high school program which failed to meet basic requirements set by most states.
Your Money Back
The FTC is mailing refunds totaling nearly $20 million to more than 617,000 T-Mobile customers who had unwanted third-party charges added to their mobile bills. These refunds are the result of a 2014 settlement with T-Mobile, which also involved all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as the Federal Communications Commission.
Broadway Global Refunds
The FTC is mailing a second round of checks to people who paid Broadway Global Master and In-Arabia Solutions for bogus payday loan debts. The 1,200 checks total almost $150,000.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Statement of Acting FTC Chairman Ohlhausen on Appointment by President Trump
FTC Releases New Report on Cross-Device Tracking
Mortgage Relief Defendant Banned from Debt Relief Business
If you want to be your own boss, fully vet the earnings claims of business opportunities. #getrichquickschemes
#Scams happen everywhere: online, when wiring money, in person. Keep up #w/the latest tricks of trade
If your mobile bill has strange charges, you may have been crammed. #mobilephonebill
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