ICFE eNEWS #17-12 - March 30th 2017
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VIZIO Sued for Secretly Collecting and Sharing Viewer Data
VIZIO, Inc. agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle charges brought by the FTC and the New Jersey Attorney General's Office that it collected data without consumers' knowledge or consent. VIZIO, among the world's largest makers of "smart" televisions, allegedly installed software on its TVs to collect viewing data on 11 million consumers. The software captured what people were watching, and VIZIO allegedly attached viewers' sex, age, income, and other demographic information to that data to sell to third parties for targeted advertising purposes.
Debt Collector to Pay $700,000 for Unlawful Calls
The FTC says GC Services broke the law by using overly aggressive tactics to find student loan debtors. According to the case, callers from GC Services left messages illegally disclosing information about a person's debt — calling people multiple times, even after being told they had the wrong number. The company settled these charges by agreeing to pay a civil penalty of $700,000 and to stop their violations of the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.
FTC Stops Scam Money Mule in His Tracks
The FTC banned a Florida man from helping telemarketers in India defraud cash-strapped American consumers. According to the case, telemarketers bilked more than $1.5 million from about 3,000 people, often by posing as representatives of the U.S. government to get people to pay taxes and fees they did not owe. When people wired money to pay the fake debts, Treuhaft and his company allegedly paid "runners" or "mules" to collect it at money wiring locations. The FTC says Treuhaft told runners to pick up payments immediately so people would not have time to cancel the money transfer.
FTC, Maine AG Shut Down Online Supplement Sellers
Several online dietary supplement marketers will settle charges that they financially harmed consumers using deceptive advertising tactics. The FTC and the Maine Attorney General say the companies used radio infomercials disguised as real talk shows, as well as ads featuring made-up experts and endorsers, to sell supplements claiming to improve memory and reduce body pain substantially. Several of the nine defendants allegedly lured buyers in with offers of "free trials" and money-back "guarantees" without disclosing conditions that actually cost people lots of money. One of the settlements imposes a $6.5 million judgement and requires defendants to stop their deceptive acts.
"Our latest data book shows that imposter scams are a serious and growing problem, and you can be sure that the FTC will use all the tools at its disposal to address it. That includes law enforcement actions against scammers and consumer education to help consumers avoid losing money."
- Thomas Pahl, Acting Director, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection
FTC Says Company Stalled Generic Release of Drug
The FTC charged drug-maker Shire ViroPharma Inc. with waging a campaign of serial, repetitive, and unsupported filings to delay the FDA's approval of generic Vancocin capsules. According to the FTC, ViroPharma has a monopoly over Vancocin capsules, which are used to treat C. difficile-associated diarrhea, a sometimes life-threatening bacterial infection. The FTC alleges that ViroPharma's actions have caused consumers and other purchasers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars more for their medication. The case is pending in federal court.
FTC Releases 2016's Top Consumer Complaints
For the first time, imposter scams surpassed identity theft on the FTC's list of consumer complaints in 2016, coming in second and third, respectively. Debt collection ranked first again this year.
Covert Funeral Home Investigations Reveal Violations
Undercover FTC investigators working in nine states found 31 of the 133 funeral homes they visited did not disclose pricing information, as the FTC's Funeral Rule requires. The rule helps ensure consumers can compare prices and only buy the goods and services they want when making funeral arrangements.
Final Defendant in Mortgage Relief Case Settles
To settle FTC charges, the final defendant in an alleged mortgage relief scam is banned from selling mortgage or debt relief services. The defendant allegedly claimed he could lower mortgage payments or prevent foreclosure, lied about his affiliations, and illegally charged advance fees. The court also imposed a nearly $1.7 million judgement.
High School Diploma Mills Settle FTC Charges
Two online "high schools" agreed to settle charges that they claimed to offer valid diplomas that were actually worthless pieces of paper. The FTC says people discovered their diplomas were fake when they applied for jobs, college, or tried to join the military. The court imposed judgements totaling over $19 million against the multiple operators of these schemes.
Your Money Back
More than 2.7 million AT&T customers are getting refunds from the FTC after the company billed them up to $9.99 per month for "premium text message services" without their consent. The FTC mailed more than 300,000 checks in December, and another 360,000 checks in February. The average refund amount is $31.
Zadro Health Solutions Refunds
An additional 1,696 checks totaling nearly $39,000 are going out to people who bought Nano-UV devices. Zadro Health Solutions allegedly claimed these devices could kill dangerous microorganisms, but had no scientific evidence to back those claims. The FTC mailed the first round of checks in March 2016. Consumers who cash both checks will get back 98 percent of their original loss.
Money Now Funding Refunds
The FTC is mailing 2,031 checks totaling more than $436,000 to people who lost money to Money Now Funding, a work-at-home scheme. Consumers will get an average of $214 back.
If you get a refund check from the FTC, deposit or cash it within 60 days of the mailing date. The FTC never requires consumers to pay money or to provide account information before refund checks can be cashed. If you have questions, contact the FTC's refund administrator at 800-419-5336 or visit FTC.gov/refunds.
IN OTHER NEWS:
FTC Reports on 2016 Activities to Combat Illegal Debt Collection Practices
Three Companies Settle FTC Charges that They Deceived Consumers About Participation in International Privacy Program
FTC, States Put Remaining Defendants in Massive Caribbean Cruise Lines Robocall Operation in Permanent Dry Dock
Protecting your #personalinformation is key to financial and online safety. Learn how.
Learn how to avoid paying for #funeralarrangements you don't need & other rights under the Funeral Rule.
Don't fall for scams promising rescue from foreclosure. Avoid #mortgagereliefscams. Statement of Acting FTC Chairman Ohlhausen on Appointment by President Trump
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