News from the Federal Trade Commission - June 2013

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Penn Corner June 2013

Last Resort

last resort

The FTC and its partners announced 191 actions to stop fraudulent operations promising timeshare property resale services and travel-related prizes. The actions include three FTC cases, 83 civil actions by 28 states, and 25 actions brought by law enforcers in 10 countries. More than 184 individuals are facing criminal prosecution. Resellers lured timeshare owners into paying hefty up-front fees using false claims of having interested buyers ready to pay top dollar for the properties. In reality, there were no buyers, and property owners lost hundreds or thousands of dollars. The FTC has updated tips on travel planning and issued a new infographic explaining how a timeshare resale scam works.

Tech Support Scam

tech support sca,

Two operators of alleged tech support scams have agreed to settle FTC charges and give up their ill-gotten gains. According to the complaints, Mikael Marczak, doing business as Virtual PC Solutions, and Sanjay Agarwalla posed as legitimate computer security companies to deceive computer owners into believing that their devices were riddled with viruses, spyware and other malware. As part of its investigation, FTC staff discovered Marczak also was telemarketing a debt relief program that allegedly violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR). While the stipulated final orders resolve the FTC’s claims against Agarwalla and Marczak, litigation continues against the remaining defendants in the actions related to the TSR.

Fold ‘em.

Fold 'em

The FTC objected to Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc.’s proposed $2.8 billion acquisition of rival casino operator Ameristar Casinos, Inc., alleging that the deal would reduce competition for customers near St. Louis, Missouri and Lake Charles, Louisiana. The FTC charged that the acquisition would eliminate beneficial competition between the casinos, including giving better odds, free or lower-cost amenities, and a more enjoyable gambling experience for customers. The FTC complaint also alleges that the deal would diminish Pinnacle’s incentive to maintain or improve the quality of its casinos.

Who’s Calling?

Who's Calling

The FTC has settled charges against a voice broadcasting company for transmitting illegal robocalls to consumers in violation of the TSR. A voice broadcaster is a company that uses computers to broadcast pre-recorded messages to many recipients at one time. The FTC charged that Skyy Consulting, Inc., which does business as CallFire, helped its clients place outbound pre-recorded sales calls to people who hadn’t given written consent. As part of the settlement, the company also will pay a $75,000 civil penalty.

Scram, Scams!

Scam alerts

Crooks often combine sophisticated technology with age-old tricks to get people to send money or give out personal information, defrauding millions of people to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year. One thing that never changes: their M.O. They follow the headlines. If you want to keep up with the latest scams in the news – and find out how to recognize and report them – sign up today for practical tips from the FTC, the nation’s consumer protection agency.



"Our message to timeshare owners is simple: never pay for a promise, get everything in writing first, and pay only after your unit is sold. Our message to timeshare resale scammers is simple, too: law enforcement agencies at every level of government are working together to put an end to this problem."

— Charles A. Harwood, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection

No fishy claims

In a comment submitted to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), the FTC has explained some factors to consider to ensure that the MSC’s “Certified Sustainable Seafood” label complies with the FTC Act and the Environmental Marketing Guides, aka the “Green Guides.” In short, the comment says the MSC and any other third-party certifier should consider consumer perception when developing or reviewing a certification system.

What do you think?

The FTC seeks comment on proposed amendments to the TSR’s protections against bogus charges and services. One proposal would limit the use of certain payment methods favored by con artists and scammers, including money transfers, cash reload mechanisms, and unsigned checks.


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