Network News - August 2014

August 2014
Volume 7 | Issue 3
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network news

Playing With Fire


The FTC is suing Amazon and seeking refunds for parents and other account holders who were billed for unauthorized in-app charges. According to the FTC, many of the “free” games on the Kindle Fire encouraged kids to buy virtual goods — like coins, stars, and pet food — that they could charge to their parents’ accounts without entering a password. Parents complained that they didn’t know, and their kids didn’t understand, that these extras cost real money — anywhere from 99 cents to $99 each. Even when Amazon finally began requiring a password for certain in-app charges, the company allegedly didn’t make it clear that entering a password once could allow children to incur unlimited charges for 15 minutes to an hour.


The Sentinel team held outreach and training sessions for over 200 law enforcers from U.S. consumer protection agencies as well as agencies from the Dominican Republic, Israel, Suriname, and the United Kingdom. We did training and demonstrations for the National Association of Consumer Credit Administrators, the New Mexico Attorney General’s Offices in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and the FBI’s Advanced Mortgage Fraud Conference in Arlington, Virginia. To attend the next online Sentinel training session, contact

A Grand Cram

The FTC has charged T-Mobile USA, Inc., with cramming bogus “premium” SMS charges that customers didn’t authorize on to their mobile phone bills. The FTC alleged that T-Mobile made hundreds of millions of dollars by keeping 35 to 40 percent of the fees for supposed subscriptions to services like flirting tips, horoscope information and celebrity gossip. Those fees typically cost $9.99 per month. T-Mobile allegedly continued to bill customers for these services even after becoming aware of signs that the charges were fraudulent.

Let’s Get Technical

The FTC held a contest at DEF CON 22 in Las Vegas during August 7th-10th to inspire innovative tech solutions to illegal robocalls. Advances in technology have enabled criminals to send out thousands of illegal robocalls every minute — and to hide their true location and identity by spoofing caller ID information. It’s the perfect environment for telephone spam. Because technology is at the crux of the problem, the FTC tapped one of the world’s biggest hacking conferences for high-caliber technical support. See for more about the contest.

New Members

Many types of law enforcers join Sentinel.  In the past few months, Sentinel has welcomed:

Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center, Field Operations Division

California, Napa County District Attorney's Office, Investigations Division

Colorado, Platteville Police Department

Hawaii Department of the Attorney General, Commerce and Economic Development Division

Indiana State Police, Cybercrime and Investigative Technologies Section

Ohio, Cincinnati Bar Association, Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee

Wisconsin, West Bend Police Department, Criminal Investigations

Buyer Beware

At the FTC’s request, a federal judge has temporarily stopped an operation that swindled Spanish-speaking consumers across the country and frozen its assets. Hispanic Global Way allegedly marketed a variety of products through Spanish-language TV commercials, including a weight loss belt that failed to deliver any promised benefit, English-language courses, clothing and cellphones. According to the FTC, the company shipped incomplete orders, defective products and products that were different than advertised. When customers called to complain, many were told they couldn’t return the merchandise and couldn’t get refunds.

Flop-portunities Knock

FTC cases against The Tax Club and American Business Builders are part of a federal and state crackdown on scams that falsely promise jobs and opportunities to “be your own boss.” The defendants behind both operations have agreed to settlements that will prohibit future misconduct; in the Tax Club case, they will surrender assets valued at more than $15 million. The FTC’s website has information on business opportunity scams.

Phantom Debts

Pending trial, a U.S. district court has stopped a Georgia-based operation from using deception and threats to collect phantom “debts” — debts that people didn’t owe. John Williams of Norcross, Ga., and two companies he controls, Williams, Scott & Associates, LLC; and WSA, used a variety of false threats to bully consumers nationwide into paying supposed payday loan debts, the FTC charged. The FTC alleges that many people contacted by the defendants had inquired about a payday loan online, and submitted contact information, which later found its way into the defendants’ hands. According to the complaint, the defendants threatened to revoke people’s drivers’ licenses, and falsely claimed to be affiliated with federal and state law enforcement agencies.


The Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs now shares its complaint data with the Consumer Sentinel Network. Does your office gather consumer complaint data? You can help fellow Consumer Sentinel members boost their law enforcement capabilities by sharing those complaints with us. Please contact for details.


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