Network News - November 2014

November 2014
Volume 7 | Issue 4
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network news

Zapping Rachel the Robocaller


In August, at the DEF CON 22 conference for hackers, the FTC challenged the tech-savvy public to create the next-generation honeypot. A robocall honeypot is an information system designed to attract robocallers and help investigators and academics understand and combat illegal calls. This was the FTC’s second robocall challenge, and the agency’s first DEF CON competition. The three phases of the contest challenged participants to build a robocall honeypot, find vulnerabilities, and analyze honeypot data. DEF CON attendees showed great interest in the challenge and in learning more about the robocall problem. An expert panel of judges scored the submissions and selected the winners, based on functionality, accuracy, innovation, and creativity.

In the field

In the last few months, the Consumer Sentinel team held outreach and training sessions for nearly 80 consumer protection authorities from the U.S., as well as the Republic of Turkey’s Ministry of Customs and Trade. To attend the next online Consumer Sentinel training session, contact

Phony mortgage assistance

A U.S. Appeals Court upheld a district court ruling that E.M.A. Nationwide and several other defendants deceived consumers through a telemarketing scheme that cold-called thousands of people pitching programs that would supposedly help them pay, reduce, or restructure their mortgage and other debts. The district court’s order permanently bars the defendants from working in the debt relief or mortgage assistance industries, and requires them to pay more than $5 million in refunds to the affected consumers.


In FY14, the FTC distributed more than 13.6 million copies of its publications, up from 11.8 million in FY13.

Bitcoin boondoggle

The FTC filed a lawsuit against Butterfly Labs, a company that charged people thousands of dollars for specialized computers designed to produce Bitcoins, a payment system sometimes referred to as “virtual currency.” According to the FTC, the company and its operators, Darla Drake, Nasser Ghoseiri, and Sonny Vlesides, provided computers that turned out to be practically useless by the time buyers received them.

Scamming older Americans

A federal court stopped a telemarketing scheme that took millions of dollars from older consumers’ bank accounts without their consent. According to the FTC’s complaint, Sun Bright Ventures LLC, Citadel ID Pro LLC, and Benjamin Todd Workman tricked people into divulging their personal information by claiming they would provide a new Medicare card or information about Medicare benefits. The defendants then used the people’s personal information to debit their bank accounts.

Get free resources

The FTC has refreshed the look and functions of its bulk order site where you can easily request free publications. Visit to get free copies of publications to give to friends, family, and colleagues or make them available in your community.

It’s all in the numbers

The FTC’s online complaint site (which supplies many of the consumer complaints in Consumer Sentinel) now allows consumers to add their mobile phone number, in addition to their work and home numbers.

Calling all Attorneys General

The Connecticut Attorney General is the 48th Attorney General to join Consumer Sentinel. The Massachusetts Attorney General will soon become the 20th state to share 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. Please contact for details.


In the past few months, Consumer Sentinel has welcomed various kinds of law enforcers as members, including police and sheriff’s offices from California, Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. Other new members include the San Francisco City Attorney's Office, Affirmative Litigation Task Force; the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, OERM Anti-Fraud Unit; and the Export Import Bank, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations.


All North American Better Business Bureaus contribute data to Consumer Sentinel. Staff expects the first Latin American contributions next year from three nascent Mexican BBB collection systems in Mexico City, Monterrey, and Tijuana.

Consumer Sentinel Network

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