News from the Federal Trade Commission - October 2012

Having trouble viewing this email? View it online.     
Penn Corner October 2012

Scare Tech-tics

Tech Support Scams

At the FTC’s request, a massive international tech support scam has been stopped. According to the complaint, callers pretending to work for well-known companies like Dell, Microsoft, McAfee, and Norton told people that viruses and spyware had been detected on their computers, and used common routine warning messages on the computers as “proof.” Tens of thousands of users were tricked into believing their computers were riddled with malware, and paid scammers hundreds of dollars to “fix” the problem. Listen to an undercover buy between a scammer and an FTC investigator, and read Tech Support Scams for more.

An Invasion of Privacy

tech support webcam

Seven rent-to-own companies and a software design firm have agreed to settle FTC charges that they spied on people in the privacy of their own homes. The FTC’s complaint said DesignerWare LLC licensed software to rent-to-own stores to help them track and recover rented computers. But the software’s “Detective Mode” did even more: It gave stores the ability to log keystrokes, grab screen shots full of personal information, and take webcam photos of people in their homes. The company and stores now are banned from using monitoring software like Detective Mode, or using deceptive tactics to get information from their customers.

None of Their Business

US homeowners

Credit reporting company Equifax has agreed to settle FTC charges that it illegally sold the names of millions of people who were late on their mortgage payments. According to the FTC, Equifax sold lists of names to companies, including Direct Lending Source, Inc., which resold the lists. Those “third parties” used the lists to pitch loan modification and debt relief services to people, the FTC says. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, companies can buy prescreened lists only to make “firm offers of credit or insurance”— not for general marketing. Equifax and the companies that bought and resold the information will pay a total of $1.6 million.

Not So Fan-tastic Sites

children using computers

Artist Arena, operator of fan websites for Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Demi Lovato, and Selena Gomez, among other celebs, will pay $1 million to settle FTC charges that it violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by illegally collecting information from fans under 13 without their parents’ okay. Despite saying it wouldn’t, Artist Arena allegedly collected names, addresses, email addresses, and birthdates without permission, and kids were able to register to join a fan club, create profiles, and post on members’ walls. According to the FTC, the company knowingly registered more than 25,000 kids under 13 and collected personal information from almost 75,000 more. 

An Unhealthy Combination

hospital with doctors

At the FTC’s request, the Supreme Court will review a merger between two competing hospitals in Albany, Georgia — a merger the FTC says created a monopoly, reducing competition and leading to higher health care prices in the area. After seeking to block the transaction in April 2011, the FTC is asking the Court to reverse a lower court ruling that the local Hospital Authority can shield the anticompetitive merger from federal antitrust scrutiny under the “state action doctrine.” At stake is the FTC’s ability to prevent harmful mergers in which private parties create an unsupervised monopoly. The Court will hear arguments in November.


"The introduction of environmentally friendly products into the marketplace is a win for consumers who want to purchase greener products and producers who want to sell them. But this win-win can only occur if marketers’ claims are truthful and substantiated. The FTC’s changes to the Green Guides will level the playing field for honest business people and it is one reason why we had such broad support."

- Jon Leibowitz, FTC Chairman

Going Green?

Want to buy products that are better for the environment? Then you might be interested to know about the FTC’s revised “Green Guides” for business. The Green Guides explain the standards for truth in green advertising, making sure companies that want to make claims about the “green” attributes of their packages and products know they need to have the science to back the claims up. What does that mean for you? Read Shopping “Green” at for more.

Not Know-It-Alls

Two free online placement services for seniors looking for assisted living and long-term care facilities have agreed to settle FTC charges that they misled people, making them think they had up-to-date research and detailed knowledge about facilities. According to complaints, there are at least 39,000 assisted living facilities and thousands of smaller residential care homes in the U.S.

Platinum Promises

The operators of a Philadelphia-based telemarketing scheme that allegedly sold bogus “platinum credit cards” to payday loan applicants and illegally debited people’s bank accounts will pay $7.5 million to settle FTC charges. According to the FTC, the cards could only be used to buy off-brand, overpriced products at the defendants’ online store.


                More >


  • FTC staff will live-tweet its Oct. 18th Robocall Summit (@FTC). Want to tweet a question? Here’s what to know:
  • Know how to protect your computer and other mobile devices from malware? A new FTC video explains what to know and do:
  • Is someone you know planning to enter the Diversity Visa Lottery? A new video explains how to avoid visa lottery scams:



Federal Trade Commission  |  600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW  |  Washington DC 20580

Need help with your email subscription? 800-439-1420 or email us

Need help with a consumer issue?   877-FTC-HELP