News from the Federal Trade Commission - February 2013

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Credit Reports Need Correcting


A new FTC study has found that one in four people who participated in the survey spotted errors on their credit reports that might affect their credit scores. A credit report includes information about where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or have filed for bankruptcy. Creditors, insurers, employers and others use that information when they consider your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or housing. So how do you know if your report is error-free? Go to to get your free credit report, then dispute any errors you find. Learn more at

A Taxing Situation


A tax relief company that allegedly pulled in more than $100 million on promises it could lower people’s tax debts has agreed to give up more than $15 million in cash and assets — including a home in Beverly Hills and a 2005 Ferrari — to settle FTC charges. According to the FTC, American Tax Relief told people that they qualified for IRS programs that would significantly reduce their tax debts, and that the company had successfully lowered the taxes of thousands of people. But people who paid the company just got excuses, not results, the FTC says. Read Tax Relief Companies for more.

A Monumental Scam


At the request of the FTC, a federal court has stopped an alleged pyramid scheme that affected more than 100,000 people, in some cases targeting Spanish speakers. The FTC says Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing (FHTM) promoted itself as a path to financial independence, telling people they could make lots of money selling FHTM’s health and beauty products, as well as products and services from Dish Network and cell phone companies. But nearly everyone who paid to join FHTM lost more money than they ever made — or only made money from recruiting others to join, the FTC says. For more on recognizing a pyramid scheme, read Multilevel Marketing.

Filling the Bill?


The FTC has asked a U.S. district court to shut down an alleged cramming operation that added more than $70 million in phony charges to people’s phone bills. According to the FTC’s complaint, American eVoice and its related companies “crammed” charges ranging from $9.95 to $24.95 a month onto bills for services that people never ordered, didn’t authorize, and often didn’t know they had. The Missoula, Montana-area defendants also transferred proceeds from their illegal cramming operation to Bibliologic, a purported nonprofit, the FTC says. For more on spotting crammed charges on your phone bill, read Mystery Charges on Your Phone Bill. 

Breaking Into the Bank


A leading cord blood bank has agreed to settle FTC charges that its inadequate security practices contributed to a breach that exposed the personal information of nearly 300,000 people. Cbr Systems is a leading provider of storage for newborns’ cord blood and tissue. These contain stems cells, which researchers are investigating for possible uses in treating some conditions. According to the FTC, Cbr didn’t use reasonable security for customers’ information: Social Security, credit card, debit card, and checking account numbers, card expiration dates, drivers’ license numbers, and contact information. The settlement requires the company to submit to independent security audits every other year for the next 20 years.


"Your credit report has information about your finances and your bill-paying history, so it’s important to make sure it’s accurate. The good news for consumers is that credit reports are free through, and if you find an error, you can work with the credit reporting company to fix it."

Charles Harwood, Acting Director, Bureau of Consumer Protection

The Business of Buying Debt

The FTC has released the results of a first-of-its-kind study of debt buyers — companies that buy people’s debts from creditors for pennies on the dollar and try to collect on them. Collectors with insufficient information may approach the wrong people, try to collect the wrong amount, or both. The report finds room for improvement in the information debt buyers have when they contact people and try to collect.

Attorney Advertising in the Volunteer State

FTC staff have urged the Supreme Court of Tennessee not to adopt proposals that would unnecessarily restrict truthful attorney advertising. Proposals before the Court would prohibit the use of actors, models, and certain background sounds, require pre-screening of all attorney ads, and place other limits.

Going for “Platinum”

The FTC has mailed more than 70,000 refund checks totaling $7.4 million to people who lost money to a scheme that allegedly sold bogus “platinum” credit cards and illegally debited people’s bank accounts. For more, go to

National Consumer Protection Week

The 15th annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) is March 3 - 9. Government agencies, advocacy organizations, and private sector groups from coast to coast have come together to share information about privacy protection, money and debt management, recognizing identity theft, frauds, scams and more. Want to get involved? The FTC has resources to help at


                More >


  • Tax season is here. With it comes tax-related identity theft. Here’s what you need to know:
  • Looking online for your Valentine? Unfortunately, cupid can sometimes be a con artist in disguise:
  • Have plans for National Consumer Protection Week, March 3 – 9? Get ideas at
  • The FTC’s Robocall Challenge has wrapped up with 700+ submissions. Check out the Challenge submission gallery:

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