News from the Federal Trade Commission - March 2013

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Penn Corner March 2013

On the Alert

woman receiving package

At the FTC’s request, a U.S. district court has temporarily shut down an operation that allegedly deceived, threatened, and intimidated elderly consumers to pay for medical alert systems they neither ordered nor wanted. The FTC charged that telemarketers for Instant Response Systems called older people to pressure them into buying a medical alert service – a pendant that supposedly summons help during emergencies. According to the FTC’s complaint, people weren’t able to dispute the false charges or find out how to return unopened packages. Many faced threats, verbal abuse, and demands that they pay for the product.

Trash Those Texts

multiple text messages

In eight legal actions across the country, the FTC stopped affiliate marketers that allegedly bombarded people with millions of unwanted spam texts. The texts steered them toward deceptive websites that falsely promised “free” gift cards worth $1,000 to major retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, and Target. The recipients who clicked on the links in the messages were required to provide sensitive personal information, apply for credit, or pay to subscribe to services to be eligible for the supposedly “free” cards. Some recipients who pay to get texts were charged for the unwanted texts. Read Text Message Spam.

Make a Date with the Data Book

sentinel data book

In 2012, the FTC received more than 2 million consumer complaints – a record in the history of the agency’s Consumer Sentinel Network. The #1 category of complaints? Identity theft. The annual Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book is a fascinating analysis of complaints received by the FTC during the previous year. When you file a complaint with the FTC the information is entered into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies across the country. The FTC and its law enforcement partners use the data to investigate fraud, identify victims, and eliminate unfair business practices. To learn more about the complaints in Sentinel, check the 2012 Sentinel Data Book.

Mobile Payments Report

mobile payments report cover

A report based on a recent FTC workshop highlights key issues facing individuals and companies as they adopt mobile payment services. Paper, Plastic... or Mobile? encourages companies to develop clear policies on how people can resolve disputes arising from a fraudulent mobile payment; encourages industry to adopt strong security measures; and highlights the need for mobile payment companies to incorporate strong privacy practices, consumer choice, and transparency into their products from the outset.

Help for Kidney Patients

nurse helping patient

Eight nephrologists in Puerto Rico have settled FTC charges that they illegally banded together to bargain with insurers and that they refused to treat health plan patients when their price demands were rebuffed. The proposed order would bar the doctors from jointly negotiating prices, jointly refusing to deal with any insurer, and jointly refusing to treat patients.


"The FTC is committed to rooting out this deception and stopping it. For consumers who find spam texts on their phones, delete them immediately. The offers are, in a word, garbage."

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

Upcoming Events

The FTC will host two events to discuss issues involving mobile technology and commerce. The events are free and open to the public. They will be held at the FTC’s conference center, 601 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C.

Mobile Cramming
This roundtable on May 8 will examine unauthorized third-party charges on mobile phone bills – a practice known as mobile cramming. Email comments to

Mobile Threats
This public forum on June 4 will focus on the security of mobile technologies and how to protect people who use mobile technology from malware, viruses, and similar threats. Submit comments to

What You Auto Know

A federal court has banned Hope for Car Owners, LLC from providing modification services for auto loans or other types of debt. The court imposed a default judgment of more than $360,000. The FTC alleged that Hope for Car Owners told customers to stop paying their lenders, a tactic that increased the risk that their vehicles would be repossessed. Read about auto loan scams and watch the video.


HTC America, a mobile device manufacturer, has agreed to settle FTC charges that it failed to take reasonable steps to secure the software it developed for its smartphones and tablet computers. According to the FTC, the software had security flaws that placed sensitive information about millions of device users at risk. The FTC said millions of HTC devices could potentially allow malicious applications to send text messages, record audio, and even install additional malware onto the devices, all without the owners’ knowledge or consent. Read Patching Things Up.

Mortgage Fr-audits

The FTC has settled its charges against the defendants behind an alleged mortgage relief scam. According to the FTC, Sameer Lakhany and five companies he controlled deceived more than 1,000 cash-strapped homeowners into believing they could hold onto their homes and reduce their mortgage payments either by suing their mortgage lenders in so-called “mass joinder” lawsuits or buying “forensic loan audits.” All but one of the defendants are banned from marketing mortgage- and debt- relief services. Read about mortgage relief scams and watch a video.


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