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Secure and Safe Computers, Internet, Hosting & Searching

Fake calls about your SSN

The FTC is getting reports about people pretending to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) who are trying to get your Social Security number and even your money. In one version of the scam, the caller says your Social Security number has been linked to a crime (often, he says it happened in Texas) involving drugs or sending money out of the country illegally. He then says your Social is blocked – but he might ask you for a fee to reactivate it, or to get a new number. And he will ask you to confirm your Social Security number.
In other variations, he says that somebody used your Social Security number to apply for credit cards, and you could lose your benefits. Or he might warn you that your bank account is about to be seized, that you need to withdraw your money, and that he’ll tell you how…

FTC Tops the List of “Best Places to Work” Among Mid-Size Federal Agencies

The Federal Trade Commission today was rated the number one place to work among mid-size federal government agencies for 2018 by the non-profit, non-partisan Partnership for Public Service, based on the FTC’s high ratings for employee engagement, and other factors including agency leadership, strategic management, and innovation.“I am so proud of my colleagues, whose effort and dedication led to this top ranking,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “Our workforce is highly committed to the agency’s mission of protecting American consumers and promoting competition, which makes the FTC a fantastic place to work.”Out of 27 mid-size federal agencies, the FTC ranked number one in the categories of effective leadership, strategic management, innovation, performance-based rewards and advancements, and employee skills mission-match. The Commission also tied with the Small Business Administration in the rankings for most improved mid-size agency. Overall, the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection and Bureau of Competition ranked third and…

FTC Testifies before House Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law on Competition Enforcement Activities and Policy Priorities

In testimony before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, the Federal Trade Commission described its current competition enforcement activities and policy priorities.Testifying on behalf of the FTC, Chairman Joseph J. Simons outlined recent FTC initiatives to preserve and promote competition for the benefit of American consumers. These include notable victories stopping anticompetitive mergers and conduct, public hearings on a variety of competition and consumer protection issues, and advocacy both domestically and abroad.Since the beginning of FY 2017, the Commission has challenged 48 mergers, according to the testimony. Although many were resolved through settlements, in the last year alone, the Commission sued to block five mergers, requiring a significant commitment of resources to prepare for litigation. Two of those challenges ended successfully when the parties abandoned the transactions after the Commission initiated litigation. The testimony notes that hiring economic experts for litigation poses an increasing strain…

Two Defendants Settle Allegations in ‘Money Now Funding’ Credit Card Charge Laundering Scheme

Two defendants charged with laundering millions of dollars in credit card charges through fraudulent merchant accounts have settled with the Federal Trade Commission.Under the proposed settlement order, the defendants, Nikolas Mihilli and Dynasty Merchants, LLC – a company created by Mihilli to launder fraudulent transactions – are prohibited from engaging in credit card laundering. They are also banned from telemarketing, and from acting as payment processors, independent sales organizations, or sales agents.According to the complaint filed by the FTC, the defendants arranged for a deceptive operation known as Money Now Funding to obtain and maintain merchant accounts that allowed the operation to process almost $6 million through the credit card networks. The FTC charged Mihilli and Dynasty Merchants, LLC with violating the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule.A monetary judgment of $5.8 million has been suspended due to the defendants’ inability to pay. If the court finds…

FTC Proposes Amendments to Improve Usability of the Energy Labeling Rule

The Federal Trade Commission has approved a Federal Register notice seeking comments on proposed non-substantive changes to the Energy Labeling Rule (Rule).The proposed amendments would organize the Rule’s product descriptions to make it easier for stakeholders to identify relevant covered products, particularly for categories (such as lighting) that contain several different product types and exemptions. Next, the amendments would divide the Rule’s primary labeling provision into several sections to make it easier to identify the labeling requirements for specific products. Finally, the proposed changes would remove obsolete, unneeded references to products last produced and sold decades ago.The FTC first issued the Rule in 1979, under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975. The Rule requires energy labeling for major home appliances and other consumer products to help consumers compare the energy costs of competing models. It also contains labeling requirements for refrigerators, refrigerator-freezers, freezers, dishwashers, water heaters, clothes washers,…

Defendant in Fraudulent Business Coaching Scheme Settles with FTC

One of the defendants involved in MOBE, a massive internet marketing and business coaching scheme alleged to have bilked hundreds of millions of dollars from consumers worldwide, has agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission.In June 2018, the FTC charged the MOBE enterprise and three individuals with orchestrating the “My Online Business Education” program in violation of the FTC Act. According to the complaint, the defendants falsely claimed that their business education program would enable people to start their own online businesses and earn substantial income. Touting a “proven” 21-step system, the defendants preyed on U.S. consumers—including service members, veterans, and older adults—through online ads, social media, direct mailers, and live events held throughout the country, according to the FTC. The complaint further alleged that the MOBE defendants made false or misleading refund guarantees to consumers.The settling defendant in this case, Susan Zanghi, allegedly helped operate and perform acts…

FTC Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century Continue With Examination of Data Security

What:The Federal Trade Commission will host the ninth session of its Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century, which will examine data security.When:Tuesday, December 11, 10:10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Wednesday, December 12, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.Where:FTC Constitution Center Auditorium400 7th St., SW, Washington, DC 20024Who:The hearing will feature opening remarks by Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, on December 11 and a fireside chat on December 12 between Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and Joshua Corman, Co-founder of @IamTheCavalry, as well as a distinguished set of panelists.Webcast:The hearing will be webcast. The webcast link will be on the event page on the day of the workshop.Twitter:Follow the discussion at #FTCHearings …

FTC Settlements Will Ban Student Loan Debt Relief Operators From Engaging in Debt Relief Services

The operators of two Florida-based student loan debt relief schemes are banned from the debt relief business as part of agreements settling Federal Trade Commission allegations that they collected illegal upfront fees and falsely promised to help some consumers enroll in government programs that would reduce or forgive their student loan debt.The settlements with Student Debt Doctor (SDD) and American Student Loan Consolidators (ASLC) are part of Operation Game of Loans, a coordinated federal-state law enforcement initiative targeting deceptive student loan debt relief schemes first announced by the FTC in October 2017.“People struggling to repay student debt should know that an offer of debt relief with an upfront fee is likely to be a scam, and they should alert the FTC,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.Student Debt DoctorOn October 3, 2017, a federal district court issued a temporary restraining order against the SDD defendants,…

Help avoid online order slow- or no-shows

Unless you enjoy the bustle of traditional holiday shopping, you’re probably thankful for being able to get what you need online. Unfortunately, the FTC has gotten reports from consumers who didn’t get their orders as expected – or never got them at all.
Here are tips to have a good online shopping experience:
Spot and avoid scams. Before you buy, confirm the online seller’s physical address and phone number. Search the seller’s name with the word “scam” to see if other buyers have had problems.
Look carefully at the shipping date before you order. If there’s no date given, the seller has 30 days to ship. If you’re notified about a delay in shipping, you have the right to cancel the order and get a full refund. If you decide to cancel, let the seller know right away so you won’t be billed. If the seller doesn’t respond or refuses the refund, immediately…

Contact lens seller turns a blind eye to the law

Cosmetic contacts lenses – also known as costume or decorative contact lenses – can change the way your eye looks without correcting your vision. While they may seem like just another fashion accessory, the fact is all contacts require a prescription.
Anyone who sells you lenses without getting a copy of your prescription or verifying your prescription information with your prescriber is selling them illegally. That’s important because contacts that don’t fit can have serious consequences, including conjunctivitis (pink eye), scratches and sores on the cornea, even blindness.
But according to the FTC , one California-based contact lens seller turned a blind eye to the law. In its complaint, the FTC alleges that Lawrence L. Duskin – owner of HollywoodColorContacts.com, WorldColorContacts.com, and TopModelContacts.com – sold cosmetic contact lenses without getting customers’ prescriptions or verifying prescriptions with prescribers, and failed to maintain records of consumers’ prescriptions.
The FTC’s proposed order permanently bans Duskin from advertising, marketing,…

Buying an internet-connected smart toy? Read this.

Before giving in to your kid’s plea for a new toy, you may want to collect some information about it. Why? Well, for one thing, that toy may want to collect information about your kid. I’m talking about internet-connected smart toys with cameras, microphones, and sensors. The ones that know your kids’ voices (and yours). Smart toys that silently collect data on each interaction, listen to conversations, and share their location while kids play.
Internet-connected smart toys have opened up a whole new set of possibilities for toys — experiences that are educational, just plain cool, or both. But smart toys run the risk of being hacked by criminals, or having their data misused, just like any other device.
Before buying a smart toy this holiday season, be sure you know how it works. If you can’t find information on how a smart toy collects, shares, or secures your kids’ data, think about…

Online Seller to Pay $60,000 Penalty for Violating the Contact Lens Rule

Cosmetic contacts allegedly sold to consumers without required prescriptions or verification
A California-based online seller of non-corrective, decorative contact lenses will pay a $60,000 penalty and be banned from all contact lens sales, under an order settling Federal Trade Commission allegations that he has violated the Contact Lens Rule since at least 2014.Under the Contact Lens Rule, sellers may provide contact lenses to consumers only after either obtaining a copy of a valid prescription for the consumer or, alternatively, verifying the consumer’s prescription with the prescriber. Sellers may not dispense lenses using an expired prescription, and may only substitute lenses under certain conditions, as specified in the Rule. The Rule applies to both corrective lenses and non-corrective, decorative lenses.The FTC’s complaint, filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on the FTC’s behalf, charges Lawrence L. Duskin with providing contact lenses to consumers without obtaining the required prescription, failing to verify the…

FTC Returns More Than $3.5 Million to Consumers Subjected to Deceptive and Unfair Sales and Financing Tactics by Los Angeles-Area’s Sage Auto Group

The Federal Trade Commission is mailing 43,456 checks totaling more than $3.5 million to consumers subjected to deceptive and unfair sales and financing tactics by the Sage Auto Group and its owners between 2014 and 2016. Affected consumers will receive their checks soon, with the average refund amount totaling $81.76.In September 2016, the FTC charged nine Los Angeles-area auto dealerships and their owners with using a wide range of deceptive and unfair sales and financing practices. The FTC’s action, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, sought to end these practices and return money to consumers.The action against the Sage Auto Group defendants was the FTC’s first to charge an auto dealer for “yo-yo” financing tactics: using deception or other unlawful pressure tactics to coerce consumers who have signed contracts into later accepting a different deal. The FTC also alleges that the defendants packed extra,…

FTC Releases FY 2018 National Do Not Call Registry Data Book and Mini Site

Contains updated information on robocall complaints and state-by-state complaint analysis
The Federal Trade Commission today issued the National Do Not Call Registry Data Book for Fiscal Year 2018. The FTC’s National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry lets consumers choose not to receive most legal telemarketing calls. The data show that the number of active registrations on the DNC Registry has increased significantly over the past year, while the total number of consumer complaints decreased for the first time in five years.Now in its tenth year, the Data Book contains a wealth of information about the DNC Registry for FY 2018 (from October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018). The Data Book provides the most recent information available on robocall complaints, the types of calls consumers reported to the FTC, and a complete state-by-state analysis.FY 2018 Registration and Complaint DataAccording to the Data Book, at the end of FY 2018, the DNC…

FTC Charges Executive Whose Company Owns New York Knicks, New York Rangers with Violations of U.S. Premerger Notification Requirements

To settle charges, Madison Square Garden Company Executive Chairman James L. Dolan will pay $609,810 in civil penalties
James L. Dolan, Executive Chairman of Madison Square Garden Company, has agreed to pay $609,810 in civil penalties to resolve Federal Trade Commission allegations that he violated the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act by failing to report in a timely manner his acquisition of voting securities in Madison Square Garden Company.Under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, companies and individuals must notify the FTC and the Department of Justice of acquisitions that cause the value of their voting securities in a company to increase above certain dollar value thresholds and then observe a waiting period before completing their transactions.According to the complaint that the FTC referred to the Department of Justice, Dolan violated the HSR Act by failing to file a notification of his acquisition of additional voting securities in Madison Square Garden Company when his holdings crossed the relevant filing…

FTC: No support for diabetes treatment claims

People spend billions of dollars a year on health products that are unproven and often useless. Case in point: The FTC has sued the sellers of “Nobetes” about their advertising claims for a pill that would supposedly treat diabetes — and maybe even replace the need for prescription diabetes medication, like insulin. According to the FTC, these claims were false or misleading, and the sellers had no reliable, scientific evidence to back them up.
As part of a proposed settlement, the sellers (the Nobetes Corporation and two of its officers) will be banned from selling Nobetes and other diabetes products and will pay $182,000.
Are you — or someone you know — thinking about using a non-prescription product to treat diabetes?
Be skeptical about amazing health claims. According to the American Diabetes Association, there is no clear proof that any dietary supplement — such as a vitamin or a pill with herbs or minerals —…

The Marriott data breach

Marriott International says that a breach of its Starwood guest reservation database exposed the personal information of up to 500 million people. If your information was exposed, there are steps you can take to help guard against its misuse.
According to Marriott, the hackers accessed people’s names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, passport numbers, dates of birth, gender, Starwood loyalty program account information, and reservation information. For some, they also stole payment card numbers and expiration dates. Marriott says the payment card numbers were encrypted, but it does not yet know if the hackers also stole the information needed to decrypt them.
The hotel chain says the breach began in 2014 and anyone who made a reservation at a Starwood property on or before September 10, 2018 could be affected. Starwood brands include W Hotels, St. Regis, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Westin Hotels & Resorts, Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts, and other…

FTC Submits Comment on FDA Guidance Aimed at Deterring Abuse of Citizen Petition Process

The Federal Trade Commission has responded to the Food and Drug Administration’s request for comment on its revised draft guidance, which aims to deter pharmaceutical companies from abusing the citizen petition process to delay approval of and competition from generic drugs.According to the comment, many have expressed concerns about the gaming of citizen petitions. Although some citizen petitions raise genuine issues for scientific consideration, many do not, and are denied as lacking merit. Answering a petition requires significant FDA resources and time, including careful consideration of the issues by appropriate FDA staff, and preparation, review, and vetting of the response across the FDA.In its revised draft guidance, the FDA describes considerations it will use to determine whether a petition was submitted primarily to delay approval of a competing drug. Once the FDA determines that a petition was submitted primarily to delay competition, it will refer that determination to the FTC,…

FTC Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century Continue With Examination of Acquisitions Involving Ownership Interests in Competing Companies

WHAT:The Federal Trade Commission will host the eighth session of its Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century.WHEN:Thursday, December 6, 8:45 a.m. to 5:35 p.m.WHERE:New York University School of Law40 Washington Square SouthNew York, NY 10012WHO:The hearings will feature opening remarks by FTC Commissioner Noah Phillips and Securities & Exchange Commissioner Robert J. Jackson and mid-day remarks by FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra, in addition to a distinguished set of panelists.WEBCAST:The hearing will be webcast. The webcast link will be on the event page on the day of the workshop.TWITTER:Follow the discussion at #FTCHearings. …

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