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FTC Approves Final Consent Order in Telomerase Activation Sciences Deceptive Advertising Case

Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved a final consent order settling deceptive advertising charges against Telomerase Activation Sciences, Inc. and Noel Patton (collectively, TA Sciences).According to the FTC’s February 2018 complaint, TA Sciences lacked the scientific evidence to support claims that its capsules, powder, and cream could provide a broad range of anti-aging and other health benefits. The complaint specifically addressed allegedly deceptive advertising and endorsements regarding the efficacy and health benefits of two products, TA-65MD, which comes in capsule and powder forms, and TA-65 for Skin, a topical cream.The final order settling the FTC’s charges prohibits TA Sciences from making any representation about the health benefits, performance, efficacy, safety, or side effects of any covered product, including TA-65MD and TA-65 Skin, unless it is not misleading and is supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.It also prohibits TA Sciences from misrepresenting that any paid…

Scammers impersonate the Chinese Consulate

Have you gotten a call from someone saying they’re from a Chinese Consulate office? If so, you’re not alone – based on reports to the FTC and the real Chinese Consulates. But here’s the thing: it’s not a Chinese Consulate office calling. It’s a scammer. These callers seem to be reaching people with Chinese last names but, as we know, scammers can change tactics quickly.
Here’s what’s happening now: people across the country have reported getting a call or message saying they have to pick up a package at the Chinese Consulate office. Or, they need you to give them information to avoid being in trouble with the Chinese Consulate. Then the caller asks for your bank or credit card information, or tells you to make a bank transfer to them.
Regardless of who you are or who says they’re calling, never send money to anyone who calls and asks you to…

FTC Testifies Before U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Providing Update of Agency’s Efforts to Combat Illegal Robocalls

Commission is using “every tool at its disposal” to fight illegal pre-recorded calls
The Federal Trade Commission today updated a U.S. Senate committee on the agency’s continued efforts to combat unwanted and illegal telemarketing robocalls. According to the testimony, consumers are justifiably frustrated by such calls and submitted more than 4.5 million complaints about robocalls in fiscal year 2017. The FTC today reaffirmed its commitment to using every tool at its disposal in its fight against these intrusive and illegal calls.Testifying on behalf of the FTC before the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Lois Greisman, Associate Director for the agency’s Division of Marketing Practices, said that changes in technology have enabled calls to be made more cheaply and on a larger scale than ever before, leading to increased consumer frustration.Illegal robocalls are more than just a frustrating invasion of privacy, as callers frequently use fraud and deception to pitch their…

FTC Undercover Inspections of Funeral Homes in 11 States Test Prompt Compliance with Funeral Rule Disclosure Requirements

FTC’s Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to provide itemized price lists to consumers
Federal Trade Commission investigators, working undercover in 11 states, found failures to disclose pricing information required by the FTC’s Funeral Rule in 29 of the 134 funeral homes they visited during 2017.The FTC conducts undercover inspections to monitor funeral homes’ compliance with the Funeral Rule. The Rule gives consumers important rights when making funeral arrangements. For example, funeral homes must provide consumers with an itemized general price list at the start of an in-person discussion of funeral arrangements, a casket price list before consumers view any caskets, and an outer burial container price list before they view grave liners or vaults. The Rule also prohibits funeral homes from requiring consumers to buy any item, such as a casket, as a condition of obtaining any other funeral good or service. By requiring the provision of itemized prices, the Funeral…

FTC Approves Final Consent Settling Charges that Bollman Hat Company Made Deceptive ‘Made in USA’ and Certification Claims

Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved a final consent order settling charges that Pennsylvania-based Bollman Hat Company has agreed to stop deceptive use of its “American Made Matters” certification and marketing materials.First announced in January 2018, the FTC’s complaint against Bollman Hat Company and its wholly-owned subsidiary, SaveAnAmericanJob, LLC, alleges that Bollman and its subsidiary deceived consumers with “Made in USA” claims for Bollman hats and third-party products. According to the complaint, Bollman and its subsidiary marketed hats with claims such as “American Made Matters,” “Choose American,” and “Made in USA since 1868.” In fact, more than 70 percent of their hat styles are wholly imported as finished products. Of the remaining styles, many contain significant imported content, according to the complaint.The FTC also alleges that Bollman and its subsidiary made deceptive claims through a U.S.-origin seal they introduced in 2010, known as “American Made…

FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny to Resign

Terrell McSweeny, who has served as a Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission since April 2014, has issued a statement announcing her resignation later this month.“Commissioner McSweeny has been a steadfast advocate for consumers and competition at the Federal Trade Commission,” Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen said. “Her expertise and enthusiasm have been important assets to the agency. She has been an exemplary Commissioner and we wish her well in the future.”McSweeny has served as an FTC Commissioner since April 28, 2014, following her appointment by President Barack Obama. Her last day at the Commission will be April 27.Prior to joining the FTC, Commissioner McSweeny served as Chief Counsel for Competition Policy and Intergovernmental Relations for the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division. She joined the Antitrust Division after serving as Deputy Assistant to the President and Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President from January 2009 until February…

FTC Obtains Court Orders Banning Marketer from Negative-Option Sales

The ringleader of an operation that lured people into an expensive negative-option scam using a low-cost “trial” offer for tooth whiteners and other products is banned from negative-option sales under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.The settlement order is one of three orders resolving FTC charges against Blair McNea, Jennifer Johnson, Danielle Foss and 59 corporate defendants. The defendants’ deceptive claims, hidden disclosures and confusing terms tricked people into providing their billing information, supposedly to pay shipping and a nominal cost for a trial product. They charged consumers for two ongoing subscriptions to nearly identical products until the consumers canceled. As a result, consumers who believed they had agreed to buy a single trial product for about $5 were charged about $200 a month until they canceled both unauthorized subscriptions.Under settlement orders announced today, McNea and the corporate defendants are banned from negative-option sales, and from assisting others engaged…

FTC and FCC to Co-Host Expo on April 23 Featuring Technologies to Block Illegal Robocalls

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will co-host a Stop Illegal Robocalls Expo on Monday, April 23, 2018, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Pepco Edison Place Gallery, 702 Eighth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20068.The Expo, which is free and open to the public, will showcase innovative technologies, devices, and applications to minimize or eliminate the number of illegal robocalls consumers receive. The FTC and FCC are continuing their coordinated efforts to combat illegal robocalls and promote innovative solutions to protect consumers. The Expo is being held one month after the two agencies co-hosted a Joint Policy Forum.FTC Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will give brief remarks at the Expo, which will feature demonstrations from the following companies:AT&TCall ControlComcast CorporationDigitone CommunicationsFirst Orion Corp.HiyaNeustar CommunicationsNomoroboReverd LLCScammer JammerSouth Coast Telecom Inc.TelTech SystemsT-MobileTNSVerizonVTech Communications, Inc.YouMailMore information about the Expo is available at https://www.fcc.gov/news-events/events/2018/04/stop-illegal-robocalls-expo….

Coming soon: new cybersecurity education for small business

Last year, we heard from small business owners about their cybersecurity challenges at a series of roundtable discussions the FTC hosted with some of its partners. What we learned is that small business owners need and want information on how to keep their computer systems and business data safe. So we’re planning to provide that to them. Later this year, the FTC will launch a small business education campaign on cybersecurity, in partnership with other federal agencies.
Specifically, they told us they want clear, easy-to-use resources about cyber threats and how to deal with them. Most business owners we met said they’re concerned about human error — their own employees or themselves doing something that inadvertently would compromise the business’ systems. Phishing schemes, ransomware attacks, tech support scams, and imposter scams are among their top cybersecurity concerns. Mobile device security, cloud security, wireless connections, email authentication, and what to look for…

Uber Agrees to Expanded Settlement with FTC Related to Privacy, Security Claims

Company failed to disclose breach in fall of 2016 during FTC investigation
Uber Technologies, Inc. has agreed to expand the proposed settlement it reached with the Federal Trade Commission last year over charges that the ride-sharing company deceived consumers about its privacy and data security practices.After the announcement of last year’s proposed settlement, the Commission learned that Uber had failed to disclose a significant breach of consumer data that occurred in 2016 — in the midst of the FTC’s investigation that led to the August 2017 settlement announcement. Due to Uber’s misconduct related to the 2016 breach, Uber will be subject to additional requirements. Among other things, the revised settlement could subject Uber to civil penalties if it fails to notify the FTC of certain future incidents involving unauthorized access of consumer information.“After misleading consumers about its privacy and security practices, Uber compounded its misconduct by failing to inform the Commission…

Debt Relief Scammers Settle with FTC and Florida; Will Submit $35 Million in Assets for Consumer Redress

Three marketers who allegedly sold phony debt relief services, including fake loans, have agreed to be banned from selling debt relief, credit repair and financial products and services, to be banned from telemarketing, and to turn over assets worth approximately $35 million dollars, under settlements with the Federal Trade Commission and the State of Florida.The settlement orders, if entered by the court, will resolve the agencies’ charges against Jeremy Lee Marcus, Craig Davis Smith and Yisbet Segrea, who allegedly convinced people to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars a month by falsely promising to resolve their debts and improve their credit. Over time, victims found their debts unpaid, their accounts in default, and their credit scores lower – some were sued by their creditors, and some were forced into bankruptcy.The proposed orders impose a $85,326,648.45 judgment against each of the settling defendants, jointly and severally. The order against Marcus, the…

FTC Approves Fiscal Year 2017 Hart Scott Rodino Premerger Notification Report

The Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division released the agencies’ 40th Annual Hart-Scott-Rodino Report. The Report provides HSR Premerger Notification data for fiscal year 2017. The HSR Premerger Notification Program is the means by which companies report mergers and acquisitions to the government, enabling the agencies to examine transactions and take action with respect to those that may substantially lessen competition in violation of federal law.As the Report explains, companies notified the agencies of 2,052 HSR reportable transactions during fiscal year 2017; a 12.0 percent increase over the 1,832 transactions in fiscal year 2016. The Report also summarizes the agencies’ merger enforcement activities for fiscal year 2017, highlighting 39 merger challenges undertaken by both agencies in efforts to protect competition in sectors of the economy including consumer goods and services, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, high tech and industrial goods and energy.The Federal Trade Commission alone brought 21 merger enforcement…

FTC Staff Warns Companies that it is Illegal to Condition Warranty Coverage on the Use of Specified Parts or Services

The Federal Trade Commission staff has sent warning letters to six major companies that market and sell automobiles, cellular devices, and video gaming systems in the United States.The letters warn that FTC staff has concerns about the companies’ statements that consumers must use specified parts or service providers to keep their warranties intact. Unless warrantors provide the parts or services for free or receive a waiver from the FTC, such statements generally are prohibited by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a law that governs consumer product warranties. Similarly, such statements may be deceptive under the FTC Act. Each company used different language, but here are examples of questionable provisions:The use of [company name] parts is required to keep your . . . manufacturer’s warranties and any extended warranties intact.This warranty shall not apply if this product . . . is used with products not sold or licensed by [company name].This warranty does…

FTC Acting Chairman Releases 2017 Annual Highlights

Federal Trade Commission Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen released the agency’s 2017 Annual Highlights today, detailing its continued efforts to protect American consumers and promote competition without unnecessarily burdening legitimate businesses.“This year, the FTC has pressed forward with aggressive agendas for enforcing the nation’s consumer protection and competition laws,” said Acting Chairman Ohlhausen. “The Commission also made major strides in other key areas, such as promoting economic liberty and helping military consumers and small businesses.”The FTC’s Enforcement Highlights summarize the notable cases agency brought during the past year in sectors ranging from health care and technology to telemarketing and student debt, as well as other consumer products and services.Health CareIn 2017, the FTC continued to promote competitive health care markets by challenging harmful mergers and seeking to stop anticompetitive business conduct. For instance, the Commission successfully challenged a merger that would have allowed certain physicians in North Dakota to raise…

FTC to Launch Campaign to Help Small Businesses Strengthen Their Cyber Defenses

The Federal Trade Commission is launching a national education campaign to help small businesses strengthen their cyber defenses and protect sensitive data that they store.As outlined in a new Staff Perspective report, the FTC will develop and distribute reader-friendly educational materials with information about cybersecurity that small businesses need. The effort grew out of the Small Business & Cybersecurity Roundtables that the FTC hosted last year with small business owners and non-profit organizations, employees, and managers to learn about the challenges they face when dealing with cyber threats and security and ideas for how the government can help them.“Small businesses understand the importance of cybersecurity and the need to protect their networks and data, but many feel overwhelmed about how to address the myriad of cyber threats they face,” said Tom Pahl, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Our new campaign aims to help these small businesses…

FTC Staff Comment Supports Proposal to Enhance Access to Dental Care in New York

Federal Trade Commission staff submitted a comment to the New York State Education Department (NYSED) in support of a proposed regulatory change that would reduce the burdens on experienced, Canadian dentists wishing to practice dentistry within New York State. This change would allow established, Canadian dentists to use the same process that experienced U.S. dentists from other U.S. states use to become licensed in New York State.Responding to the NYSED’s request for public comments, staff of the FTC’s Office of Policy Planning and its Bureaus of Competition and Economics stated that the proposed amendment would significantly reduce the current barriers to licensure for Canadian dentists whose education and training are comparable to that of U.S. dentists.By reducing the barriers to licensure of Canadian dentists, the proposed amendment will increase the pool of dentists qualified for licensure in New York. Canadian dentists who obtain authorization to practice in New York may…

FTC asking for access to your computer? It’s a scam.

Scammers pretending to be with the FTC or with FTC refund administrators are calling, asking for remote access to your computer. It’s been reported that the scammers are calling specifically about the FTC’s Advanced Tech Support refund program. Their goal is to make you think you are moments away from getting money that’s owed to you – and, to get the money, all you need to do is allow them to connect to your computer. It’s a scam.
These kinds of scams, where imposters ask for remote access to your computer, are called tech support scams, and they exist in many forms. They may try to trick you into installing malware, sell you software that’s worthless, or direct you to websites and ask you to enter your credit card number and other personal information. They may also ask you to pay them by buying gift cards or prepaid debit cards at…

Breaches at Lord & Taylor, Saks, & MyFitnessPal

Was your information exposed in the latest data breaches at Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks OFF 5TH, or Under Armour’s MyFitnessPal? If so, here are some steps to take.
First, visit IdentityTheft.gov/databreach to get detailed advice, based on the type of information exposed. If the company that you entrusted with your information offers you free credit monitoring, take advantage of it. Also, consider placing a fraud alert or credit freeze.
What if your username or password were exposed? Or your payment card information? IdentityTheft.gov/databreach covers all that and more:
For an online login or password – Log in to your account and change your password. If you use the same password other places, change those too. Don’t forget to change your security questions, too, if your online login or password were exposed.
For payment card information – Contact your bank or credit card company to request a new card number. Review your…

FTC, Department of Justice to Hold Workshop on Competition in Real Estate Brokerage

The Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice announced today that they will hold a joint public workshop in Washington, DC on June 5, 2018, to explore competition issues in the residential real estate brokerage industry.Buying or selling a home is one of the biggest financial transactions most consumers make in their lives, and the residential real estate brokerage industry has seen significant change in recent years, including the emergence of new business models. The workshop will focus on developments since the publication of the FTC and DOJ’s Report on Competition in the Real Estate Brokerage Industry in 2007. Topics to be discussed include:existing and emerging consumer-facing platforms for accessing listings informationavailability of listings information to consumersregulatory and competitive hurdles facing listings platformseffect of listings platforms on consumers’ use of real estate serviceschanges in traditional real estate broker, brokerage, and Multiple Listing Service practicesemergence and growth of nontraditional fee and…

FTC-IRS Initiative Aims to Make it Easier for Consumers to Report Tax-Related Identity Theft

The Federal Trade Commission and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are teaming up to make it easier for consumers to report tax-related identity theft and to receive assistance to help recover.The IRS will now allow consumers to report identity theft to the IRS electronically through the FTC’s IdentityTheft.gov website. Tax-related identity theft happens when someone uses your stolen Social Security number to file a tax return and claim your refund. Victims of tax-related identity theft need to file an IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, also known as IRS Form 14039, before the IRS can begin resolving the problem. Until this new initiative, consumers could only file an IRS Form 14039 manually.Under the new FTC-IRS initiative, IdentityTheft.gov will be the first and the only place where consumers can submit an IRS Form 14039 electronically. A new FTC blog post provides more detail about how the process works.Identitytheft.gov allows consumers to report identity…

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