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Wise giving in the wake of California’s wildfires

California continues to be plagued by wildfires — including the Woolsey Fire near Los Angeles and the Camp Fire in Northern California, now one of the deadliest in the state’s history.
Dozens of people have lost their lives, thousands of homes and business have been destroyed, and more than 250,000 Californians have been forced to leave their homes.
If you’re looking for a way to help those in need, do some research to ensure that your donation will go to a reputable organization that will use the money as promised.
Urgent appeals for aid that you get in person, by phone or mail, by e-mail, on websites, or on social networking sites may not be on the up-and-up. Unfortunately, legitimate charities face competition from fraudsters who either solicit for bogus charities or aren’t entirely honest about how a so-called charity will use your contribution.
Consider these tips:
Donate to charities you know and trust with…

Picking up the pieces after a wildfire

Experiencing a destructive wildfire can be devastating and have long-term effects, but taking stock and developing a recovery plan can give you a sense of hope and purpose. Here are a few tips and links to resources to help make the task less burdensome.
Contact your insurance company. Ask what the next steps are in assessing damage to your home or business.
Be skeptical of people promising immediate clean-up and debris removal. Some may demand payment up-front for work they never do, quote outrageous prices, or simply lack the skills, licenses, and insurance to do the work legally.
If you’re looking for a place to rent during recovery, be cautious of rental listing scams. Scammers often advertise rentals that don’t exist to trick people into sending money before they find out the truth.
Many people will be asking for your personal information. Make sure you know who you are dealing with. Ask for identification…

FTC Issues Agency Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2018

The Federal Trade Commission issued its Fiscal Year 2018 Agency Financial Report, which describes the agency’s strong fiscal management and key program performance of the agency during the past year. The report highlights FTC accomplishments in furtherance of its missions to protect consumers and promote competition, and reaffirms the agency’s commitment to responsible stewardship of resources and sound financial operations.Prepared in accordance with OMB Circular A-136, this report includes annual audited financial statements, as well as the Office of the Inspector General’s assessment of the FTC’s key management accomplishments and opportunities for performance improvements. The FTC’s FY 2018 independent financial statement audit marks the agency’s 22nd consecutive unmodified opinion, the highest audit opinion available.The report is being submitted to Congress and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, as required under the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 (amended by the Reports Consolidation Act of 2000), the Government…

FTC Commissioners Find that 1-800 Contacts Unlawfully Harmed Competition in Online Search Advertising Auctions, Restricting the Availability of Truthful Advertising to Consumers

The Federal Trade Commission has held that 1-800 Contacts, the nation’s largest online retailer of contact lenses, unlawfully entered into a web of anticompetitive agreements with rival online contact lens sellers.A Commission Opinion, authored by Chairman Joseph J. Simons, ruled that the agreements between 1-800 Contacts and fourteen online sellers of contact lenses constitute unfair methods of competition, in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act. The agreements prevent online contact lens retailers from bidding for search engine result ads that would inform consumers that identical products are available at lower prices. The Commission Opinion held that the agreements harm competition in bidding for search engine key words, artificially reducing the prices that 1-800 Contacts pays, as well as the quality of search engine results delivered to consumers. Although the Opinion directly addresses restraints to search engine advertising for contact lenses, it carries broader implications for preserving competition through…

FTC: PR firm & publisher violated ad basics

Hardly a day goes by that you don’t see a celebrity, star athlete, or other well-known person touting the benefits of some product or service. But glowing recommendations aren’t always what they appear to be.
When a company uses paid endorsers to promote its products, that fact must be disclosed in the endorsement. And it goes without saying that ads should be recognizable as ads. But not all companies play by the rules.
Today, the FTC announced settlements with a public relations firm, a magazine publisher, and the two people who own and operate the companies. The FTC alleged that the businesses used deceptive endorsements and “advertorials” to promote the launch of a client’s product. Essentially, the companies not only failed to disclose that two Olympic athletes were paid spokespersons, but they also used standard article formatting to disguise paid advertising — advertorials — as traditional magazine content.
If you’re thinking of buying…

PR Firm and Publisher Settle FTC Allegations They Misrepresented Product Endorsements as Independent Opinions, Commercial Advertising as Editorial Content

Posts and ads pitched mosquito repellent during the 2016 Zika virus outbreak
Carly PattersonTwo Georgia-based companies and their principals have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that, in connection with promoting a new insect repellent during the 2016 Zika virus outbreak, they misrepresented that paid endorsements were independent consumer opinions and commercial advertising was independent journalistic content.Under two proposed Commission orders, the respondents are prohibited from making such misrepresentations going forward, and must disclose material connections with, and otherwise monitor, any endorsers they engage.What the FTC Did to Protect ConsumersAccording to the FTC’s complaint, PR firm Creaxion Corporation proposed launching and promoting its client’s new mosquito repellent using a media campaign tied to the mosquito-borne Zika virus and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. Creaxion partnered with Inside Publications, LLC, publisher of Inside Gymnastics magazine, to obtain athlete endorsers and otherwise promote the product.The respondents allegedly engaged two gold medalists…

FTC Submits Comments to NTIA on Consumer Privacy

Staff of the Federal Trade Commission calls for a balanced approach that protects both consumer privacy and innovation in a comment submitted to the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) as part of that agency’s consumer privacy proceeding.In its comment to NTIA, staff notes the FTC’s extensive experience in protecting consumer privacy and fostering innovation. For decades, the Commission has brought hundreds of cases protecting the privacy and security of consumer information—both online and offline—held by large and small companies. In addition, the Commission also conducts consumer and business education and policy development to promote privacy and the security of consumer data. The FTC is uniquely situated to balance consumers’ interests in privacy, innovation, and competition, according to the comment. In particular, the FTC’s dual mission of protecting competition and consumer protection gives the Commission a deep understanding of the benefits and costs to consumers associated with the…

FTC Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century Continue with Examination of Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Predictive Analytics

WHAT:The Federal Trade Commission will host the seventh session of its Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century.WHEN:Tuesday, November 13–Wednesday, November 14, 2018, beginning at 9 a.m. each dayWHERE:Howard University School of Law2900 Van Ness St NW, Washington, DC 20008(Note: This venue is in walking distance from the Van Ness-UDC Metro Station.)WHO:The hearings will feature introductory remarks by Howard University Law School Professor Andrew I. Gavil on Tuesday and FTC Bureau of Competition Director Bruce Hoffman on Wednesday, followed by 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. …

Money back from MoneyGram?

We’ve all known for a long time that scammers ask people to pay by wiring money. Money wiring companies like MoneyGram and Western Union have also known that scammers have people wire money using their services. In fact, the FTC has sued both companies – which have paid a lot of money to settle those charges – over exactly that issue. When the FTC settled with those companies (MoneyGram in 2009, Western Union in 2017), they also agreed to make changes to protect people from fraud. Except MoneyGram didn’t actually take some of those important steps.
That’s why the FTC and the Department of Justice (DOJ) just announced a new settlement with MoneyGram for $125 million. That money will eventually go back to people who wired – and lost – money to a scammer through MoneyGram starting in 2013. (There will be a date range for eligible refund requests. Exact dates…

FTC stops Sanctuary Belize land scheme

Every summer at the beach, we see billboards and flags advertising tours of sandy acres. The signs claim these empty stretches will become new communities, and that living here will be amazing — in a few years — when the homes, shopping center, and playground are complete. The ads urge visitors to buy into this great deal soon. Before you pay to build a castle in the sand, you need to do a lot of research and get some professional advice. The deal might not be as amazing as advertised, and, if a scammer is behind it, it’s not the deal for you.
In a case recently filed by the FTC, a federal court shut down a real estate scheme that was secretly controlled by a twice-convicted felon the FTC sued 15 years ago. According to the FTC, Andris Pukke and many of his associates used deceptive promotions for a luxury…

MoneyGram Agrees to Pay $125 Million to Settle Allegations that the Company Violated the FTC’s 2009 Order and Breached a 2012 DOJ Deferred Prosecution Agreement

MoneyGram International, Inc. has agreed to pay $125 million to settle allegations that the company failed to take steps required under a 2009 Federal Trade Commission order to crack down on fraudulent money transfers that cost U.S. consumers millions of dollars.The $125 million payment is part of a global settlement that resolves allegations that MoneyGram also violated a separate 2012 deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice.“The FTC’s 2009 order required MoneyGram to protect consumers from fraud through its money transfer system, and today we are holding MoneyGram accountable for its failure to do so,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “MoneyGram’s alleged failure to implement key provisions of the order allowed scammers to continue to use its money transfer system to rip off consumers.”Money transfers are a preferred method of payment for fraudsters because money sent through money transfer systems can be picked up quickly at locations all over…

FTC Chairman Joseph J. Simons Meets with Counterparts from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to Discuss Antitrust Enforcement

Antitrust agency heads from the United States, Canada, and Mexico meet today in Mexico City to discuss their ongoing work to ensure consistent and effective antitrust enforcement and increased cooperation among the three nations.The meeting includes Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph J. Simons, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division, Canadian Acting Commissioner of Competition Matthew Boswell, and President Alejandra Palacios of the Mexican Federal Economic Competition Commission.FTC Chairman Joseph J. Simons meets with antitrust counterparts in Mexico City.The discussions will cover a wide range of topics including developments and priorities, challenges for enforcers in times of antitrust populism, and procedural fairness in antitrust investigations. The officials also are exploring ways to deepen cooperation and convergence on sound antitrust principles.“Strengthening ties with our closest neighbors is always a top priority, and I look forward to exploring additional avenues for cooperation,” said FTC Chairman Simons….

At FTC’s Request, Court Halts Massive “Sanctuary Belize” Real Estate Investment Scam

Serial scammer Andris Pukke, others charged with deceiving Americans out of more than $100 million by deceptively marketing property in Belize
(NOTE TO MEDIA: Please see related press kit with maps, video, and audio.)At the Federal Trade Commission’s request, a federal district court in Maryland issued an order temporarily shutting down the largest overseas real estate investment scam the FTC has ever targeted.According to the FTC, the scam was established by Andris Pukke, a recidivist scammer currently living in California, and he perpetuated it even while serving a prison sentence for obstruction of justice.The alleged scheme took in more than $100 million, marketing lots in what supposedly would become a luxury development in Central America known by several names, including Sanctuary Belize, Sanctuary Bay, and The Reserve. According to the FTC, the defendants duped consumers into buying Sanctuary Belize lots by falsely promising that the development would include luxury amenities and…

Veterans: We thank you

November 11 is Veterans Day, a time to commemorate former servicemembers and recognize their service to the nation. In the U.S. today, there are more than 20 million veterans. Whether they’ve been out of the service for days or decades, they can benefit from Military Consumer’s tips on managing money, avoiding scams, and making the most of their service-related benefits.

Share these tips with your military and veteran networks. For those vets who’ve recently returned to civilian life, resources about transitioning out of the service can help with using education benefits, finding the right job, and buying a home. For those who’ve been away from the military a bit longer, veteran support tips can help avoid scams, decide whether to start a business, and evaluate potential investments.
To all our veterans, we are grateful for your sacrifices and service. …

FTC to Announce Enforcement Action against Largest International Real Estate Investment Scheme the Agency Has Ever Encountered

The Federal Trade Commission will hold a press conference on Thursday, November 8 at 11 am in Washington, DC, to announce a law enforcement action against the largest-ever international real estate investment scheme the agency has encountered. The Commission estimates that to date hundreds of consumers have lost more than $100 million to the illegal scheme.WHAT:Press conference to announce FTC action regarding an allegedly illegal international real estate investment schemeWHO:James Kohm, Assistant Director, FTC’s Division of EnforcementConsumer affected by the alleged schemeWHEN:Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, 11 am ET(Doors will open at 10:45 am ET)WHERE:FTC Headquarters, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NWWashington, DC 20580WEBCAST:The event will be webcast live. A link to the webcast will be available at on Thursday morning.MEDIA CONTACT:Mitchell J. KatzFTC Office of Public Affairs202-326-2161Reporters unable to attend the event can dial in to listen and ask questions. The call-in number is 1-800-288-8961, and the confirmation number is 456727….

FTC’s James A. Kohm and Markus H. Meier Earn Presidential Rank Awards

The Federal Trade Commission announced today that James A. Kohm, Director of the Enforcement Division in the Bureau of Consumer Protection, and Markus H. Meier, Director of the Health Care Division in the Bureau of Competition, have received Fiscal Year 2018 Presidential Rank Awards.“The FTC, and American consumers, benefit immeasurably from talented leaders like Jim and Markus,” said Chairman Joseph J. Simons. “Their lasting contributions have strengthened the agency’s ability to protect consumers and promote competition, and we are immensely grateful for their service.”James A. Kohm led the design and implementation of the Bureau of Consumer Protection’s modern order enforcement program, which has secured dozens of contempt findings and judgments totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. Among them is the FTC’s largest contempt award – $100 million against Lifelock. Under Director Kohm’s guidance, the Enforcement Division also implemented the Green Guides, one of the agency’s largest rulemaking accomplishments, and the…

Do you have a 2012, 2013, or 2014 VW Passat TDI?

If you have a 2012, 2013, or 2014 Passat 2.0L TDI and got the approved emissions modification, Volkswagen has identified a potential problem with the “fix” it installed on your car that needs your immediate attention. If you have one of those vehicles but haven’t gotten the modification, you must make an important decision very soon. You’ll be getting a detailed letter in the mail from VW about this, but in the meantime, here are some key facts.
In 2016 multiple government agencies and car owners sued Volkswagen, saying that the company installed “defeat devices” in 2.0L diesel cars that cheated on emissions testing. To settle the lawsuit, Volkswagen agreed to give car owners a choice: 1) VW would modify their cars to improve emissions, plus give them a cash payment; or 2) VW would buy back their cars.
If you got the engine modification for your 2012, 2013, or 2014 Passat…

FTC Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century Continue with Discussion on the Intersection of Big Data, Privacy, and Competition

WHAT:The Federal Trade Commission will host the sixth session of its Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century.WHEN:Tuesday, November 6–Thursday, November 8, 2018, beginning at 9 a.m.WHERE:American University Washington College of Law4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20016(Note: This venue is in walking distance from the Tenleytown/AU Metro Station)WHO:The hearings will begin with introductory remarks by Jonathan Baker, Research Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law, followed by a distinguished set of panelists.WEBCAST:The hearing will be webcast. Watch live webcast now in progress.TWITTER:Follow the discussion at the #FTCHearings hashtag. …

National Veterans Small Business Week

According to a 2017 report from the Small Business Administration (SBA), veterans own more than two and a half million businesses. That’s nine percent of all U.S. companies. Veteran-owned firms employed more than five million people and paid $195 billion in annual payroll. To highlight these businesses, the SBA has designated November 5 – 9 as National Veterans Small Business Week. The SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development offers specialized guidance and support for veteran entrepreneurs, including programs for women veterans and members of the Reserve and National Guard. The Federal Trade Commission also has tips and tools especially for small businesses. Here are a few examples of resources to help protect your customers, employees, and the bottom line.

Steer clear of scams. Con artists are pros and know exactly how to target businesses. Read Scams and Your Small Business, a free booklet that explains fake invoices, directory listing scams, utility…

Rest insured, you can avoid fake healthcare plans

If you’re looking online for health insurance, there are lots of results that seem to offer good choices. But dishonest companies are literally banking on your being confused by all those choices. So, before you sign up and pay, take steps to know you’re getting exactly what the plan advertised. Otherwise, your so-called “coverage” can leave you exposed to substandard benefits and costly payments.
The FTC says that’s what happened to customers of Simple Health. The company allegedly tricked consumers into believing its plans offer comprehensive coverage and are compliant with Affordable Care Act (ACA) standards. The company allegedly lured people in through lead-generation sites, using logos of well-known health insurance providers to make itself look credible. Simple Health asked for personal information on the site, followed up with phone calls, and pitched what it said were affordable, comprehensive, ACA-qualified plans with low or no co-pays or deductibles.
But once consumers signed…

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