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Free credit freezes are here

Free credit freezes and year-long fraud alerts are here, starting September 21st, thanks to a new federal law. Here’s what you should know:
Free credit freezes
Security freezes, also known as credit freezes, restrict access to your credit file, making it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. Starting September 21, 2018, you can freeze and unfreeze your credit file for free. You also can get a free freeze for your children who are under 16. And if you are someone’s guardian, conservator or have a valid power of attorney, you can get a free freeze for that person, too.
How will these freezes work? Contact all three of the nationwide credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you request a freeze online or by phone, the agency must place the freeze within one business day. If you request a lift of the freeze, the agency must…

Starting Today, New Federal Law Allows Consumers to Place Free Credit Freezes And Yearlong Fraud Alerts

Starting today, consumers who are concerned about identity theft or data breaches can freeze their credit and place one-year fraud alerts for free.Under the new Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, consumers in some states – those who previously had to pay fees to freeze their credit – will no longer have to do so.A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, restricts access to a consumer’s credit file, making it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in the consumer’s name. The new law also allows parents to freeze for free the credit of their children who are under 16, while guardians, conservators, and those with a valid power of attorney can get a free freeze for their dependents.In addition, the new law extends the duration of a fraud alert on a consumer’s credit report from 90 days to one year. A fraud alert requires…

FTC Settlements Stop Debt Collection Scheme

Defendants falsely threatened consumers with arrest for not paying debts
The operators of an illegal debt collection scheme have agreed to be permanently banned from the debt collection business in order to settle FTC charges that they falsely threatened to have people arrested if their debts were not paid.The defendants, Gregory MacKinnon, Angela Burdorf, Vantage Point Services LLC and Payment Management Solutions, and Joseph Ciffa and Bonified Payment Solutions Inc., falsely claimed consumers would spend up to 120 days in jail or pay thousands of dollars in bail, according to a complaint filed by the FTC and the New York Attorney General’s Office.According to the complaint, the defendants also failed to provide information about their identities during phone calls, or information about the supposed debt within five days of a call, as required by law, and illegally added unauthorized amounts to consumer’s debts.The settlement orders also prohibit these defendants from misrepresenting…

Please don’t get your cancer treatments in a bar.

We’ve warned people for years not to trust the wild health claims that some companies make about their pills, powders, and potions. Call us old fashioned, but we almost fell off our stool when we heard about a company that ginned up some health claims for “cocktails” that go through the arm and not down the hatch. What are we talking about? We know you’re on pins and needles, so let’s get to it.
The FTC just announced a case against a company, doing business as iV Bars, that offered customers the chance to sample its “intravenous cocktails” for $100 or more a pop. According to the complaint, the company said — without adequate proof – that some of these cocktails could treat diseases like cancer, congestive heart failure, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes. The company even said its cocktails were sometimes more effective than conventional medical treatments. What’s more, the company claimed…

Hang up on Medicare card scams

Scammers follow the news – and the money. A few months ago, we shared the news that Medicare is sending new cards to everyone who gets Medicare benefits, replacing your Social Security number with another number. As expected, scammers have been trying to cash in on this change.
These scammers typically reach out by phone and have tried a few different tactics. Sometimes, they claim to be a Medicare representative and ask to verify (ahem, steal) your information. Or they claim that there’s a fee for your new card (there isn’t). Others claim that your Medicare card was compromised and you need to move your money from your bank into “safer accounts” (it wasn’t, you don’t, and following their advice means putting your money in their pockets). We’ve even heard of some scammers offering plastic versions of the card for a fee – even though the real Medicare cards are paper…

FTC Brings First-ever Action Targeting “iV Cocktail” Therapy Marketer

Order settling complaint bars Texas-based firm and owner from making unsupported claims that iV cocktails can treat serious diseases and produce fast, long-lasting results
The Federal Trade Commission today, for the first time, charged a marketer and seller of intravenously injected therapy products (iV Cocktails) with making a range of deceptive and unsupported health claims about their ability to treat serious diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and congestive heart failure.The proposed FTC order settling the claims prohibits the company, which operates a string of clinics in north Texas; New Braunfels, Texas; and Vail, Colorado, and its owner from making such claims, unless they can be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.The iV Cocktails, which were advertised as an alternative to traditional medical therapy, are actually a simple mix of water, vitamins, minerals, and herbs injected directly into the bloodstream for between $100 and $250 per “treatment.” Such therapy, sometimes…

FTC Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century Continue Friday with Discussions on U.S. Antitrust Law and Monopsony Power

WHAT:The Federal Trade Commission will host the second session of its Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century.WHEN:Friday September 21, 9:00 am-4:30 pm ET.WHERE:FTC’s Constitution Center Auditorium400 7th St. SW, Washington, DC 20024.WHO:Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz will present opening remarks, followed by a day of discussion by a distinguished set of panelists.WEBCAST:The conference will be webcast. The webcast link can be found on the event page on the day of the workshop.TWITTER:The workshop will be tweeted live from the FTC’s Twitter page (@FTC) using #FTCHearings. …

FTC shuts down fake document sellers

When you apply for credit, a mortgage, a place to live, government benefits, or tax refunds, you need documents showing your income, employment, and other information. But not everyone plays by the rules. Some businesses sell fake documents to people who use them to get products and services for which they might not otherwise qualify.
Today, the FTC announced cases against three sellers of bogus documents. In its complaints against Katrina Moore and Innovative Paycheck Solutions, Steve Simmons and Integrated Flight Solutions, and George Jiri Strnad II and Abstract United, the FTC alleges the defendants sold fake documents used for identity theft and fraud. The bogus documents include fake pay stubs, banks statements, tax forms and medical documents. As part of the proposed settlements, the defendants are prohibited from selling fake documents or services as well as templates or tools for creating such documents.
The sale of fake documents has far-reaching consequences. Let’s…

Picking up the pieces after a hurricane

Dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane can be overwhelming, 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 any 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 legally do the work.
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 Approves Final Order Requiring Grifols S.A. to Divest Assets as Condition of Acquiring Biotest US Corporation

Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved a final order that settles charges that Grifols S.A.’s acquisition of Biotest US Corporation is anticompetitive and violates federal antitrust law. Grifols is a global healthcare company based in Spain. Biotest US is a healthcare company based in Florida.According to the complaint, which was announced in August 2018, the acquisition, as originally proposed, would have given Grifols a monopoly in the markets for collection of human blood plasma in Lincoln, Nebraska, Augusta, Georgia, and Youngstown, Ohio. The settlement requires Grifols to divest its plasma collection centers in these three cities to KedPlasma, a subsidiary of Kedrion Biopharma Inc. Kedrion Biopharma is a leading manufacturer of protein products and is the fifth-largest producer of plasma proteins worldwide.The complaint also alleged that, absent a remedy, the acquisition would have harmed the U.S. market for hepatitis B immune globulin, or HBIG, a…

FTC Shuts Down Purveyors of Fake Documents Used for Fraud, Identity Theft

Websites sold fake pay stubs, other documents
The operators of websites that sold fake documents used to facilitate identity theft and other frauds have agreed to permanently shut down their businesses as part of separate settlements with the Federal Trade Commission.In separate cases filed by the FTC, the Commission alleged that Katrina Moore, Steven Simmons, and George Jiri Strnad II and their affiliated companies operated websites that sold customers a variety of fake financial and other documents – such as pay stubs, income tax forms, and medical statements – which can be used to facilitate identity theft, tax fraud, and other crimes.“The sale of fake documents makes it easy for identity thieves and scammers to ply their trade,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “This action demonstrates the FTC’s determination to stop those who help people to commit identity theft and fraud.”Identity theft was the second…

WeTakeSection8 – but not really

Looking for an apartment? Many of us start looking online, trusting that the rental sites give us good information. But what if they don’t, and then charge for it? That’s just what the FTC says happened in its most recent case related to housing.
What’s the case about? Apartment Hunters, Inc. operates rental listing websites, including WeTakeSection8.com, ApartmentHunterz.com, and FeaturedRentals.com. The sites charge fees, usually around $50, to see their rental listings. They promise that listings are accurate, up-to-date and available—and that you’ll find housing quickly. WeTakeSection8 targets low-income, disabled, and older people looking for affordable housing, while the other websites offer general rental listings—all for a fee.
But, according to the FTC, Apartment Hunters’ claims were false. Not only could people not find housing quickly on any of the sites but, the FTC says, most listings on WeTakeSection8.com were not even available and did not accept Section 8 housing vouchers. That…

Empower yourself against utility scams

You get a call saying your electricity or water will be shut off unless you pay a past due bill. You may not think you have a past due bill. But the caller sounds convincing, and you can’t afford to ignore it, especially if you’re running a small business.
Actually, you can’t afford to believe it.
The FTC has been hearing about scammers impersonating utility companies in an effort to get your money. Here are some warning signs of a utility scam:
If you know you already paid, stop. Even if the caller insists you have a past due bill. That’s a big red flag.
Never give out your banking information by email or phone. Utility companies don’t demand banking information by email or phone. And they won’t force you to pay by phone as your only option.
Did the caller demand payment by gift card, cash reload card, wiring money or cryptocurrency? Don’t do…

FTC Returns more than $10 Million to NetSpend Customers

The Federal Trade Commission is mailing more than 430,000 checks totaling more than $10 million to people who could not access money deposited to their NetSpend reloadable prepaid debit cards. According to an FTC complaint, many NetSpend customers were unable to access their funds, either because NetSpend denied or delayed activation of their card or because NetSpend blocked them from using it.To settle the FTC’s charges, NetSpend Corporation agreed to notify and provide refunds to eligible customers who requested them before October 7, 2017. NetSpend also agreed to remit to the FTC any fees collected from NetSpend debit cards that were eligible for refund, but were not paid out during the consumer redress period. The FTC is using this money to send checks to customers who did not receive a refund previously in this case.Recipients should deposit or cash checks within 60 days, as indicated on the check. The FTC…

Court Temporarily Halts Operators of Rental Listing Websites from Making False Claims About the Availability of Apartments That Accept Section 8 Vouchers and Other Rental Properties

At the request of the Federal Trade Commission, a federal court has issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting two brothers and their four California companies from using false or unsubstantiated claims in the marketing of online rental listings offered through their websites.In its complaint, the FTC alleges that Steven and Kevin (Kaveh) Shayan have advertised on their WeTakeSection8.com website housing that purportedly accepts Section 8 vouchers for low-income families, elderly, and disabled persons. The defendants have claimed that the website has accurate, up-to-date, and available listings that are approved for Section 8 housing vouchers. The FTC alleges that these claims are false or unsubstantiated, and that most of the listed properties either are not available or do not accept Section 8 housing vouchers.“Today’s housing market is historically tight, and affordable rentals are harder to find than ever. Section 8 voucher recipients have it even harder: they have fewer rentals from…

Your Social Security Number isn’t suspended. Ever.

A caller says that he’s from the government and your Social Security Number (SSN) has been suspended. He sounds very professional. So you should do exactly what he says to fix things…right?
Wrong.
The FTC has gotten reports about scammers trying to trick people out of their personal information by telling them that they need to “reactivate” their supposedly “suspended” SSNs. The scammers say the SSN was suspended because of some connection to fraud or other criminal activity. They say to call a number to clear it up – where they’ll ask you for personal information.
Thing is, Social Security Numbers do not get suspended. This is just a variation of a government imposter scam that’s after your SSN, bank account number, or other personal information. In this variation of the scheme, the caller pretends to be protecting you from a scam while he’s trying to lure you into one.
Here are a few…

Empowering Hispanic Consumers and Business Owners

September 15th marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month —a time to celebrate the heritage, cultures and contributions of all Latino and Hispanic Americans in the U.S. For us at the FTC, it is a reminder of our continued commitment to protect all consumers in every community. For me, it is a reminder of the work that my colleagues and I do to ensure that many of these resources are available to Spanish speakers.
We have worked for years on making sure that the agency’s free resources to help consumers spot and avoid fraud are available in Spanish as well as English. Information about how to recover from identity theft, how to spot and stop imposter scams, and resources for empowering older adults, are just some of many consumer topics we make available in Spanish. We’ve also published a popular series of fotonovelas that tell stories about scams targeting Latino communities….

Wise giving after a hurricane

The 2018 hurricane season is upon us. If you haven’t made storm preparations, now is the time. The FTC has information to help you prepare for, deal with, and recover from the long-term impacts of a weather emergency. But how about the rest of us ready to help with donations after a hurricane? You should know about how to avoid hurricane relief charity fraud.
Here’s the rundown. After a hurricane hits, people rush to help those in need. If you are making a donation for hurricane relief, remember to give enough thought to where exactly you are sending your money. Because scammers are hoping that generous people like you, in your eagerness to help, won’t do your homework so they can steal that money. The best way to avoid this and other kinds of charity fraud is to go online and do your research to make sure your money goes to…

FTC Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century Kick Off on Thursday with Session Co-Hosted by Georgetown University Law Center

[Note: The second day of hearings on Friday, September 14 has been postponed due to potential weather-related disruptions]
WHAT:The Federal Trade Commission and Georgetown University Law Center will co-host the opening session of the FTC’s Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century.WHEN:Thursday September 13, 9:00 am-5:15 pm ET. The session previously scheduled for Friday, September 14 will be rescheduled. Please monitor the Hearings Initiative web page for further notice.WHERE:Georgetown University Law Center’s Hart Auditorium600 New Jersey Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20001.WHO:FTC Chairman Joe Simons will present opening remarks, followed by a day of discussion by a distinguished set of panelists.WEBCAST:The conference will be webcast. The webcast link can be found on the event page on the day of the workshop.TWITTER:The workshop will be tweeted live from the FTC’s Twitter page (@FTC) using #FTCHearings. …

FTC Tips: Hurricane Season

How to prepare for and recover from a storm and avoid charity scams
The 2018 hurricane season has arrived. The Federal Trade Commission has information to help you prepare for, deal with, and recover from the long-term impacts of a hurricane, as well as information on giving wisely to help those in need.Preparing for a StormOrganize your finances. Keep your financial documents up to date, accessible, and portable.Check your insurance. See if your home, health, or other insurance policy will cover temporary shelter, replacement clothing, furniture, out-of-network medical services, or other items.Flood-proof your home. Prepare for flooding by buying flood insurance and writing a flood response plan; visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for more information.Plan for your pets. Visit ready.gov/animals for tips on how to prepare.For more information, visit:Ready.govFEMA’s Community and Family Preparedness Program and download the FEMA Smartphone AppAmerican Red Cross Community Disaster Education and download Red Cross…

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