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Monday, February 28, 2022

Bureau of Consumer Protection: Credit Card Debt Fraud

  • The FTC has permanently banned a group of alleged scammers from the debt relief industry and has imposed a monetary judgment of $5.3 million. The ban and judgment stem from a settlement related to a lawsuit in which the Commission and the Florida Office of the Attorney General alleged that the defendants tricked seniors and financially distressed consumers into signing up for a debt relief scheme by “bombarding” them with telemarketing calls. Under the alleged scheme, the defendants falsely claimed that consumers could save thousands of dollars in credit card interest, when in reality the defendants did little more than collect upfront fees from consumers. The Commission voted unanimously to approve the stipulated final order based on the settlement.

Continue Reading FTC Updates (February 28-March 4, 2022)

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Bureau of Consumer Protection: Privacy, Security, and Identity Theft

  • The Commission has released a new data book aggregating information from 2021 consumer reports about fraud, identity theft, and similar topics in the field of consumer protection. The FTC received over 5.7 million reports in 2021, and the reports reflected a combined loss of over $5.8 billion dollars, a staggering 70% increase over 2020. Of these reports, approximately half pertained to fraud, and one in four fraud reports also reported monetary losses. The most common type of fraud reported was an imposter scam, where a scammer posing as a trusted friend or government agency asks for money. Within the realm of identity theft, which made up 25% of consumer reports, the most common type of theft related to misuse of personal information to apply for government documents or benefits, such as unemployment. The data book also breaks down the most common types of reports within each state and includes appendices listing major data contributors, descriptions of report categories, and a comparison of the various report categories over the past three years. The actual consumer reports are uploaded to the agency’s Consumer Sentinel Network, an online database used by law enforcement to identify suspicious trends and business practices.

Continue Reading FTC Updates (February 21-25, 2022)

Friday, February 18, 2022

Bureau of Competition: Endorsements, Influencers, and Reviews

The FTC is refunding more than $580,000 to consumers across the country who bought indoor TV antennas and signal amplifiers marketed online with allegedly deceptive claims that the products would allow the consumers to cancel their cable service and still receive their preferred channels for free. The March 2021 complaint alleged that Wellco, Inc. and its owner and CEO, George M. Moscone violated the FTC Act by making deceptive performance claims for their antennas and signal amplifiers and using deceptive consumer endorsements and web pages that looked like objective news reports. The products were sold online under the brand names TV Scout, SkyWire, SkyLink, and Tilt TV.
Continue Reading FTC Updates (February 14-18, 2022)

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Bureau of Consumer Protection: Deceptive and Misleading Conduct with Franchises, Business Opportunities, and Investments

The FTC has filed a complaint against Burgerim, a fast-food chain, alleging that the chain and its owner enticed more than 1,500 consumers to purchase franchises of the chain using false promises while withholding information required by the FTC’s Disclosure Requirements and Prohibitions Concerning Franchising (“Franchise Rule”). The FTC alleges that some of the false promises include recruiting potential franchisees, including veterans, by pitching the franchise opportunity as “a business in a box,” that required little to no business experience. According to the complaint, many consumers paid Burgerim between $50,000 and $70,000 in franchise fees and Burgerim pocketed tens of millions of dollars in such fees, despite the fact that the majority of the people who paid them were never able to open restaurants.
Continue Reading FTC Updates (February 7-13, 2022)

Monday, January 31, 2022

Consumer Protection: Privacy & Facial Recognition

  • FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson issued a series of letters to Senators Ron Wyden, Maria Cantwell, and Roger Wicker as well as House of Representatives members Jan Schakowsky, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and Gus Bilirakis to request review of a proposed contract between the IRS and ID.me, an identity verification software company. Ms. Wilson’s letters highlight a recent Washington Post article predicting that taxpayers may have to scan their faces in order to access their IRS tax accounts. She also expresses concerns that ID.me’s software would not adequately protect the privacy of taxpayer records and could cause other harms, referencing a 2019 hack of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol database, which exposed thousands of photos of Americans. Commissioner Wilson notes that the recipients of her letters are leaders on privacy issues in the House and Senate, and she offered the FTC’s assistance with this request.

Continue Reading FTC Updates (January 31-February 4, 2022)

Monday, January 24, 2022

Bureau of Competition: Premerger Notification Filings

  • The FTC announced the 2022 updates on the size of transactional thresholds for premerger notification filings and interlocking directorates. The size-of-transaction thresholds for reporting proposed mergers and acquisitions under Section 7A of the Clayton Act will adjust to $101 million, up from $92 million. The thresholds under Section 8 of the Act that trigger prohibitions on certain interlocking memberships on corporate boards of directors were also updated: $41,034,000 for Section 8(a)(l) and $4,103,400 for Section 8(a)(2)(A). Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter issued a statement, and Chair Lina M. Khan joined, which highlighted the FTCs updates and showed support for Congress’ efforts to increase certain fees and implement other adjustments to ensure that it is keeping pace with the U.S. economy.

Continue Reading FTC Updates (January 24–28, 2022)

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Bureau of Consumer Protection: Credit and Finance

  • The Commission is returning over $10 million to consumers who were charged hidden fees by online lender LendingClub Corporation. The disbursement stems from the FTC’s 2018 lawsuit against the corporation, in which the agency alleged that LendingClub falsely promised loan applicants that they would receive a specific loan amount with no hidden fees, when in fact the company deducted hidden up-front fees from the loans. The FTC is sending refunds to 15,748 customers who complained to the company or the FTC about the fees; the agency will also be reaching out to additional Lending Club customers who repaid loans during the period at issue. This order predates the FTC’s loss of its ability to obtain equitable monetary relief in federal court for consumers following an April 22, 2021 Supreme Court decision. Congress has not yet acted on the FTC’s request to reinstate this power.

Continue Reading FTC Updates (January 17–21, 2022)

Monday, January 10, 2022

Consumer Protection: Cryptocurrency Payment Scams

  • The FTC issued a warning alerting consumers to a new cryptocurrency scam. Scammers begin by impersonating government, law enforcement, or local utility companies. They message or call the victim to the tell them that they have won the lottery or a prize. Eventually, the scammer requests money from the victim and instructs the person to withdraw cryptocurrency from a cryptocurrency ATM. The scammer provides a QR code so the victim can transfer the cryptocurrency to themselves. Tracking the cryptocurrency is extremely difficult to do, which means most victims are not able to retrieve their funds. The FTC issued the warning due to the increased number of reported scams.

Continue Reading FTC Updates (January 10-14, 2022)

Monday, December 20, 2021

Bureau of Competition: Retail Fuel Merger

  • The FTC entered into a consent order with Global Partners LP and Richard Wiehl to settle charges that Global’s proposed acquisition of Wiehl’s chain of 27 retail gasoline service stations would violate federal antitrust laws. Under the order, Global and Wiehl must divest seven fuel outlets to Petroleum Marketing Investment Group, and for the next ten years, Global must obtain prior approval from the Commission before acquiring retail fuel assets within two miles of any of the divested outlets. Concurrently with the order, the agency issued an analysis explaining the potential anticompetitive effects of the proposed acquisition and how the consent agreement remedies those effects.

Continue Reading FTC Updates (December 20, 2021 – January 7, 2022)

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Bureau of Consumer Protection: Deceptive and Misleading Conduct

  • The FTC announced rulemaking geared towards combatting government and business impersonation fraud. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant uptick in scammers utilizing various forms of communication to impersonate government agencies or businesses in order to steal money or a consumer’s