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FTC Action Halts MOBE, a Massive Internet Business Coaching Scheme

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The Federal Trade Commission has charged three individuals and nine businesses with bilking more than $125 million from thousands of consumers with a fraudulent business education program called MOBE (“My Online Business Education”). A federal court halted the scheme and froze the defendants’ assets at the FTC’s request.

According to the FTC, the defendants behind this international operation target U.S. consumers—including service members, veterans, and older adults—through online ads, social media, direct mailers, and live events held throughout the country. This action follows the agency’s recent action against Digital Altitude, LLC, a competing business opportunity scheme that was also halted by court order.

The FTC alleges that the defendants falsely claim that their business education program will enable people to start their own online businesses and earn substantial income. They claim to have a “proven” 21-step system for making substantial sums of money quickly and easily from internet marketing, which they promise to provide to those who join their program.

According to the complaint, consumers who pay the initial $49 entry fee for the 21-step program are bombarded with sales pitches for membership packages that cost thousands of dollars, which the defendants pressure them to buy in order to continue through the 21 steps. The defendants eventually reveal that their “proven system” for making money is for consumers to sell the same memberships to others in the hopes of earning commissions on those sales.

Most people who buy into the program and pay for the expensive memberships are unable to recoup their costs, and many experience crippling losses or mounting debts, including some who have lost more than $20,000, the FTC alleges.

The FTC also alleges that the defendants offer refund and money-back guarantees to further mislead people to believe the program is risk-free, but they often refuse to honor refund request, or they provide refunds only after buyers make persistent demands or threaten to complain to the Better Business Bureau or law enforcement agencies.

The defendants are Matthew Lloyd McPhee, also known as Matt Lloyd, an Australian living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Russell W. Whitney, Jr.; Susan Zanghi; MOBE Ltd., also doing business as MOBE, My Online Business Education, and My Own Business Empire; MOBEProcessing.com Inc.; Transaction Management USA Inc.; MOBETraining.com Inc.; 9336-0311 Quebec Inc., also d/b/a Business Education Training; MOBE Pro Limited; MOBE Inc.; MOBE Online Ltd.; and Matt Lloyd Publishing.com Pty Ltd., also d/b/a Matt Lloyd Publishing and Home Business Builders.

The Commission vote approving the complaint was 5-0. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division, entered a temporary restraining order against the defendants on June 5, 2018.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Contact Information

CONTACT FOR CONSUMERS:
Consumer Response Center
877-382-4357

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The Federal Trade Commission is mailing 3,633 checks totaling more than $969,000 to people who lost money to a deceptive telemarketing scheme that promoted business coaching services to people who wanted to start internet businesses.

In January 2018, the Internet Teaching and Training Specialists, LLC (ITT) defendants were banned from selling business coaching services and business opportunities under a settlement with the FTC. ITT sold a business coaching program provided by Guidance Interactive, a company that also settled with the FTC. According to the FTC’s complaint, despite these defendants’ promises, most of their customers did not develop a successful online business, and instead ended up in debt.

Each check is worth $266.78. Recipients should deposit or cash checks within 60 days. The FTC never requires people to pay money or provide account information to cash a refund check. If recipients have questions about the case, they should contact the FTC’s refund administrator, Rust Consulting Inc., at 1-888-812-1569.

To learn more about the FTC’s refund program, visit www.ftc.gov/refunds.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Contact Information

CONTACT FOR CONSUMERS:
Consumer Response Center
877-382-4357

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Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information

By Jason Adler – Assistant Director, Midwest Region .

Instead of min(d)ing their own business, are scammers using your computer as their virtual ATM? Three years ago, the FTC warned the public and took action against cryptojacking. That’s where scammers use your device’s processing power to “mine” cryptocurrency, which they can then convert into cold, hard cash.

Cryptojacking scams have continued to evolve, and they don’t even need you to install anything. Scammers can use malicious code embedded in a website or an ad to infect your device. Then they can help themselves to your device’s processor without you even knowing. You might make an unlucky visit to a website that uses cryptojacking code, click a link in a phishing email, or mistype a web address. Any of those could lead to cryptojacking. While the scammer cashes out, your device may slow down, burn through battery power, or crash.

Read more >

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The settlements stem from an FTC-led enforcement sweep announced last year

The defendants in two student loan debt relief cases have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission claims that they charged consumers illegal upfront fees and falsely promised to help reduce or forgive student loan debt burdens.

The settlements with Strategic Student Solutions and Bloom Law Group are part of a coordinated federal-state law enforcement initiative targeting deceptive student loan debt relief scam announced by the FTC in October 2017, called Operation Game of Loans.

(For more information visit: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2018/05/operators-student-loan-debt-relief-schemes-settle-ftc-charges?utm_source=govdelivery)

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Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information

by Emma Fletcher
Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC

Who wouldn’t love to be that winner you see on TV holding a great big sweepstakes check? That’s what con artists are counting on when they claim to be Publishers Clearing House. This trick is an oldie but goodie for scammers.

Read more >

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State Auditor Wayne Johnson warns government
agencies about invoicing scam targeting public money

Santa Fe, NM – State Auditor Wayne Johnson is warning state and local agencies today that a scam artist could target their finance employees with fraudulent invoices for significant amounts of money. In the past, some New Mexico entities have fallen victim to such fraud, costing taxpayers thousands.

“These criminals are very savvy and convincing,” said Johnson. “They do their research and often know how specific agencies work, and who works there. We have to be careful and rely on internal control methods to safeguard public money. Unfortunately, over the years we’ve seen schools, cities, and counties fall prey to these scams, costing us more than half a million of valuable tax dollars that could be used for actual services.”

Some government entities have paid invoices before realizing it was fraudulent. In 2017 the City of Albuquerque paid $400,000 and the Silver City School District paid $200,000 to scammers. In 2016, San Miguel County lost $38,000 to a similar scheme.

In the latest case, perpetrators “spoofed” the e-mail of a senior level official in a local school district and created a sense of urgency, demanding that an invoice be paid that day.

On April 18, 2018, the school district’s accounts payable manager received an e-mail that appeared to come from the district’s chief financial officer (CFO). The CFO asked the manager to pay a $26,280.50 invoice immediately. When the accounts manager asked for further information and documentation, the fake CFO replied that it was okay to pay the invoice outside of the normal process and that it was critical to pay immediately.

The employee wasn’t fooled, and reported the scam to her superiors.

The Risk Advisory report can be read here: https://www.saonm.org/media/uploads/GAO_RA_Vendor_Invoicing_Scam.pdf

Government employees and leaders who received e-mails suspected of being fraudulent can e-mail the OSA at reports@osa.state.nm.us or call 505-476-3800.

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Federal Trade Commission Consumer InformationScammers target Sept. 11th Victim Compensation Fund

2018 Apr 20 by Drew Johnson, Consumer Education Specialist, FTCConsumers are reporting a new imposter scam — this time the callers are pretending to be with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). According to reports, the callers are telling people they may be entitled to money, and they are asking people for their personal information to determine if they are eligible. It’s a scam.Read more >

(For more information see: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/04/scammers-target-sept-11th-victim-compensation-fund?utm_source=govdelivery)

(Sent using GovDelivery Communications Cloud on behalf of: Federal Trade Commission · 600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW · Washington, DC 20580 · 1-877-382-4357)

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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.

(For more information on this visit: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2018/04/ftc-obtains-court-orders-banning-marketer-negative-option-sales?utm_source=govdelivery)
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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.

For complete article see: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2018/04/debt-relief-scammers-settle-ftc-florida-will-submit-35-million?utm_source=govdelivery

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A New Way to Report Tax Identity Theft

by Seena Gressin
Attorney, Division of Consumer & Business Education, FTC

Identity theft is hard enough. That’s why we keep working to make recovering from it easier. It’s also why we’re happy to let you know about an innovative project by the FTC and IRS that lets people report tax-related identity theft to the IRS online, using the FTC’s IdentityTheft.gov website to file IRS Form 14039.

IdentityTheft.gov website on a laptop, tablet, and smartphone.

Read more >

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FTC Shuts Down Promoters of Deceptive Cryptocurrency Schemes

At the request of the Federal Trade Commission, a federal court has halted the activities of four individuals who allegedly promoted deceptive money-making schemes involving cryptocurrencies. These schemes falsely promised that participants could earn large returns by paying cryptocurrency such as bitcoin or Litecoin to enroll in the schemes.

In a complaint, the FTC alleges that three defendants – Thomas Dluca, Louis Gatto, and Eric Pinkston – promoted chain referral schemes known as Bitcoin Funding Team and My7Network. Using websites, YouTube videos, social media and conference calls, the defendants promised big rewards for a small payment of bitcoin or Litecoin.

The defendants claimed that Bitcoin Funding Team could turn a payment of the equivalent of just over $100 into $80,000 in monthly income. The FTC alleges, however, that the structure of the schemes ensured that few would benefit. In fact, the majority of participants would fail to recoup their initial investments.

(See the full story at: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2018/03/ftc-shuts-down-promoters-deceptive-cryptocurrency-schemes?utm_source=govdelivery)

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FTC Sending Refund Checks Totaling More Than $7.2 Million to Consumers Who Bought Deceptively Marketed “Buy-One-Get-One-Free” Products

Company often billed consumers without their consent

The Federal Trade Commission is mailing 218,254 refund checks totaling more than $7.2 million to people who bought products deceptively marketed as “buy-one-get-one-free,” including Snuggies, the Magic Mesh Door, and other “as-seen-on-TV” type products. Consumers who bought products marketed by Allstar Marketing Group, LLC will receive checks averaging $33.14.

In March 2015, the FTC alleged that since at least 1999, Allstar used direct marketing TV commercials to sell its products, many of which are familiar to consumers. While the products varied, Allstar’s pitch often was the same—a “buy-one-get-one-free” offer that did not disclose all the costs. Because the ordering process was confusing, some customers also were charged for more products than they wanted.

The court order settling the FTC’s charges barred Allstar from engaging in the allegedly illegal conduct and imposed a monetary judgment of $7.5 million to provide refunds to injured consumers. The New York Office of Attorney General, which filed a parallel action against Allstar, has assisted with the refund planning process.

Analytics, the refund administrator for this matter, will begin mailing refund checks today. Consumers should receive their refund checks this month, and they must be cashed within 60 days or they will become void. The FTC never requires consumers to pay money or provide information to cash refund checks. Consumers who have questions should call 1-877-982-1294.

FTC law enforcement actions led to more than $6.4 billion in refunds for consumers in a one-year period between July 2016 and June 2017. To learn more about the FTC’s refund program, including its Annual Report, visit www.ftc.gov/refunds.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Contact Information

MEDIA CONTACT:
Mitchell J. Katz
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2161

CONSUMER REDRESS HOTLINE: 1-877-982-1294

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The Top Frauds of This Past Year….!

The top frauds of 2017 [As reported by FTC.gov] —

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March 1, 2018 by Monica Vaca, Associate Director, Division of Consumer Response and Operations

The numbers are in, the counts have been made, and today the FTC announced what we heard from you during 2017. Here are some highlights:
This year’s top fraud is again Imposter Scams, with nearly 350,000 reports. Nearly 1 in 5 people who reported an imposter scam lost money – a whopping $328 million lost to someone pretending to be a loved one in trouble, a government official, tech support, or someone else who’s not who they say they are, but who wants your money.
We heard from nearly 2.7 million people last year. There were fewer debt collection reports in 2017 (23% of all reports), but it’s still the top category by a wide margin, followed by identity theft (14%), which overtook imposter scams (13%) for the number two slot in 2017.
For everyone who reported identity theft, credit card fraud tops the list, and continues to grow. Reports of tax fraud are down 46%, but it was still reported by nearly 63,000 people.
Of the more than 1.1 million people who reported fraud, 21% told us they lost a total of more than $905 million. That’s an increase of $63 million from 2016.
People reported that scammers mostly contacted them by phone, and they mostly paid for frauds – once again – by wire transfer. But check out the $74 million in losses on credit cards, which are charges that could potentially be disputed and recovered, if done in time.
Median losses tell an interesting story: for all fraud reports in 2017, the median loss was $429. Compare that to a $500 median loss to imposters, a $720 median fraud loss to scams that come in by phone, a $1,710 median loss related to travel, vacations and timeshares. Among military consumers, median losses were higher than the general population — $619.
More younger people reported losing money to fraud than older people – but when people aged 70 and older had a loss, it was a much higher median loss than other groups.
And, based on reports per 100,000 population, the top states for fraud reports were Florida, Georgia and Nevada. For identity theft, it’s Michigan, Florida and California.
Have you spotted any scams? If so, tell the FTC – and then come back this time next year to hear what happened during 2018.

Tagged with: credit card, identity theft, imposter, military
Blog Topics:
Money & Credit
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Scam Alerts…!

Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information

by Ari Lazarus
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

We’ve recently heard that scammers are recycling an old phishing attempt. In this version, scammers, posing as a well-known tech company, email a phony invoice showing that you’ve recently bought music or apps from them. The email tells you to click on a link if you did not authorize the purchase. Stop – do not click on the link. That’s the new twist on an old scam.

Read more >

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Know the risks before you invest in Cryptocurrencies…!

February 16, 2018
by Elizabeth Kwok
Division of Financial Practices, FTC

It’s not just bitcoin. There are now hundreds of cryptocurrencies, which are a type of digital currency, on the market. They’ve been publicized as a fast and inexpensive way to pay online, but many are now also being marketed as investment opportunities. But before you decide to purchase cryptocurrency as an investment, here are a few things to know:

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/02/know-risks-you-invest-cryptocurrencies?utm_source=govdelivery

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