FOR THE CONSUMER
The FTC's monthly newsletter for the Congressional community
It's the news you - and your constituents - can use.
Volume 8- Number 8
IN THIS ISSUE
LOAN LIES. The FTC Chairman and California Attorney General Jerry Brown announced Operation Loan Lies, a national law enforcement and consumer education effort involving 189 federal and state actions to crack down on mortgage modification scams. The FTC announced four lawsuits, bringing to14 the number of mortgage foreclosure rescue and loan modification scam cases the Commission has brought since April, and released a new video featuring homeowners who faced foreclosure — and kept their homes. Twenty-three state attorneys general and other agencies participated in the operation, taking action against 178 companies engaged in these types of deception. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/07/loanlies.shtm.
SAFE WEB. A U.S. district court has ordered key players in an international spam ring to give up $3.7 million that they made sending out illegal email messages. The FTC charged that Spears Systems and its principals and affiliates used spammers to drive traffic to websites that sold products made from the hoodia gordonii plant. They claimed — without adequate scientific proof — the products would cause significant weight loss or reverse the aging process. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/07/spear.shtm.
DEBT COLLECTORS. The operators of a debt collection company that used false threats and other illegal tactics to collect peoples’ debts have agreed to settle FTC charges that they violated federal law. The settlement bars future violations and requires Oxford Collection Agency, Inc., to pay $225,000. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/07/oxford.shtm.
TELEMARKETING BAN. At the FTC’s request, a U.S. district court judge has ordered a Canadian operation to pay more than $7.8 million and imposed a telemarketing ban on them. According to the FTC, Select Personnel Management defrauded about 12,000 people out of millions of dollars between 2005 and 2007 by falsely claiming that it could substantially reduce card holders’ existing credit card interest rates and save them thousands of dollars in interest and finance charges. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/07/spm.shtm.
OUTPATIENT PATIENCE. The FTC charged that Carilion Clinic’s purchase of two outpatient centers will lead to higher health care costs and reduced incentives to improve care for patients in the Roanoke area. The deal leaves only two independent outpatient imaging and surgical services providers; which the FTC claims eliminates important competition that benefits patients, employers, and health plans. The FTC’s complaint seeks divestiture of the centers to restore competition. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/07/carilion.shtm.
The FTC has sent redress checks to people who filed complaints with the FTC about their losses:
INTEGRITY FINANCIAL SERVICES. This operation allegedly promised credit seekers a card that could be used like a MasterCard or Visa. Instead credit seekers paid an upfront fee for a card that could be used only to buy products from the defendants. Redress checks averaged $200, which covered more than 85 percent of the card holders’ losses. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/07/integrity.shtm.
FAMCO. The FTC has sent $8 million in redress checks to more than 15,000 people who got home mortgage loans through subprime lender First Alliance Mortgage Company (FAMCO), which allegedly misled homeowners about the origination fees, interest rates and monthly payments of their adjustable rate mortgage loans. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/07/famco.shtm.
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance
Deceptive Advertising. Discussed the FTC’s efforts to combat deceptive advertising in the face of rapid changes in health care, technology, and online marketing strategies. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/07/advertising.shtm.
Scams During Tough Times. Describes the FTC’s crackdown on scammers who are trying to take advantage of the economic downturn to push scams on phony job-placement, debt-reduction services, get-rich-quick schemes, and bogus government grants. Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/07/shortchange1.shtm.
Committee on Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection
Financial Services. The Commission supports the goal of improving the overall regulatory, supervisory, and enforcement system for protecting consumers of financial services and will keep vigorously enforcing consumer protection laws as Congress considers the Administration’s proposal to create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA). Press release: www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/07/cfpa.shtm.
FUTURE OF NEWS MEDIA. The FTC will hold workshops on Dec. 1-3 about the future of the news media in the internet age. The workshops will examine the economics of journalism, possible business and non-profit models for news organizations, the role of targeted behavioral and other online advertising, and whether any governmental actions might be advisable, such as changes in the tax code, or additional copyright protection or limited antitrust exemptions. Participants will include journalists, representatives of news and new media organizations, privacy experts, direct marketers, online advertisers, academics, and consumer advocates. For more information, contact Susan DeSanti, FTC’s Office of Policy Planning, (202) 326-2210.
HOUSING COUNSELORS: HOW TO HELP PEOPLE AVOID REVERSE MORTGAGE MISSTEPS. Helps counselors spot and report potentially deceptive practices related to reverse mortgages. 8.5"x11", 2 pages. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/business/alerts/alt158.shtm.
SHOPPING TIPS: IS THAT DEAL FOR REAL? Gives tips to help you get the most for your money. 8.5"x11", 1 page. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt081.shtm.
CONSUMER CREDIT BRIEFCASE (Mini CD). Contains publications on debt, bankruptcy, credit reports, real estate, mortgages, credit cards, loans, ID theft and information security. 2.5"x3", color. Order at www.ftc.gov/bulkorder.
STEER CLEAR OF “CASH FOR CLUNKERS” SCAMS. Explains how the federal Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) program works, and scams to avoid. 8.5”x11”, 2 pages. www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt174.shtm.
As part of Operation Loan Lies, the FTC’s partnership to crack down on mortgage loan modification and foreclosure scams, the agency has released “Real People, Real Stories,” a three-and-a-half minute video about keeping your home. It features people targeted by foreclosure rescue scammers sharing lessons learned from their experiences. The FTC is distributing the video, and a version in Spanish, to more than 5,000 housing counseling and consumer protection organizations around the country. The video also is available at www.ftc.gov/YourHome and www.YouTube.com/FTCVideos.
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