FTC Settlement Bans Marketer from Selling Work-At-Home Opportunities

Christopher Andrew Sterling, a work-at-home opportunity marketer, has been banned from selling work-at-home and business opportunities under a federal court settlement. The FTC sued Sterling in November 2012 as part of “Operation Lost Opportunity,” a federal-state crackdown on scams that falsely promised jobs and opportunities to “be your own boss” to people who are unemployed or underemployed.

The agency charged Sterling with violating the FTC Act and the FTC’s Business Opportunity Rule, which requires business opportunity sellers to provide specific information to help consumers evaluate a business opportunity.  The FTC alleged in its complaint that Sterling’s websites (sterlingvisa.com, rebatedataprocessor.com, and creditcardworker.com) falsely promised that consumers could earn up to $1,000 per day from data-entry work processing rebate and credit card applications online, but the claimed earnings and the promised business were not delivered.

In addition to banning Sterling from selling any work-at-home opportunity, and any business opportunity covered by the Business Opportunity Rule, the proposed settlement permanently prohibits him from misrepresenting material facts about any products and services, selling or otherwise benefitting from consumers’ personal information, and failing to properly dispose of customer information.  The order imposes a $69,289 judgment that will be suspended based on Sterling’s inability to pay.  The full judgment will become due immediately if he is found to have misrepresented his financial condition.

The Commission vote to approve the proposed consent judgment was 4-0.  The Department of Justice filed the proposed consent judgment on behalf of the Commission in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.  It is subject to court approval.

NOTE:  Consent judgments have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them.  To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call
1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

MEDIA CONTACT:
Frank Dorman,
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2674
 
STAFF CONTACT:
Craig Tregillus, 
Bureau of Consumer Protection

202-326-2970

FTC Acts Against Spam Text and Robocalling Operators

Case Continues FTC Crackdown on “Free Gift Card” Scammers

The Federal Trade Commission has moved to shut down an international network of scammers that sent millions of unwanted text messages to consumers, using the lure of “free” gift cards and electronics to entice consumers into an elaborate scheme designed to take their money and target them for illegal robocalls.

In its complaint, the FTC alleges that scammers sent unwanted text messages to consumers, many of whom had to pay for receiving the texts. The messages promised consumers free gifts or prizes, including gift cards worth $1,000 to major retailers such as Best Buy, Walmart and Target.

Consumers who clicked on the links in the messages found themselves caught in a confusing and elaborate process that required them to provide sensitive personal information, apply for credit or pay to subscribe to services to get the supposedly “free” cards. In addition, consumers’ phone numbers were signed up to receive unwanted automated telemarketing calls, also known as robocalls.

This complaint builds on a nationwide sweep conducted by the Commission in March to crack down on scammers who use these spam text messages to deceive consumers.

The FTC complaint names nine defendants who allegedly were involved in various aspects of the operation in violation of the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule.  It seeks injunctions against the defendants preventing them from continuing their alleged deceptive and unfair practices as well as requiring them to pay monetary relief.

According to the complaint, when consumers followed the links included in the unwanted messages, they were directed to sites that collected a substantial amount of personal information, including in some instances health information, before being allowed to continue toward receiving the supposed gift cards.  In many cases, the information was requested under the guise of being shipping information for the supposed gift cards.  The Commission alleges that in addition to selling the information for marketing purposes, the defendants also made unwanted automated telemarketing calls to consumers selling products such as home security, satellite television and travel services.

Once consumers entered their personal information, they were directed to another site and told they would have to participate in a number of “offers” to be eligible for their gift card.  In some cases, consumers were obligated to sign up for as many as 13 of the offers. These offers frequently included recurring subscriptions for which consumers were required to provide credit card information and pay up front for “shipping and handling” charges.  In other cases, they required consumers to submit applications for credit that would be reflected in their credit reports and possibly affect their credit score.

In most, if not all, instances, it would be impossible for a consumer to receive the allegedly “free” merchandise without spending money, according to the complaint.

The defendants in the case are:

  • Acquinity Interactive, LLC, located in Deerfield Beach, Fla.; 7657030 Canada Inc., located in Kirkland, Quebec, and also doing business as Acquinity Interactive;
  • Garry Jonas, an officer of Acquinity Interactive;
  • Revenue Path E-Consulting Pvt Ltd, located in Pune, India; Revenuepath Ltd, registered in Nicosia, Cyprus;
  • Worldwide Commerce Associates, LLC, registered in Las Vegas, Nev., and also doing business as WCA;
  • Sarita Somani, an officer of the Revenue Path defendants and Worldwide Commerce Associates;
  • Firebrand Group S.L., LLC, registered in Las Vegas, Nev.; and Matthew Beucler, an officer of Firebrand.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 4-0.  The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

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 for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them.  To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).  The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.  The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.  Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

MEDIA CONTACT:
Jay Mayfield
Office of Public Affairs

202-326-2181
STAFF CONTACT:
Steven Wernikoff,
Midwest Region 
312-960-5634

Telemarketers posing as Recruiters

Job seekers need to be on the lookout for telemarketers posing as recruiters online.scamalert These telemarketers are not employers and are attempting to sell you some product.

A sure tactic to prevent repeated phishing or telemarketing calls is to simply scream obscenities at the very first call.  Non-stop.  Insult the caller’s mother and ancestry. Do not let the caller get a word in.  The caller is not allowed to be the first to hang up except under verifiable abuse, so your maniacal (is that a word?) screaming will get recorded.  The head honchos will then hear your recorded tirade and in their infinite wisdom will decide that yes, maybe this phone number really does need to be eliminated from the automated dialers since the screamer is very obviously not a sucker.

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