What Is Lead Generation

In marketing, lead generation (/ˈliːd/) is the initiation of consumer interest or enquiry PayDayLoaninto products or services of a business. The FTC say there are unscrupulous lead generator operators online.

You’ve probably shared your contact information online to, say, get details about a job opening. Usually, that’s fine. But sometimes you might be looking for one thing and wind up getting something else – like calls about stuff you never asked for or wanted.

Lead generators are companies that collect your contact information, then sell it to marketers who use it to promote their own products and services. While some lead generators are upfront about what they do with your information, others trick you into sharing it for their own profit – regardless of what you asked for.

The FTC sued Day Pacer, LLC for allegedly making unwanted calls as part of a scheme that used just this kind of bait-and-switch. According to the lawsuit, Day Pacer is a lead generator that got its leads from websites with convincing graphics and language to make people think they were in the right place to get what they needed. People went to these websites and shared their phone numbers to get help applying for jobs, health insurance, unemployment benefits and other assistance. But that’s not what they got. Instead, people got unwanted phone calls from Day Pacer with sales pitches to enroll in post-secondary and vocational schools operated by its clients. The company disturbed millions of people with these calls – even though their numbers were on the National Do Not Call Registry.

When you search online for jobs, benefits, or government assistance, you want to be sure you wind up where you need to be. So, once you have your search results:

  • Check out the URL before you click. Search online for that URL, plus the words “review” or “complaint.” Do the same thing with the company name, if you can find it. That will tell you what other people have experienced with that site.
  • Look for sites with “.gov” in the URL. Of course, there are many reliable, non-government, online sources. But government sites are the safest bet. So, for example:

And if you know someone who’s gone through this kind of bait-and-switch, report it to the FTC.

Tell Signs To Look Out For Before Buying A Car Online

You can buy practically anything online, including used cars. But before you shell out any hard-earned cash, here’s a warning about scammers trying to sell cars they don’t have or own.

Here’s how the scam works:

Criminals post ads on online auction and sales websites, like eBay Motors, for inexpensive used cars (that they don’t really own).

They offer to chat online, share photos, and answer questions. They may even tell you the sale will go through a well-known retailer’s buyer protection program.

Recently, sellers have been sending fake invoices that appear to come from eBay Motors and demanding payment in eBay gift cards. If you call the number on the invoice, the scammer pretends to work for eBay Motors.

Trusting buyers have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past year alone.

So how can you tell if an online car sale is fake?

  • You find bad reviews online. Check out the seller by searching online for the person’s name, phone number and email address, plus words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.”
  • Sellers try to rush the sale. Resist the pressure. Scammers use high-pressure sales tactics to get you to buy without thinking things through.
  • They can’t or won’t meet in person or let you inspect the car. Scammers might have an excuse, like a job transfer, military deployment, or divorce, for why you can’t see them or the car. But experts agree that you should have an independent mechanic inspect a used car before you buy it.
  • They want you to pay with gift cards or by wire transfer. If anyone tells you to pay that way, it’s a scam. Every time.
  • The sellers demand more money after the sale for “shipping” or “transportation” costs.
  • The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) doesn’t match the VIN for the car you’re interested in. vehicle history report can help you spot such discrepancies.

For more tips, check out ftc.gov/usedcars and Online Auction Buyers. Want to avoid the latest rip-offs? Sign up for free consumer alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/subscribe. If you spot a scam, report it at ftc.gov/complaint.

 

Blog Topics: Money & Credit

FTC Shut Down Elegant Solutions, Inc. dba Mission Hills Federal – Student Loan Debt Operators

FTC Stops Student Loan Debt Relief Scheme, Charges Operators with Misleading PayDayLoanConsumers
Federal Trade Commission, Plaintiff, v. Elegant Solutions, Inc., a corporation, also doing business as Federal Direct Group; Trend Capital Ltd., a corporation, also doing business as Mission Hills Federal; Dark Island Industries, Inc., a corporation, also doing business as Federal Direct Group and formerly known as Cosmopolitan Funding Inc.; Heritage Asset Management, Inc., a corporation, also doing business as National Secure Processing; Tribune Management, Inc., a corporation, also doing business as The Student Loan Group; Mazen Radwan, also known as Michael Radwan and Mike Radwan; Rima Radwan; and Dean Robbins, Defendants.

HERITAGE ASSET MANAGEMENT, INC., a corporation, also d/b/a National Secure Processing; TRIBUNE MANAGEMENT, INC., a corporation, also d/b/a The Student Loan Group; MAZEN RADWAN, a/k/a Michael Radwan and Mike Radwan, individually and as an officer of Elegant Solutions, Inc., Trend Capital Ltd., Dark Island Industries, Inc., Heritage Asset Management, Inc., and Tribune Management, Inc.; RIMA RADWAN, individually and as an officer of Elegant Solutions, Inc., Trend Capital Ltd., Dark Island Industries, Inc., Heritage Asset Management, Inc., and Tribune Management, Inc.; and DEAN ROBBINS, individually and as an officer of Elegant Solutions, Inc., Trend Capital Ltd., Dark Island Industries, Inc., Heritage Asset Management, Inc., and Tribune Management, Inc.

FTC Complaint

Operators allegedly bilked consumers out of more than $23 million

The Federal Trade Commission has stopped a student loan debt relief scheme, alleging it bilked more than $23 million from thousands of consumers with false claims that it would service and pay down their student loans. After the FTC filed a complaint seeking to end the deceptive practices, a federal court temporarily halted the scheme and froze its assets.

According to the FTC’s complaint, since at least 2014, the operators of Mission Hills Federal and Federal Direct Group have lured consumers into paying hundreds to thousands of dollars in illegal upfront fees with false promises to lower consumers’ monthly student loan payments. The defendants also allegedly tricked consumers into submitting their monthly student loan payments directly to the defendants by falsely claiming to take over servicing the consumers’ loans. In reality, the defendants either only applied minimal payments on consumers’ loans or, in many instances, applied none of the payments to the loans, diverting consumers’ payments to themselves.

“Debt relief companies can’t collect advance fees or masquerade as federal student loan servicers,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Anyone asking for upfront fees to help with student loan debt is likely a scammer, and consumers should hang up and alert the FTC.”

The Commission also alleged that the defendants obtained consumers’ student loan credentials, such as their FSA ID—a username and password used to log in to U.S. Department of Education websites—to log in and change consumers’ contact information, effectively hindering or entirely preventing consumers’ loan servicers from communicating with consumers. Many consumers went months or years before discovering that their student loans were not being repaid, according to the complaint.

The FTC has charged the following defendants with violating Section 5 of the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule: Elegant Solutions, Inc. (also doing business as Federal Direct Group); Trend Capital Ltd. (also doing business as Mission Hills Federal); Dark Island Industries, Inc. (also doing business as Federal Direct Group and formerly known as Cosmopolitan Funding, Inc.); Heritage Asset Management, Inc. (also doing business as National Secure Processing); Tribune Management, Inc. (also doing business as The Student Loan Group); and three individual defendants, Mazen Radwan, Rima Radwan, and Dean Robbins.

How to Avoid Student Loan Debt Relief Scams

To help consumers avoid falling victim to such fraud, the FTC has consumer education related to student loan debt relief scams at ftc.gov/StudentLoans.

Only scammers promise fast loan forgiveness, and they often pretend to be affiliated with the government. Consumers should never pay an upfront fee for help, and should not share their FSA ID with anyone.

Consumers can apply for loan deferments, forbearance, repayment, and forgiveness or discharge programs directly through the U.S. Department of Education or their loan servicer at no cost; these programs do not require the assistance of a third-party company or payment of application fees. For federal student loan repayment options, visit StudentAid.gov/repay. For private student loans, contact the loan servicer directly.

Repaying student loans? Avoid scams. Only scammers promise fast loan forgiveness. Never pay a fee up front for help. Scammers can fake a government seal. Don't share your FSA ID with anyone. Report scams to ftc.gov/complaint. Looking for free help? Start with studentaid.gov.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 5-0. The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California entered a temporary restraining order in the case on July 10, 2019.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law 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

MEDIA CONTACT:
Nicole Drayton
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2565

STAFF CONTACT:
Michelle Grajales
Bureau of Consumer Protection

202-326-3172

 

SEC Charges in Martha Patricia Bustos and a Friend with $6.2 Million Insider Trading Scheme

The Securities and Exchange Commission today filed insider trading charges against an accountant and her friend, whom she illegally tipped with confidential information in advance of her company’s quarterly performance announcements in exchange for all-expense paid travel and other expensive gifts. The alleged insider trading scheme generated profits of more than $6.2 million and was uncovered by the SEC through analysis and technology that it uses to detect suspicious trading activity.

The SEC’s complaint, filed in federal court in Manhattan, alleges that Martha Patricia Bustos, formerly an accountant at Illumina Inc. and a certified public accountant, and her close friend Donald Blakstad engaged in a scheme to trade in advance of Illumina’s release of confidential revenue information. In exchange for extravagant gifts, Bustos allegedly tipped Blakstad in advance of four quarterly Illumina financial performance announcements from April 2016 to July 2018. Based on those tips of inside information, Blakstad allegedly purchased Illumina securities using accounts held by business associates and acquaintances to conceal his involvement. According to the SEC’s complaint, Blakstad personally realized approximately $4 million from the illicit trading and tipped at least four other friends and business associates who made $2.2 million in profits from Illumina trading.

“We used some of our latest advanced software to analyze trading data, as well as traditional investigative techniques, to piece together and expose the betrayal of trust alleged in our complaint. We allege that Bustos had an obligation to keep her company’s information confidential until announced to our markets, yet she repeatedly tipped Blakstad and allowed him to take advantage of her position in return for expensive travel and luxury merchandise,” said Kelly L. Gibson, Associate Director of the SEC’s Philadelphia Regional Office.

In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York today filed criminal charges against Bustos and Blakstad.

The SEC’s complaint charges Bustos and Blakstad with knowingly or recklessly violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws, and seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement with prejudgment interest, and penalties.

The SEC’s continuing investigation is being conducted by Patricia A. Paw and Brian R. Higgins of the Philadelphia Regional Office and John S. Rymas of the Market Abuse Unit’s Analysis and Detection Center. The case is being supervised by Ms. Gibson and Brendan P. McGlynn. The litigation will be led by Christopher R. Kelly and supervised by Jennifer Chun Barry. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

SEC Press Release

Work-at-Home Scheme ~ Work At Home EDU Temporarily Halted By FTC

Defendants falsely Promised Consumers They Could Earn Thousands of Dollars From Home


FOR RELEASE
August 17, 2017

At the Federal Trade Commission’s request, a federal court entered a temporary restraining order halting a deceptive work-at-home scheme. The defendants allegedly lured consumers into buying an online system, falsely promising that they would earn thousands of dollars in their spare time working from home.

According to the FTC, the defendants operated under various brand names, including Work At Home EDU, Work At Home Program, Work At Home Ecademy, Work At Home University, Work At Home Revenue and Work at Home Institute. They routinely claimed people could earn “hundreds of dollars per hour from home, without any special skills or experience.”

The defendants used online “native” advertising – promotional content that resembles the non-advertising material beside it – to reach consumers who were researching work-at-home opportunities on the internet. For example, they placed a link to their Work At Home EDU website near an article about working from home on the website Forbes.com.

Bobby J. Robinson, Michael Sirois, Bob Robinson LLC, Mega Export 2005 Inc., Mega Export USA Inc. and Netcore Solutions LLC are charged with violating the FTC Act and the FTC’s Business Opportunity Rule. The Rule requires business opportunity sellers to make certain disclosures to help consumers evaluate the opportunity, and prohibits such sellers from making earnings claims without adequate substantiation.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 2-0. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, entered a temporary restraining order against the defendants on August 8, 2017. The FTC has requested the entry of a preliminary injunction that would halt the scheme until trial. An evidentiary hearing on the request is set for August 24, 2017.

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, including business opportunity scams and what you need to know before starting your own business, and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Small business owners can also learn more at ftc.gov/SmallBusiness. Like the FTC on Facebook(link is external), follow us on Twitter(link is external), read our blogsand subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION

MEDIA CONTACT:
Frank Dorman(link sends e-mail)
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2674

STAFF CONTACT:
Roberto Anguizola
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3284