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.

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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

 

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

FTC Charges Online Marketing Scheme with Deceiving Shoppers

FTC@100 Banner

One-time “trial” offer for tooth whitener led to recurring $200 monthly charges

The Federal Trade Commission has charged an online marketing operation with deceptively luring people into an expensive negative option scam using an initial low-cost ($1.03, plus shipping and handling) “trial” offer for tooth whiteners and other products.

Inside a low-cost trial scam link to infographic
Click to view infographic about low-cost trial scams.

A federal court temporarily halted the operation and froze its assets at the request of the FTC, which seeks to end the practices.

According to the FTC, the defendants used a network of 78 companies, at least 87 websites, and dozens of bank accounts to hide their ownership and launder the profits from the scheme. They also drove people to their websites via affiliate networks that generate web traffic with blog posts, banner ads and surveys. For example, some consumers got emails inviting them to fill out surveys falsely claiming to be for well-known merchants such as Kohl’s and Amazon, and were directed to the defendants’ websites to claim a “reward” for completing the survey.

The FTC alleges that, using deceptive claims, hidden fine-print disclosures and confusing terms, the defendants tricked consumers into providing their billing information, and then started charging them about $100 a month unless consumers canceled within 8 days. They also used an order confirmation page to trick consumers into signing up for a second monthly subscription, which cost an additional $100, for an identical product. Because of this double-deception, the defendants charged consumers, who reasonably believed they had agreed to a single shipment for $1.03 plus shipping costs, about $200 a month until they canceled both unauthorized subscriptions.

The defendants are charged with violating the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act.

The defendants are Blair McNea, Danielle Foss, Jennifer Johnson, Boulder Creek Internet Solutions Inc., Walnut Street Marketing Inc., and these LLCs: Anasazi Management Partners, RevMountain, Wave Rock, Juniper Solutions, Jasper Woods, Wheeler Peak Marketing, ROIRunner, Cherry Blitz, Flat Iron Avenue, Absolutely Working, Three Lakes, Bridge Ford, How and Why, Spruce River, TrimXT, Elation White, IvoryPro, Doing What’s Possible, RevGuard, RevLive!, Blue Rocket Brands, Convertis, Convertis Marketing, Turtle Mountains, Boulder Black Diamond, Mint House, Thunder Avenue, University & Folsom, Snow Sale, Brand Force, Wild Farms, Salamonie River, Indigo Systems, Night Watch Group, Newport Crossing, Greenville Creek, Brookville Lane, Honey Lake, Condor Canyon, Brass Triangle, Solid Ice, Sandstone Beach, Desert Gecko, Blizzardwhite, Action Pro White, First Class Whitening, Spark Whitening, Titanwhite, Dental Pro At Home, Smile Pro Direct, Circle of Youth Skincare, DermaGlam, Sedona Beauty Secrets, Bella at Home, SkinnyIQ, Body Tropical, and RoadRunner B2C LLC, also doing business as RevGo.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 2-0. The U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada entered a temporary restraining order against the defendants on July 25, 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 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:
Frank Dorman
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2674

STAFF CONTACT:
Sarah Waldrop
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3444

More news from the FTC >>

FTC Charges Education Lead Generator with Tricking Job Seekers by Claiming to Represent Hiring Employers

Settlement Bans Operators of Gigats.com from Deceptive Lead Generation Tactics

In the agency’s first enforcement action against an education lead generator, operators of Gigats.com have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that the company claimed it was “pre-screening” job applicants for hiring employers when it was actually gathering information for other purposes, including lead generation for post-secondary schools and career training programs.

According to the FTC’s complaint, the operators of Gigats.com gathered online job announcements posted by multinational companies, government agencies and other employers, and summarized them on its website, which appeared to accept applications for the jobs. Many of the job openings were not current, and for those that were, the employers had not authorized Gigats to collect applications or screen or interview applicants. In addition, the defendants never sent the information they collected from consumers to the employers.

Instead, the FTC alleges, consumers, who had provided Gigats with the kinds of personal information typically requested in a job application, were directed to call the defendants’ “employment specialists,” who then steered the consumers toward enrolling in education programs that had paid the defendants for consumer leads. Many consumers also were transferred to the defendants’ “education advisors.” The FTC alleges that these so-called advisors falsely claimed to be independent education advisors but in fact only recommended schools and programs that had agreed to pay the defendants, typically from $22 to $125, for consumer leads that met their enrollment requirements.

Under a proposed stipulated court order, the defendants are prohibited from making misrepresentations like those described in the complaint, and promoting job openings without a reasonable basis to expect that employers are currently hiring for those jobs. They also are barred from transferring consumers’ personal information to third parties without clearly disclosing that it will be transferred, and their relationship with the third party. In addition, the defendants are prohibited from using the information covered under the order unless consumers affirmatively opt in to their services.

The proposed court order imposes a $90.2 million judgment that will be suspended upon payment of $360,000. The full judgment will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.

The defendants are Expand Inc., also doing business as Gigats, EducationMatch and SoftRock Inc., and Ayman A. Difrawi, also known as Alec Difrawi and Ayman El-Difrawi.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and proposed stipulated court order was 3-0. The proposed order has been submitted to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

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. Stipulated orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

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(link is external), follow us on Twitter(link is external), read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION

MEDIA CONTACT:
Frank Dorman
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2674

STAFF CONTACT:
Brian Shull
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3720

Daniel Dwyer
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2957

screencapture-ftc-gov-news-events-press-releases-2016-04-ftc-charges-education-lead-generator-tricking-job-seekers-1503929367637

FTC and Florida Charge Tech Support Operation with Bogus Services

The FTC and State of Florida have taken action against defendants who ran an international tech support operation and allegedly misrepresented to consumers that malware or hackers had compromised their computers and that the operation was associated with or certified by Microsoft and Apple to fix their computers. A federal court has temporarily shut down the defendants’ operation, frozen their assets, and placed control of the businesses with a court-appointed receiver.

The complaint alleges that defendants, based in Florida, Iowa, Nevada, and Canada, relied on a combination of deceptive online ads and misleading, high-pressure sales tactics to frighten consumers into spending hundreds of dollars for dubious computer “repairs” and antivirus software.

“Scammers like these use incredibly deceptive tactics that make consumers think they are receiving warnings from legitimate technology companies,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We are proud to work with the Florida Attorney General’s Office to put an end to these fraudulent practices.”

According to the complaint, the defendants caused consumers’ computers to display advertisements designed to resemble security alerts from Microsoft or Apple.  These ads warned consumers that their computers could be infected with malware and urged them to call a toll-free number in the ad to safeguard both their computer and sensitive personal information stored on it.

According to the complaint, consumers who called the numbers in these ads were routed to the defendants’ call center in Boynton Beach, Fla., where telemarketers purported to run a series of “diagnostics” that inevitably discovered the existence of grave problems that must be immediately fixed at a cost of $200 to $300 by one of the defendants’ “certified” technicians. The defendants also frequently told consumers that they needed to spend an additional $200 to $500 to replace their existing antivirus software, which the defendants always claimed was outdated and ineffective.  The complaint notes that consumers can acquire this software for a fraction of the cost charged by the defendants.  In many instances, the software sold by the defendants to consumers with Apple computers is available as a free download.

The defendants in the case are BigDog Solutions LLC (doing business as Help Desk National and Help Desk Global); PC Help Desk US LLC (doing business as Help Desk National and Help Desk Global); Inbound Call Specialist LLC; BlackOpteck CE Inc.; 9138242 Canada Corporation; Digital Growth Properties, LLC; Christopher J. Costanza (doing business as CJM Consulting, LLC); Suzanne W. Harris; Muzaffar Abbas; Gary Oberman; Donald Dolphin and Justin Powers.

The defendants are charged with violations of the FTC Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and the Florida Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The FTC and State of Florida are seeking to permanently stop the alleged illegal practices and obtain refunds for the victimized businesses.

The FTC has taken numerous law enforcement actions against tech support operations since 2010, shutting down the scams and collecting substantial consumer redress. The FTC has extensive consumer education materials about tech support scams, including a new video.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 3-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  The court entered the temporary restraining order on June 28, 2016.

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(link is external), follow us on Twitter(link is external), read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

CONTACT INFORMATION

MEDIA CONTACT:
Jay Mayfield
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2181

STAFF CONTACT:
Jim Davis
FTC Midwest Region
312-960-5611

Matthew Wernz
FTC Midwest Region
312-960-5596