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

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FTC Charges Online Marketing Scheme with Deceiving Shoppers

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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

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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

FTC Files Charges Against Independent Sales Organization and Sales Agents

Defendants Laundered Transactions for ‘Money Now Funding’ Scheme

The Federal Trade Commission has charged 12 defendants with laundering millions of dollars in credit card charges through fraudulent merchant accounts. According to the complaint filed by the FTC, the defendants arranged for a deceptive operation known as Money Now Funding (MNF) to obtain and maintain merchant accounts that allowed it to process almost $6 million through the credit card networks.

In September 2013, the FTC charged MNF with running a deceptive business opportunity scheme that promised consumers they would make thousands of dollars helping small businesses get loans. The court in the MNF matter determined that MNF’s promises were false.

Today’s case alleges that the defendants – an Independent Sales Organization (ISO), sales agents, and their principals – provided the MNF scheme access to the credit card networks  by submitting and approving fraudulent applications in the names of more than 40 fictitious MNF companies. According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants did so despite obvious signs that the companies were likely fictitious and being used to conceal the true identity of the underlying merchant. By processing the fraudulent MNF scheme’s transactions through merchant accounts opened in the names of fictitious companies, the ISO defendants allegedly also evaded the anti-fraud monitoring efforts of the credit card networks.

In the case announced today, the defendants are charged with violating the FTC Act and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule.

The ISO defendants are Electronic Payment Systems LLC, Electronic Payment Transfer LLC, John Dorsey, Thomas McCann and Michael Peterson. The sales agent defendants are Electronic Payment Solutions of America Inc., Electronic Payment Services Inc., KMA Merchant Services LLC, Dynasty Merchants LLC, Jay Wigdore, Michael Abdelmesseh, also known as Michael Stewart, and Nikolas Mihilli.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 2-0. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.

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.

 

FTC Charges Online Marketing Scheme with Deceiving Shoppers

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.

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(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(link sends e-mail)
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2674

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

FTC Takedown Revenge Porn Operator

We at scamFRAUDalert applaud the FTC in its action against the operator (Kevin Bolleart) of the website “Revenge Porn.” These individuals are just a nuisance to us all. Similar operator of the websites potentialpredators.com, predatorswatch.com potentialprostitute.com, wikiwarnings.com and wikiprobe.org and his co-conspirators are still out there. They must be track and prosecuted.


Website Operator Banned from the ‘Revenge Porn’ Business After FTC Charges He Unfairly Posted Nude Photos
Craig Brittain Allegedly Deceived Women on Craigslist, Offered Fake ‘Takedown’ Service


FOR RELEASE
January 29, 2015

The operator of an alleged “revenge porn” website is banned from publicly sharing any more nude videos or photographs of people without their affirmative express consent, under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. In addition, he will have to destroy the intimate images and personal contact information he collected while operating the site.

The FTC’s complaint against Craig Brittain alleges that he used deception to acquire and post intimate images of women, then referred them to another website he controlled, where they were told they could have the pictures removed if they paid hundreds of dollars.

“This behavior is not only illegal but reprehensible,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “I am pleased that as a result of this settlement, the illegally collected images and information will be deleted, and this individual can never return to the so-called ‘revenge porn’ business.”

According to the FTC’s complaint, Brittain acquired the images in a number of ways, such as by posing as a woman on the advertising site Craigslist, and offering nude photos purportedly of himself in exchange for photos provided by women. When women provided him with the photos, Brittain posted them on his site without their knowledge or permission.

In addition to collecting and posting the images himself, Brittain solicited viewers of his site to anonymously submit nude photos of people to his site, according to the complaint. He required submissions to include sensitive personal information about the people in the photos, including their full name, town and state, phone number and Facebook profile.

The complaint also alleged that Brittain offered a “bounty system” on his site, wherein users could offer a reward of at least $100 in exchange for other users finding pictures and information about a specific person. Overall, Brittain’s site included photos of more than 1,000 individuals, according to the complaint.

Women whose photographs and information were posted on the site contacted Brittain to have the information removed, citing the potential harms to their careers and reputations. In addition, women cited unwelcome contact from strangers who had discovered their information on Brittain’s site. The complaint notes that in many cases Brittain did not respond to the women’s requests to remove the information.

In fact, the complaint alleges that Brittain’s site advertised content removal services under the name “Takedown Hammer” and “Takedown Lawyer” that could delete consumers’ images and content from the site in exchange for a payment of $200 to $500. Despite presenting these as third-party services, the complaint alleges that the sites for these services were owned and operated by Brittain.

Under the terms of the settlement, Brittain is required to permanently delete all of the images and other personal information he received during the time he operated the site. He will also be prohibited from publicly sharing intimate videos or photographs of people without their affirmative express consent, as well as being prohibited from misrepresenting how he will use any personal information he collects online.

The Commission vote to accept the the proposed consent order for public comment was 5-0. The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through March 2, 2015, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Interested parties can submit comments electronically by following the instructions in the “Invitation To Comment” part of the “Supplementary Information” section.

NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative 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. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000.

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.

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

STAFF CONTACT:
Melinda Claybaugh
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2203

Related – FTC Actions