I was very happy to see this release from the FTC, about crackdowns on a large number of scammers who have been taking advantage of the economic turndown. And not just the fake government grant schemes -- the list includes an amazing array of scams, including an admittedly imaginative ruse involving non-existant jobs as "certified rebate processors."
The scammers used websites, robocalls, telemarketing, infomercials, classified ads, and internet ads to push their schemes. They promised earnings, money-back guarantees, refunds; they claimed to be associated with government agencies, with Google, with shopper's clubs. To a con artist, tough times just present new opportunities to bilk people.
The FTC has produced a new consumer education video featuring a former scammer who hawked phony business opportunities and ultimately served prison time for deceiving investors. In the 10-minute video, the former scammer gives an insider account of how these operations use high-pressure tactics and celebrity endorsers to trick cash-strapped consumers, and how consumers can protect themselves by demanding written disclosures on earnings and other sales data. (More FTC videos can be found here.)
If you find yourself with unexpected charges or unable to secure promised refunds, you can file a complaint at the 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 1,500 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.