August 2014

Robocalls, honeypots and DEF CON 22

If it were a 50s scifi movie, we’d call it “Invasion of the Serenity Snatchers” – illegal and annoying robocalls that disturb consumers’ peace and quiet. The battle continues, of course, but we’re happy to announce the winners of the FTC’s “Zapping Rachel” contest held just a few weeks ago at DEF CON 22.

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A bossy business scam

You get an email from your boss’s boss requesting that you make a wire transfer to a new vendor. The email is marked urgent, so you ignore the 20 others that need your attention to take care of it. You handle wire transfers all the time, and you’ll definitely score points for responding so quickly, right? Maybe not.

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Hunting the wily CROA-codile

They’re dangerous, they strike fast, and they rely on camouflage to ambush their prey. We call them CROA-codiles – companies that lure cash-strapped consumers in with false promises of debt relief and credit repair, in violation of the FTC Act and the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA).

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The final chapter in the FTC’s “Your Baby Can Read!” case

With a product name like “Your Baby Can Read!” – exclamation point in the original – it didn’t take long for consumers to figure out what the marketers were promising.  The company’s massive ad campaign featured 14-month-olds mastering vocabulary flashcards, two-year-olds reading books, and an array of charts, graphs, and studies purporting to show that Your Baby Can Read! was scientifically proven to work.

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From the sports page to the front page

For some athletes and fans, September is the equivalent of the start of the sports “new year.” From the FTC’s perspective, it’s a good time to remind retailers that they need appropriate proof to support concussion protection claims for athletic mouthguards. That’s why FTC staff has sent letters to five major retailers, alerting them to concerns about what they’re promising on their websites.

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David Mamet didn’t write the dialogue in this $40 million court order. It just sounds that way.

"A-B-C. Always be closing."

"As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired."

"These are the new leads. The Glengarry leads. To you, they're gold. But you don't get them. Why? Because they're for closers."

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Russian hackers may have your info. Now what?

You may have heard about it in the news: reports that Russian hackers have stolen more than a billion unique username and password combinations, and more than 500 million email addresses, grabbed from thousands of websites. What steps should you take?

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Big Data: What’s on the agenda?

Whether it’s advances in medical research, making sure buses are where they need to be during rush hour, or reducing how long consumers are stuck on hold listening to canned music, Big Data promises a lot for the future. But what are the risks it could be used to disadvantage some people?

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Debt collection double feature

The 2011 science fiction movie “The Adjustment Bureau” dealt with a dystopian future (Is there any other kind in sci-fi movies?) where mysterious forces plot against individuals. But for many consumers, Regional Adjustment Bureau, a Memphis-based debt collector, made their day-to-day reality just as dystopic.

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FTC gives new COPPA safe harbor the aye-aye

If coping with COPPA is a part of your job, you’re familiar with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule’s safe harbor provision, a method for encouraging innovation and flexibility in the COPPA compliance process.

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