FTC Takes Action against Second VoIP Service Provider for Facilitating Illegal Telemarketing Robocalls

Alcazar Networks and its owner provided a gateway for tens of millions of illegal calls, agency alleges Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service provider Alcazar Networks Inc. and its owner settled Federal Trade Commission charges that they facilitated tens of millions of illegal telemarketing phone calls, including some calls from overseas and some that displayed spoofed caller ID numbers. The proposed settlement bars the defendants from similar misconduct in the future, imposes a monetary penalty, and requires them to screen and monitor their customers. This is the FTC’s second case against a VoIP service provider. “These defendants acted as a gatekeeper, introducing tens of millions of illegal calls into the U.S.—including robocalls and other calls that impersonated 911 emergency numbers or the government,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC and our law enforcement partners will not tolerate VoIP providers and other companies that ass

FTC Returns Almost $775,000 to Consumers Who Purchased Deceptively Advertised Arthritis and Joint Pain Relief Supplement Synovia from A.S. Research, LLC

The Federal Trade Commission is sending checks totaling $774,755 to 13,221 consumers who bought Synovia, a supplement advertised and sold by A.S. Research, LLC as a treatment for arthritis and joint pain. The average refund amount is $58.60 per consumer. According to the FTC’s complaint , A.S. Research made misleading health claims and used phony testimonials, including one in which a user said he “ gave away his walker” after using the supplement. The FTC also alleged that the defendants told consumers they had to pay extra for a version of Synovia containing an ingredient added to increase pain relief and speed joint repair, when in fact all purchasers received that product. The order settling the FTC’s allegations prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting the results of any scientific study or endorsement and requires them to disclose any material connections they have with endorsers. It also required the company to pay $821,000 to the Commission for consumer refunds. R

FTC Stops Debt Collector’s Alleged “Debt Parking” Scheme, Requires it to Delete Debts it Placed on Consumers’ Credit Reports

Agency complaint alleges company collected millions in fake debts by placing bogus information on consumer credit reports The Federal Trade Commission has taken action   against a debt collection company that allegedly placed bogus or highly questionable debts onto consumers’ credit reports to coerce them to pay the debts. Under a settlement with the FTC, the company, Midwest Recovery Systems (Midwest Recovery), is prohibited from the practice, known as “debt parking,” and required to delete the debts it previously reported to credit reporting agencies. The FTC alleged   that Midwest Recovery collected more than $24 million from consumers on such debts, largely by debt parking. Also known as “passive debt collection,” debt parking can result in a consumer only finding out that a purported debt exists when his or her credit report is accessed in connection with buying a car or home, opening a credit card, or seeking employment. While the debts may not be valid, consumers can feel press

FTC Approves Administrative Complaint Against Supplement Marketer Health Research Laboratories, LLC

The Federal Trade Commission has approved a Part 3 administrative complaint against dietary supplement marketer Health Research Laboratories, LLC (HRL), its owner and officer Kramer Duhon, and Whole Body Supplements, LLC (WBS) for making unsubstantiated claims that their supplements—The Ultimate Heart Formula (UHF), BG18, and Black Garlic Botanicals—prevent or treat cardiovascular and other diseases, and that their supplement Neupathic cures, mitigates, or treats diabetic neuropathy. In December 2019, FTC staff and the State of Maine filed a contempt motion against HRL , Duhon, and WBS in federal district court for violating a January 2018 stipulated final order . According to the contempt motion , after agreeing to the 2018 order prohibiting unsubstantiated health claims, the defendants violated its terms by making unsubstantiated claims about UHF, BG18, Black Garlic Botanicals, and Neupathic. Earlier this year, a court issued an order denying the FTC’s contempt motion. Staff then

Student Loan Debt Relief Scammer Brandon Frere Agrees to Settle FTC Charges

Student loan debt relief scammer Brandon Frere and his companies, including Ameritech Financial, have entered into an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission to settle  charges they misled approximately 40,000 consumers about lowering their student loan debt. According to the FTC’s 2018 complaint , Brandon Frere and his companies sent personalized mail to consumers that falsely claimed they were eligible for federal programs that would permanently reduce their monthly debt payments to a fixed low amount or result in total loan forgiveness. The FTC alleged that Frere and his companies charged up to $800 in illegal up-front fees to enroll consumers in a federal loan assistance program. They also charged consumers $100-$1,200 advance fee for enrollment in a “financial education” program, followed by ongoing $49-$99 monthly membership fees for the life of the loan, which typically is 10-25 years. The order bans Frere and his companies from providing debt relief services and prohibits

FTC Alleges Mobile Banking App Misled Users About Access to Their Funds, Failed to Deliver on Promised High Interest Rates

The Federal Trade Commission sued the operators of a mobile banking app, alleging that they falsely promised users high interest rates on their accounts and “24/7” access to their funds. In a complaint  filed in federal court, the FTC alleges that Beam Financial Inc. and its founder and CEO Yinan Du, also known as Aaron Du, promised users of their free mobile banking app that they could make transfers out of their accounts and would receive their requested funds within three to five business days. Instead, some users waited weeks or even months to receive their money despite repeated complaints to Beam, while others said they never received their money, according to the complaint. "Beam Financial promised convenient 24/7 access to savings, but then people had to wait weeks or months to get their money," said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Many consumers said Beam’s failure to provide their requested funds caused real financial harm, partic

FTC Warns Frank Financial Aid to Stop Potentially Misleading Marketing Directed to Students Seeking Coronavirus Financial Relief

The Federal Trade Commission has sent a warning letter  to a company that markets financial aid prep assistance to post-secondary students, notifying the company that it could potentially be misleading consumers about access to a coronavirus relief program. The letter to the operators of Frank Financial Aid (Frank) highlights the company’s claims that it gives students “everything you need” to apply for emergency grants available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and that there are four identified eligibility criteria for the emergency relief. In fact, as the FTC’s letter notes, Frank’s purported assistance to students consists primarily of providing a form letter that may lack the information a student would need to apply for one of the grants from his or her school. The CARES Act program for students is administered by individual colleges and universities, and each has its own unique application process and grant eligibility criteria. The FTC’s le