Archive for the ‘FTC’ Category

FTC warns of scams related to new medicare cards coming between April 2018 and April 2019

New Medicare cards are coming soon. Here’s what you need to know about your new card. Plus, how to avoid related scams.

Starting in April 2018, Medicare will begin mailing new cards to everyone who gets Medicare benefits. Why? To help protect your identity, Medicare is removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards. Instead, the new cards will have a unique Medicare Number. This will happen automatically. You don’t need to do anything or pay anyone to get your new card.

Medicare will mail your card, at no cost, to the address you have on file with the Social Security Administration. If you need to update your official mailing address, visit your online Social Security account or call 1-800-772-1213. When you get your new card, your Medicare coverage and benefits will stay the same.

If your sister who lives in another state gets her card before you, don’t fret. The cards will be mailed in waves, to various parts of the country, from April 2018 until April 2019. So, your card may arrive at a different time than hers. You can check the rollout schedule to get a better idea when you may be receiving yours.

When you get your new card, be sure to destroy your old card. Don’t just toss it in the trash. Shred it. If you have a separate Medicare Advantage card, keep that because you’ll still need it for treatment.

As the new Medicare cards start being mailed, be on the lookout for Medicare scams. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t pay for your new card. It’s yours for free. If anyone calls and says you need to pay for it, that’s a scam.
  • Don’t give personal information to get your card. If someone calls claiming to be from Medicare, asking for your Social Security number or bank information, that’s a scam. Hang up. Medicare will never ask you to give personal information to get your new number and card.
  • Guard your card. When you get your new card, safeguard it like you would any other health insurance or credit card. While removing the Social Security number cuts down on many types of identity theft, you’ll still want to protect your new card because identity thieves could use it to get medical services.

For more information about changes to your Medicare card go to And if you’re a victim of a scam, report it to the FTC.


Scammers impersonate the Social Security Administration — Federal Trade Commission

Your Social Security number is an important key for an identity thief. Scammers want it, and they think of all sorts of ways to trick you into giving it away.

Here at the Federal Trade Commission, we’re getting reports about calls from scammers claiming to be from the Social Security Administration. They say there’s been a computer problem, and they need to confirm your Social Security number. Other people have told us that they have come across spoof websites that look like the place where you would apply for a new Social Security card – but these websites are actually a setup to steal your personal information.

If you get a phone call or are directed to a website other than that is claiming to be associated with the Social Security Administration, don’t respond. It’s most likely a scam.

Here’s some tips to deal with these government imposters:

  • Don’t give the caller your information. Never give out or confirm sensitive information – like your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number – unless you know who you’re dealing with. If someone has contacted you, you can’t be sure who they are.

  • Don’t trust a name or number. Con artists use official-sounding names to make you trust them. To make their call seem legitimate, scammers use internet technology to spoof their area code – so although it may seem they are calling from Washington, DC, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.

  • Check with the Social Security Administration. The SSA has a warning about these scams and suggests you contact them directly at 1-800-772-1213 to verify the reason for the contact and the person’s identity prior to providing any information to the caller.

If you come across one of these scams, please report it to the Social Security Administration’s Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271/1-866-501-2101(TTY) and then tell the FTC about it.

How scammers make you pay — Federal Trade Commission

Here’s one of the top questions we get from people: Is this a scam? Whatever the “this” looks like, here’s our best answer to that question: Did someone say you can only pay by wiring money, putting money on a gift card, or loading money on a cash reload card? If they did, then yes: that is a scam.

Here’s a video that has, in a little more than a minute, some of the scam scenarios we see – and what you should do about them.

Whether someone tells you to pay to claim a prize, help someone out of trouble, or deal with tax issues from the (so-called) IRS: nobody legitimate is ever going to say you have to pay by wiring them money, getting iTunes cards, or putting money on a MoneyPak, Vanilla Reload, or Reloadit card.

So: watch the video. And if anyone ever insists you pay in one of those ways, tell the FTC. Because that will be a scam we want to know about.

FYI: Do Not Call Registry Data Book 2017: Maine

Click map for data

Contains new information on robocall complaints and a state-by-state complaint analysis

The Federal Trade Commission today issued the National Do Not Call Registry Data Book for Fiscal Year 2017. The FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry lets consumers choose not to receive most telemarketing calls.

Now in its ninth year of publication, the Data Book has been redesigned and contains a wealth of information about the Registry for FY 2017 (from October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017). The Data Book now provides more information on robocall complaints, new information about the types of calls consumers reported to the FTC, and includes a complete state-by-state analysis.

Complaints: 29,495 (#23 nationally, per 100K population)
Active Registrations: 1,092,143 (#4 nationally, per 100K population)

Consumers impacted by scams utilizing Western Union may now seek compensation from $586M fund

Attorney General Mills encourages fraud victims to file claims


November 13, 2017
CONTACT: Andrew Roth-Wells Telephone: (207) 626-8887

AUGUSTA – Mainers who were deceived into sending payments to scammers using Western Union’s wire transfer service between January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017 may now apply for compensation from a $586 million fund administered by the Department of Justice’s Victim Asset Recovery Program. This fund is related to a multi-state settlement with Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and 49 other states, the District of Columbia, and Western Union that was first announced in January.

Mainers who reported to the Maine Office of the Attorney General that they had been the victim of a scam using Western Union will receive a claim form in the mail in the coming weeks, which will contain instructions explaining how to file a claim for compensation. If you do not receive a claim form in the mail but believe you may have an eligible claim, visit or call 1-844-319-2124.

“I ask all Mainers who have been scammed out of money and were asked to use Western Union to make these fraud-induced payments to file for reimbursement from this fund,” said Attorney General Mills. “I realize some may be embarrassed that they fell for a scam. You are not alone. Do not be embarrassed, please take this opportunity to get some of your money back. If you ever wire money, keep in mind that it’s illegal for a telemarketer to ask you to pay with a money transfer. Scammers love using money transfer services because once you send the money, it’s gone forever. So, if a telemarketer asks you to wire money, already you know they’re a crook.”

In order to receive restitution under the settlement claims forms must be mailed back to the settlement administrator by February 12, 2018. Attorney General Mills encourages consumers to reach out to the Consumer Protection Division if they have questions or concerns at , (207) 626-8849 or 1-800-436-2131.


Original story

Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills offers advice about helping victims of Hurricane Harvey

Mills warns consumers to avoid giving to potentially fraudulent websites

Press Release
08/29/2017 04:04 PM EDT

AUGUSTA – Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills advised Mainers to choose wisely in sending funds to agencies to help the families and communities suffering from the extreme weather produced by Hurricane Harvey in Texas this week.

“A natural disaster brings out the best us, and people around the world offer whatever we can to aid victims like those down in Texas this week,” said Mills. “Unfortunately, it also sometimes brings out people who take advantage of our good nature and provide no help to those in need.”

AG Mills warned against giving money to organizations that are unfamiliar or not recommended by her office or other official sources. AG Mills shared a list of those organizations that are considered reliable

“If consumers have any questions or complaints about a particular organization I encourage them to call our Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-436-2131.”

Other sources for guidance related to charitable giving can be found at the links below for the Maine Attorney General, the Texas Attorney General, and the Federal Trade Commission.

The American Red Cross is encouraging people to donate money on its website,, or text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10. Apple is also accepting Red Cross donations via iTunes and the Apple App Store.

The Red Cross is also seeking blood. Upcoming blood drives in southern Maine:

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at: Portland Blood Donation Center 524 Forest Ave., Portland

Thursday at: Maine Mall, 364 Maine Mall Road South Portland

AG Mills added that she plans on donating blood in the coming days.

Americares, an emergency response organization based in Connecticut, is delivering emergency medicine and relief supplies and working with a local clinic in Houston. Make a donation at

United Way Worldwide has a relief fund to provide shelter and basic needs, as well as long-term recovery efforts. Donate at

The Salvation Army is accepting donations for hurricane relief at

To help pets stranded by Hurricane Harvey, donations are being accepted by the Humane Society of the United States at

For volunteer opportunities or other places to donate, check with National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, at ###

Poll: Recurring charges are easy to start, hard to get out of –

Gen-Xers, millennials most likely to get tricked into automatic payments

By Brady Porche  |  Published: August 21, 2017
Staff Reporter

Focusing on credit scores and what consumers can do to improve them

Wistia video thumbnail - CCdotcom_RecurringPayments

Consumers are easily ensnared by sneaky recurring charges, and many find them hard to escape, according to a new survey.

Our national telephone survey of 1,002 U.S. adults found that 35 percent had set up an account – such as a streaming TV service, a magazine subscription or a gym membership – that enrolled them in automatic payments without them realizing it. Additionally, 42 percent of consumers said it’s difficult to turn off recurring charges.

Federal laws prohibit companies from tricking people into paying for things they don’t want. However, many online merchants use “negative option” offers, which require consumers to cancel services or product shipments to avoid recurring charges, to turn a profit. And they’re not always used in ways that serve the consumer’s best interest.

“The main reason consumers get caught in these negative option offers is the material details, conditions and terms are not clearly and conspicuously shown,” said Bonnie Patten, executive director of the consumer watchdog group Truth in Advertising.

Of course, not everyone who gets charged unknowingly is the victim of a scam. And many do nothing to remedy the situation. Our survey found that approximately 9 million consumers (after an extrapolation based on the entire U.S. adult population) kept subscriptions and memberships for which they were unwittingly charged rather than cancel them. Young millennials (ages 18-26) were more likely than any other group to let recurring charges live on.

Here’s what our survey revealed about how consumers handle subscriptions and other recurring charges:

  • Younger consumers are more easily snookered. Gen-Xers (44 percent) and millennials (37 percent) were mostly likely to get hung up in automatic payments. Gen-Xers were also the most likely to say it’s “very difficult” to turn off automatic payments, followed by baby boomers.
  • Older folks steer clear of traps. Members of the Silent Generation (ages 72 and older) were significantly more likely than any other age group to say they’d never signed up for automatic payments without realizing it.
  • Free trials anything but. A full 48 percent of respondents said they signed up for free trials that automatically renewed without their knowledge. Only 9 percent of those people kept the subscriptions after the trial period ended.
  • A tight budget can be a safeguard. Consumers who make less than $30,000 per year were least likely to say they inadvertently fell into recurring charges.

The scientific survey of 1,002 adults was conducted Aug. 3-6 via landline and cellphone. See survey methodology.

Negative options
If you’ve ever been hit with recurring charges you didn’t expect, chances are you were either deceived or you just weren’t paying close attention. Many of us are guilty are signing up for trial accounts and services online without reading the full terms and conditions – even the ones that don’t ask you to study a 10-page PDF document with small type.

But if you’re ever asked to provide payment information to proceed with what you think is a one-off service, it’s critical to find out for sure. There are merchants out there whose business models largely depend on consumers not fully understanding their offer terms.

“What we’re seeing is that they’re not making it easy for a consumer to tell that they’re going to be put into a negative option offer,” Patten said. “For example, they may use a pre-checked box, or the ability to decline a negative option offer is at the bottom of the page, in a smaller font and a color that’s not very visible.”

Although the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a rule that targets negative option offers, it’s largely obsolete these days.

“The negative option rule … has to do with old ‘book-of-the-month club’ issues and a very specific type of negative option that we normally don’t see anymore,” said James Kohm, director of the FTC’s enforcement division.

But consumers are broadly protected by Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits “unfair or deceptive” practices that could mislead them or cause harm. Additionally, the Restore Online Shopper’s Confidence Act (ROSCA) protects consumers from getting charged for services online without their consent and mandates that merchants fully disclose their terms. Congress is also considering a bill titled the Unsubscribe Act that would increase consumer safeguards against deceptive online negative option offers and make it easier to cancel them.

Earlier this month, the FTC invoked Section 5 and ROSCA in shutting down an online marketing operation for scamming consumers into paying $200 a month for tooth whiteners and other products. The agency said customers were lured through a mix of misleading claims, hidden disclosures and confusing terms into low-cost “trials” that turned into pricey subscriptions if they didn’t cancel within eight days. In a separate case this month, the FTC charged a firm operating a bogus discount club with debiting more than $40 million from the accounts of consumers who believed they were applying for payday loans or cash advances.

Kohm noted that major online subscription services such as Netflix, Spotify and Amazon Prime are unlikely to engage in these kinds of deceptive practices due to their popularity and their reputations. (The companies’ respective policies contain language that spells out their billing practices.) But he said “fly-by-night” operations that only use products as a fig leaf for their nefarious schemes don’t care about reputational damage, so there’s little incentive for them to play by the rules.

How to avoid negative option and free trial traps
The internet is too big for federal authorities to track down every shady online seller, so consumers must use their own judgment and be vigilant.

“You need to decide whether you want to participate in negative options and free offers,” Kohm said. “You can also decide whether you’re dealing with a company that you know and trust.”

Kohm also recommends contacting your state attorney general’s office or doing a simple Google search to find out if a company offering a negative option or a free trial has elicited complaints from other consumers.

Meanwhile, be suspicious of any offer that promises you something for nothing – especially if it still asks for your credit card or bank account information.

“Anytime a consumer sees the word ‘free,’ they should immediately look for the hook the company is laying out in front to catch them,” Patten of Truth in Advertising said. “‘Free’ rarely actually means free. Almost inevitably, if consumers are being offered a free trial, it’s so the company can get their credit card information and enroll them in one of these negative option offers.”

“Anytime a consumer sees the word ‘free,’ they should immediately look for the hook the company is laying out in front to catch them.”

If you are snagged by a not-so-free trial or other account that charges you more than you intend, you can dispute the payments with your credit card issuer.

“Customers can cancel a one-time or recurring ACH payment by contacting us with the payee or merchant name and dollar amount of the payment,” Betty Riess, spokeswoman for Bank of America, said in an e-mail.

$10 per month eventually turns into $120 per year
Unexpected recurring charges are at best an inconvenience and at worst a budget-buster. A charge of $10 or so per month may seem like small change to many consumers. However, it adds up over time if you forget about the account or put off canceling it.

But by steering clear of automatic payment traps, you’ll have more money to cover recurring charges for things you actually want and need.

Survey methodology commissioned Princeton Survey Research Associates International to obtain telephone interviews with 1,002 adults living in the continental United States. Interviews were conducted by landline and cellphone in English and Spanish from Aug. 3-6, 2017. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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