FTC: Xbox One Promoter Paid For Positive Customer Reviews

Looking at customer reviews before making that big money purchase is something many consumers practice.  But what if the reviews you’re seeing are all lies? Better yet, what if the person who submitted the review was paid by the company?

According to the Federal Trade Commission, a Xbox One promoter paid two gaming bloggers to post positive video reviews of the game console.  The bloggers posted four videos days before the launch of the Xbox One.  The videos had more than 1.6 million views.  Machinima, the promoter, later paid more people to upload positive reviews.

The company never revealed that the reviewers were paid.

The two bloggers made a total of $45,000.  The others were paid $1 for every 1,000 video views and could earn up to a total of $25,000.

Machinima and the FTC decided to settle. The settlement prevents the company from lying to consumers again.

A law by FTC requires reviewers to disclose their connection to a company in order for the public to know their credibility.

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FTC Shuts Down Vemma For Alleged Pyramid Scheme

A federal court has ordered a popular business among college students to shut down after the Federal Trade Commission accused them of acting as a pyramid scheme.

According to the FTC, Vemma Nutrition promised false riches to lure college kids into joining the company.


The FTC complaint says Vemma told recruits they could earn a high income by getting others to join.  The company made most of its money by focusing on recruitment, instead of selling its products.  Those who choose to participate made no money or lost some.

The FTC also said Vemma attracted college students by showing people their age with  luxury cars, jets, and yachts.  They claimed it was possible to make up to $50,000 per week.

Recruits were required to spend $500 to $600 dollars to join the company.  They then had to spend $150 a month to buy the company’s products.

Along with the company, Vemma CEO Benson Boreyko is also named as a defendant in the complaint, as is Vemma promoter Tom Alkazin and his wife Bethany Alkazin.

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Con-Artists Tricking Victims into Helping Them Steal

Imagine making money in the comfort of your home.  Sound too good to be true? Well, it is.  Many times work-at-home jobs are a scam.

But con-artists are now using this type of fraud to fool victims into helping them steal money.

In this new scheme, scammers are tricking the public into providing their personal information so that they can wire money or transport stolen goods.

According to the FTC, scammers will send emails offering a job as a clerk, correspondence manager or import/export specialist.  The application will ask for personal information and a bank account number.  After accepting, your first task is to wire transfer money to your account and then transfer a majority of it to their contact.

But it doesn’t stop there. Next, you’ll have packages sent to your home. Your task will be to re-label them with information they provide and ship them out.

In another version of the scam,  con-artists will pose as a regular joe looking for love.  The scammer will email the victim as someone they met on an online dating site.  They will claim their stuck outside of the U.S. on business and need your bank account to relay money from their home office.

The reality is the check the scammer sends is fake. If you deposit and withdraw the money, you’re required to repay the bank.

All these schemes are intended to land the victim in hot water, but there are ways to avoid this.

BBB offers these tips:

Do your research. Try typing the company’s name with the word scam or reviews in different search engines and see what you find.

Never give out your personal information. Use your common sense. Giving out your personal information to someone you have never met in person is a never a good idea.

Get details about the job. How much will you get paid? What tasks will you have to perform? Who will pay you and how? These are questions that the person hiring you should be able to know.

You can report a scam by using BBB’s Scam Tracker.

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Get-Rich-Quick Schemes Hit Social Media

Social Media Scam

Money flipping scams promise to turn a small investment into a big profit. This can be an easy sell to anyone looking to make some cash, especially teenagers.

So what are scammers doing to target a younger audience? Their using social media sites like Instagram.

Here’s how the scheme works. Scammers will post a picture of someone holding a large amount of cash.  The caption will say how the user flipped hundreds of dollars into thousands.  It will then ask if you want to make the same amount of money, saying how easy it is. To get started, the victim will just have to send the Instagram user a message to show interest.

But here’s when the scam revs up. You’re then asked to mail your physical debit card and PIN number, granting access to your account. Initially, you’ll see a deposit of a couple thousand dollars and withdraw an equal amount. But the first deposit will be fake. When the bank realizes the check is fraudulent, you will be responsible for the withdrawn cash.

BBB offers these tips to avoid these money flipping scams on Instagram:

If it sounds too good to be true.  Use common sense when seeking ways to supplement your income. Anyone who claims to be able to turn a small investment into thousands of dollars quickly is a scam artist.

Do a quick search. Before contacting the potential scammer, do a web search of their username or phone number. If it’s a scam, chances are that other victims have posted complaints and information online.

Don’t share your debit card, card number or PIN. No legitimate service would ever ask you to share this information.

Be wary of prepaid debit cards. Treat prepaid debit cards like cash. Once you give away the account info, you will not be able to get that money back.

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Cryptowall: The Virus That is Stealing Millions of Dollars From Businesses

Imagine being locked out of your own files and the only way to access them is by paying someone you don’t know.  This was the reality one Austin business had to face.

ID-100259641The Davis Group, a media planning company, received an email that carried a contaminated attachment.  After clicking the attachment, all the files on their network would not open.  A message that popped up on the screen said the only way to gain access to them was to pay $500 in the next 98 hours.

“All of your files were protected by a strong encryption with RSA-2048 using CryptoWall 3.0,” the message said.

Cryptowall is form of ransomware that, according to the FBI, is the most current and significant threat targeting U.S. individuals and businesses. Since 2014, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received 992 CryptoWall-related complaints.  Businesses lost over $18 million.

The malware infects your computer when the user clicks on an infected link, opens an infected email, downloads an infected file or visits an infected website. Cryptowall then encrypts your files so that you can’t read them.  It will then demand a ransom payout, usually by bitcoin, that can range from $200 to $10,000.

The message the Davis Group received warned them that no other solution was possible beside payment.

“Alas, if you do not take the necessary measures for the specified time then the conditions for obtaining the private key will be changed.  If you really value your data, then we suggest you do not waste valuable time searching for other solutions because they do not exist,” the message said.

Although the Davis Group didn’t pay up, they didn’t lose every file. The company backed up all of their information. It’s that practice the company’s IT manager said resulted in the business losing only 1% of their files.

The bad news for businesses is if you get the virus, you’ll have to rebuild your computer. In addition, you may have to pricey services like network mitigation, network countermeasures, loss of productivity, legal fees, and IT services.

To keep your files and information for your business safe, BBB offers these tips:

Back up all important information.  Although you’ll have to rebuild a computer, ensuring critical data is backed up and stored is the key.

Keep up to date firewalls and antivirus software. Having these programs on your computer is important to keep out any possible virus that can steal valuable information.

Enable pop-up blockers. Pop-ups can be used to infect your computer if they are clicked on.

Be cautious. Never click on a link or attachment that you don’t recognize. If you see an email you don’t recognize, delete it.

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Ashley Madison User’s Personal Information Leaked Online


Impact Media Statement

Millions of users with the cheating website, Ashley Madison, are being exposed after their personal information was released online.  Almost 10 gigabytes of data was leaked by the hacker group Impact Media, which included names, street addresses, payment transactions, account details, and e-mail addresses.

Credit card numbers were not released, however, four digit numbers were attached with each payment transaction.

Avid Life Media, the owners of Ashley Madison, announced a month ago a hacking attempt on their website. The company said on Wednesday it’s still trying to find out if the data breach is real.  Experts say it is.

“The criminal, or criminals, involved in this act have appointed themselves as the moral judge, juror, and executioner, seeing fit to impose a personal notion of virtue on all of society. We will not sit idly by and allow these thieves to force their personal ideology on citizens around the world,” Avid Life Media said.

A month ago, Impact Media asked Avid Life Media to shutdown Ashley Madison and Established Men, another affair website. The hackers released a statement after the release saying, “We have explained the fraud, deceit, and stupidity of ALM and their members. Now everyone gets to see their data.”

“Keep in mind the site is a scam with thousands of fake female profiles. See ashley madison fake profile lawsuit; 90-95% of actual users are male. Chances are your man signed up on the world’s biggest affair site, but never had one,” the hackers added.

Ashley Madison claims it has more than 40 million users. The company said it hopes someone will come forward and identify the hackers.

“While we are confident that the authorities will identify and prosecute each of them to the fullest extent of the law, we also know there are individuals out there who can help to make this happen faster. Anyone with information that can lead to the identification, arrest and conviction of these criminals, can contact information@avidlifemedia.com,” Avid Life Media said.

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Corpus Christ PD Cautions About Warrants Scam

The Corpus Christi Police Department is warning residents of a scam where callers are pretending to be officers.

According to police, a resident received a call over the weekend from a 361 area code number.  The caller identified themselves as Lieutenant Wade Harris and said a warrant was out for the arrest of the resident.  The caller then asked for payment.

The resident refused, then called the police department to see if what the caller had said was true.  Police found their was no warrant and no Lieutenant Wade Harris in the department.

As believable as these calls may seem, they are often scammers trying to use fear to gain access to your personal information. BBB advises you to keep these things in mind when a caller is demanding payment and claiming to be law enforcement.

Never give out personal information. A law enforcement official will never ask for personal information and demand payment for a warrant. This sort of behavior is a red flag for a possible scam.

Verify with the local police department. If you are truly unsure about what the caller is telling you, hang up and call the police department. Officers can verify if you have a warrant.

Ask who is calling. Ask the caller for their name so you can verify with the police department. Many times, the scammer will just make up a name.

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Two Firms Charged With Illegally Selling Financial Information To Scammers

The FTC has charged two data broker companies for illegally selling payday applicant’s financial information to scammers, resulting in more than $7 million dollars lost by consumers.

According to court documents, Sequoia One LLC, Gen X Marketing Group LLC, and three of the company’s managers bought payday loan applications and sold them to non-lender third parties, like Ideal Financial Solutions.

Ideal Financial Solutions, who were charged by the FTC in 2013, used the application’s sensitive information like Social Security numbers, credit card and bank account numbers, without consent. They took money out of the consumer’s bank accounts and made charges to their credit cards.

“Companies that collect people’s sensitive information and give it to scammers can expect to hear from the FTC,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The FTC said the two firms knew Ideal Financial Solutions was making unauthorized bank account debits and credit card charges. They even said the companies helped Ideal Financial by using misleading tactics, like fine-print disclosures, to avoid suspicion from banks.

All three managers have decided to settle with the FTC, while the lawsuit against the two firms continues.

Data brokers are defined by the FTC as companies that compile information about consumers from their online activities, purchase histories, public records and other sources.  They use this information to sell detailed profiles to third parties for marketing, fraud prevention and other purposes.

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Blue Bell Closer To Returning

For those who have been craving the taste of Blue Bell ice cream, the wait may be coming to an end.

Blue Bell announced Tuesday their trucks are back on the road, filled with ice cream. The company released a video with the announcement,  that’s already been viewed at least 81,000 times. A spokesperson for the company said the trucks were headed out from an Alabama plant to a limited number of distribution centers.

Last week Blue Bell resumed production at their Alabama plant and brought back close to 200 furloughed workers, after the state’s Department of Public Health cleared the plant.

The Texas based company voluntarily recalled all of its products in April after listeria was linked to four illnesses in four states, including three deaths in Kansas.

Production facilities in Oklahoma and Texas remain closed.

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IRS Warning Public of New Scams

It seems like every year scammers are coming up with new tricks to try and steal the public’s hard earned cash. With technology constantly changing, the ability to deceive the masses has become an easier task to pull off.  According to the IRS, since 2013, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration became aware of close to four thousand tax scam victims – totaling more than $20 million in loses.

The IRS says while scammers used to target a specific demographic(like he elderly, new  immigrants and those who don’t speak English), they are now looking to exploit anyone.

A new tactic scammers are using is altering your telephone’s caller ID to appear part of the IRS or another government agency. Scammers will also use fake names, titles and badge numbers. With the abundance of information found online, scammers can even find your name, address and other details about your life to make the call sound official. They have also been known to copy official IRS letterhead and use them in email or regular mail. But it doesn’t stop there as one con includes using a real IRS address to make the scheme seem realistic.

The common factor in all these scams is playing on fear. Scammers will attempt to scare you into reacting without thinking through what’s happening or verifying if what they are saying is true.

The BBB advises the public to be aware of these telling signs of a scam.

Demand payment over the phone, or threatening law enforcement involvement. The IRS will never demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill. Neither will they have you arrested for not paying.

Require a specific payment method. Scammers most commonly ask for a prepaid credit card as a payment method. Tracing the money can be difficult for law enforcement and it doesn’t require the victim’s bank account.

Ask for credit card or debit card information. Never get out this sensitive information over the phone. Instead, you can find out if you owe taxes by calling the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.

If you know you don’t owe taxes  you can report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1-800-366-4484.  Additionally, if you’ve been targeted you can contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Be sure to add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

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