Can You Hear Me? Scammers.

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ScamRemember the Verizon Wireless commercial where the guy asked “can you hear me now?” That commercial is no longer on the air, but the question is still being asked – by scammers.

Yes, one of the newest scams making the rounds goes something like this. You get a call on your cell phone and the person on the other end asks “can you hear me?” The way you answer this seemingly innocent question can determine if you become the latest victim.

When you hear someone on the other line ask “can you hear me,” your reflexive response may be the simply say yes. Unfortunately, that is exactly the answer the scammers want to hear. Their question is nothing more than a ploy to get you to say that word – yes.

Once you say yes, the scammer can use that response to authorize phony charges on bills and credit cards, and to make it seem like you agreed to something. The scammer can also use other questions in order to get you to say yes, such as “do you pay the bill for this phone number?”

Another ploy these criminals use is to get you to press a certain button on your phone, which they can also use to fraudulently signify your agreement or permission.

Often these scammers have already obtained some of your personal and financial information via some other stolen data and the “yes” is what they need if you attempt to dispute charges on your credit card or an agreement to purchase a product or service.

Experts who deal with fraud and scams, including the FCC, suggest that the best way to deal with this scam is simply to not answer any calls where the number is not recognizable. If you do pick up, simply hang up when someone just blurts out a random question. You can also add your number, both home and cell phone to the national Do Not Call Registry.

In this age of electronic scams and fraud, it is so important to protect your personal information, especially you credit card numbers, PIN numbers and social security number. Stay on top of your financial information by frequently checking your credit card and banking statements. Often, the sooner you catch financial fraud, the better your odds of recouping your losses and preventing further loss.

Be smart. Be strong. And always stay alert.

Feel free to join my conversation on FacebookFacebook Esteemableacts Fan Page, or my Facebook Law Page, you can also interact with me on my Twitter Esteemable Acts pageTwitter Law Page, or on LinkedIn.

Federal Trade Commission. Commerce Planet. OnlineSupplier.

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Federal Trade Commission Act

Commerce Planet. FTC.

Commerce Planet. FTC.

Last week the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a California federal court decision that imposed an $18.2 million award for restitution against Charles Gugliuzza, the former president of Commerce Planet, Inc. for violating section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

Commerce Planet first landed in hot water when the FTC filed suit against the company for deceptive marketing practices. The issue involved one of the company’s products, OnlineSupplier, marketed as a hosting platform where people had the opportunity to earn income by buying and selling products over the Internet. However, consumers never saw the OnlineSupplier brand on the Commerce Planet website. Instead, they saw an ad for a “free kit” to help you make money buying and selling wares on eBay.

Here’s where it gets a bit tricky and where Commerce Planet ran afoul of the law.

This “free starter kit” required customer to supply a shipping address and credit card number to cover the shipping costs. While many who ordered this product assumed it was “free” as stated in the ad, the fine print informed people that it was free for only a trial period of 14 days. Then it was up to the customer to take the necessary time and steps to cancel the service if they did not wish to go forward. If not cancelled, the process of billing customer credit cards on a monthly basis began.

This sleazy tactic, referred to as a “negative option,” means that the seller of a product or service interprets the lack of “affirmative action” taken by customers to reject or cancel an offer as an explicit agreement to be charged for goods or services offered.

The Court ruled that Commerce Planet did not take adequate steps to disclose the negative option and was thus in violation of federal law. (§ 5(a) of the FTC Act) Furthermore, the court held then president, Charles Gugliuzza accountable and personally liable for the conduct of Commerce Planet.

This is not, by far, the first time companies have been sued by the FTC for their negative option practices. Unfortunately, this practice remains in effect with unethical companies who feel the risk of the FTC coming down on them is worth the reward they receive out of making millions of dollars. Hopefully this latest ruling where the corporate leadership was held personally accountable may help to finally put a stop to this.

What are a few takeaways for anyone employing continuity agreements or negative option agreements?

1. Read the fine print before agreeing to the terms of use.
2. Know what you are signing up for.
3. Drill into your brain that nothing is truly free.

Please remember that knowledge and vigilance is power when it comes to safeguarding your money and finances and avoiding scams.

Until next time, I’m attorney Francine ward helping you stay out of trouble.

FTC. Testimonials.

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FTC. Testimonials.

FTC. Consumer protection. Testimonials.

FTC.  Testimonials.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the  consumer watchdog that engages in  consumer protection.  In the 1970s, the FTC enacted the Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.  They were first amended in 1980, and then again more recently in 2009. The most recent change came as a result of the explosion of social media and the use of mobile devices.

Recently I listened in on a LinkedIn conversation among marketers. Several of them insisted they did not need to know about the Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, because they were “only bloggers” and someone told them the “FTC didn’t care about bloggers.”  Once again I realized that while the Internet is replete with some valuable information, it is also filled with useless inaccuracies.  So allow me to set the record straight as to who needs to know about the Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.  If you fall into one of the following categories,  you should read and understand the Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising:

  1. Both the endorser and advertiser, because if the endorsement is found to be deceptive, they BOTH will be liable
  2. Anyone who advertises to consumers
  3. Anyone who markets using either social media or an affiliate

Here are a few KEY Endorsement Requirements:

  1. Endorser MUST be a real person, not computer generated;
  2. If you use an actor instead of an actual consumer, you must clearly & conspicuously disclose that information;
  3. The endorsement must accurately reflect endorser’s belief and experience at all times throughout the life of the AD campaign;
  4. The endorser must have reasonable basis for the claims they make;
  5. Any claim made where the endorser says they use the product must be true at all times;
  6. Advertiser don’t have to disclose that a celebrity or an expert has been paid to endorse a product UNLESS the existence of the relationship is not reasonably expected.

There is a lot more to know. For more information check out the actual Guides on the FTC website, the Endorsement Guide FAQs, and the Dot.com Disclosures. If you need actual legal advice, instead of just legal information, feel free to contact an attorney admitted to practice in your state, who can counsel you accordingly.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts about the Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising? Join my conversation on my law Facebook Fan Page, my law Twitter page, one of my LinkedIn Groups, and in my Google+ Circles.

Facebook. Facebook ADs. Facebook AD.

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Facebook. Facebook ADs. Facebook AD.

Facebook. Facebook Ads

Facebook. Facebook Ads

A you a fan of Facebook? Have you ever purchased Facebook ADs in order to obtain “Likes” on your business page? If you are one of the many who has done so, or intends to do so, you will want to read this post FIRST.

Facebook ADs.

When BBC Technology Correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones was informed by Social Media Consultant Michael Tinmouth of his concerns, regarding the low returns on Facebook ADs, Cellan-Jones was determined to delve into it. As any good investigative reporter, he did his homework. What he found was astonishing and disturbing.

Cellan-Jones decided that he wanted to investigate the worth of a “Like” using Facebook ADs. And in 2012 he created the Facebook page VirtualBagel for this experiment. VirtualBagel’s about page says “We send you bagels via the internet – just download and enjoy,” and its initial post noted “If you have clicked “Like” can you explain why?” This was written specifically to have followers comment on the page’s legibility.

Facebook Like.

The first Facebook AD was created to obtain “Likes” from people who reside in the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, India, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Within 24 hours VirtualBagel had 1,600 new Likes for a $10 paid ad campaign. Not bad, right? Wrong!

Delving into the profiles of the new VirtualBagel followers, Cellan-Jones discovered that the page was very popular with people living in Egypt, Indonesia and the Philippines. However, almost no one from the United States or the United Kingdom had clicked the “Like” button. In addition, many of the overseas “Likes” looked suspicious while others were likes from business pages, and no one seemed to make any comments regarding the bagels being a virtual download.

After generating a few Facebook AD campaigns, Cellan-Jones created a final ad solely targeting the US and UK. Disappointingly the new Facebook Likes with this Facebook AD campaign were marginal.

In his article titled ‘Who ‘likes’ my Virtual Bagels?‘ Cellan-Jones said, “Who are these people in some countries who are clicking in an apparently random way on thousands of Facebook ADs and earning the network a small fee each time? The question you may ask is why does any of this matter? Well, Facebook has just arrived on the stock market with a valuation of $100bn, which was entirely based on the promise that advertising revenue will continue to grow from last year’s $4bn.”

Facebook Like.  Fraud Exposed.

And Derek Muller of Veritasium recently created a video on YouTube regarding this very topic. In the video, Facebook Fraud Exposed, Muller says that paid followers even if they’re based out of the US or UK drives reach and engagement numbers down. This action basically renders the business page useless because a lack of post engagement lowers the number of followers who’ll see the posts on their Facebook feeds.

The Cellan-Jones and Muller investigations on Facebook advertising do raise many questions regarding the real value of obtaining a new “Like” on a page.

Is it really worth it? Isn’t it better to bring value and engage with those who are truly interested in your brand rather than simply paying for more likes only to obtain people who are disengaged with your business page?

Copyright Attorney. Trademark Lawyer. Francine Ward.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join the conversation on my legal Facebook Fan Page, my Twitter page, or in one of my LinkedIn groups.

 

SEC. Twitter. Tweet. Netflix. Facebook.

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SEC Regulation Fair Disclosure.

Twitter. Facebook. SEC

Twitter. Facebook. SEC

In August of 2000, the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced a rule that publicly traded companies must divulge material information to all investors at the same time. In other words, the information cannot be released to only certain investors and cannot be released piecemeal. The rule is referred to as SEC Regulation Fair Disclosure or the Regulation FD.

Since the implementation of SEC Regulation FD in 2000, much has changed, particularly the advent of Social Media venues e.g., Twitter and Facebook.

Netflix Gets it Wrong on Facebook.

In July of 2012 Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced on his Facebook page figures on the company’s monthly viewership for the previous month, stating that “Netflix monthly viewing exceeded 1 billion hours for the first time ever in June.” The seemingly innocent post on the growing success of Netflix has landed Mr. Hastings in hot water with the SEC.

The SEC is not only looking into whether Netflix allegedly violated Regulation FD, but whether they also violated 10b-5.  Section 10b-5 deals with deceit and fraud in the selling or purchasing of securities, and is more commonly known as the insider trading statute.

The argument in defense of Netflix is that Facebook is indeed a public company, and therefore, there was no intent to hide information from certain investors or to favor others. Mr. Hastings has over 200,000 subscribers to his Facebook account.

In the past, the SEC has stated that a website or blog could be considered “public” in regards to Regulation FD as long as the website is recognized as a venue for distribution of information – if investors know to look for it there.

This case, once again, highlights the effects that the social media boom is having on businesses, small and large. Taking advantage of the benefits while avoiding the pitfalls can be challenging, to say the least.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Feel free to join my conversation on my Law Facebook Fan Page, my Twitter Law Page, or in one of my LinkedIn Groups.