Online Influencers Look Out The FTC is Coming for You

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Instagram, TikTok and YouTube

Cristal M Clark 

Personally, I don’t watch online influencers just not my thing, I also don’t read articles entitled “I tried…so you don’t have to.” Online influencers get paid to endorse products, services and the like.

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The Federal Trade Commission has required influencers to disclose sponsored posts, but that doesn’t have much of an effect when it comes to whether or not those influencers have actually vetted those products. 

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Recently the FTC charged Lord and Taylor with deceiving the public for a campaign where they paid 50 social media influencers to post about a dress on Instagram, but didn’t require them to disclose that the posts were sponsored. Hence the campaign was in fact, a paid for advertisement. 

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The reality is that companies behind such campaigns are laundering advertising by paying an influencer to pretend that their endorsement or review is the real deal rather than a paid for ad campaign. 

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This fraudulent advertising scheme has drawn the ire of the FTC stating companies have pressured influencers to hide the fact that their endorsements are paid advertising. 

Back in 2016, video network Machinima got into hot water with the FTC for deceptive advertising for failing to disclose that it paid YouTubers to make endorsements of the Xbox One, and telling them to position their opinions as independent reviews.

And these lawsuits have done nothing to discourage these paid endorsements or rather authentic paid for advertising campaigns because the FTC has failed to punish these companies financially. Instead they are going to take a stern look at the platforms the influencers are using where you can post pretty much anything, where friends are fake and the facts are made up. 

My guess is that the FTC is going to pressure these platforms to deal with the issue rather than hit the offenders in the pocketbook as they should. 

Cristal M Clark

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Match.com Sued by the FTC

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Dating Woes Worth Millions 

Cristal M Clark 

Popular dating site Match.com is being sued by the FTC for allegedly luring paying subscribers with fake messages and likes. 

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Match offered a free profile but the catch was you could not see or respond to messages, in fact you couldn’t even look at your likes until you paid a hefty subscription fee. In addition to that, Match rarely if ever actually kept its 6 month guarantee. 

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The FTC says that nearly half a million went ahead and subscribed, only to find those supposed messages of romantic interest were actually fakes or just didn’t exist at all. So, the FTC sued Match Group, which owns Match.com, Tinder, OKCupid, PlentyOfFish, and other dating sites claiming that Match.com for using fake love interest advertisements to trick hundreds of thousands of consumers into purchasing paid subscriptions.

According to an FTC statement, up to 30 percent of the users who register for Match.com every day are there to perpetrate scams. You know the old, romance scams, phishing schemes, fraudulent advertising, and extortion scams.

Per the FTC, Match.com used those fake messages to lure in new subscribers. 

The funny thing is, if you let your paid subscription expires, Match doubles down on efforts to get you to pay again. One person I spoke with showed me how many emails she would get in a day from Match saying: He just emailed you! You caught his eye and now he’s expressed interest in you… Could he be the one? READ HIS EMAIL>>”

Once she renewed her subscription however, she found nothing. Not an email, no new likes, nothing, yet she had received over 10 emails prior to 5PM insisting she had a message or a new like. 

One of my guy friends paid twice for a subscription after having received a slew of emails from Match for a week, once he logged in he had one message, not several and despite the emails indicating he had over 50 likes, he had just one. 

He asked for a refund from Match and they refused they explained to him that the likes and emails were probably from fraudulent accounts that Match’s security team found and took down. 

Which is a lie Match is trying to sell. 

The FTC says 499,691 people signed up after getting an email saying they had a message or likes, only to find either a message from a scammer or a message that was no longer available because Match.com’s fraud protection system has already caught and deactivated that account. 

Right!

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The FTC lawsuit also accuses Match of other business practices it claims are illegal, such as offering a free six-month extension to users who fail to meet “someone special” during their initial six-month subscription period, but that there are a lot of special, time-sensitive requirements for getting that free extension buried deep in the fine print.

The FTC also alleges that Match fails to provide an easy way for consumers to unsubscribe and stop recurring charges, something that the FTC says violates the 2010 Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (or ROSCA).

Which my friend can attest to, she went through hell trying to unsubscribe and stop the recurring charges. I actually had to Google it for her and found a step by step guide. 

Match intends on fighting the charges, which should not shock anyone. Match however, should be extremely worried that it’s customers are going to head right to the FTC with living proof of the companies illegal scams so as to dupe 

customers into paying for subscriptions.

The reality is Match for all of its efforts to try to pass off those likes and messages as being sent by scammers, it’s Match.com itself sending them in an effort to gain paid subscribers. 

And that is the question the FTC should directly ask the subscribers of Match, they’ll get the full truth then.  

Match was once a good way to meet someone, until Match became greedy. Like with mot dating sites these days, consumers are shying away from them due to all of the deceit, as well as the sites own fraudulent scams so as to obtain paid subscribers. 

Cristal M Clark

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Robocallers Beware – US Government is Coming for You

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United States Nationwide Crackdown on Robocalls

Cristal M Clark  

I wear a lot of hats at my job and one of them happens to be obtaining numbers for each robocall we get, now of course I have to rely on my team to assist with this, currently I have something of like 20 lists of phone numbers all robocalls and telemarketing bullshit.

One of my favorites is someone insisting their call is not a sales call, I don’t waste a lot of time, I simply ask if they charge for their services, when they answer yes, I laugh and hang up, it’s a bloody sales call you bloody wanker.

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On any given day my organization can receive up to 50+ robocalls, before noon and every time the US government makes an announcement to crack down on them, it only seems to intensify the number of calls we get in a day.

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This week the US Government sent out a warning to robocallers, “We’re coming for you!” more or less.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. government has been cleared to conduct a nationwide crackdown on illegal robocalls that target companies and individuals who, according to the FTC have collectively placed over 1 billion unwanted calls for financial schemes and other services. The numbers are actually quite a bit hither than a mere 1 billion, the problem is that people got sick of reporting the calls to the FTC because it hasn’t seemed to do much in the way of preventing them from continuing.

I log the numbers and block them, the biggest reason I log them however is that by the time the FTC really does start to crack down on them, I’ll just forward the lists over to them.

According the FTC the crackdown involves nearly 100 cases, 5 of them are criminal enforcement actions. They were brought by the FTC, Justice Department, 15 states and local authorities. Derek Jason Bartoli, is one of the targets, a Florida man who allegedly developed, sold and used a form of software that allows millions of calls to be placed in quick succession, was responsible for 57 million calls to US phone numbers over six months in 2017, according to a federal complaint. I know many of you would just love to give good ole Derek the one finger salute, as would I but let’s just let the feds handle him for now.

Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection said; “By putting people like Derek Bartoli out of business, we are able to deprive the robocallers of the important tools of their trade.” Which is actually a rather bit, inaccurate if you will. Derek’s software has been sold, copied and improved upon by others, part of the reason robocalls have gotten so out of hand.

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Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress are preparing legislation that would expand the government’s power to limit illegal robocalls. On Tuesday, a House subcommittee is expected to consider the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act. The bill directs the Federal Communications Commission to flesh out its rules making clear that robocalls may only be made to consumers with their consent. In the Senate, the TRACED Act would expand the FCC’s power to punish illegal robocallers by increasing the maximum fines the agency can levy for each robocall and by extending the statute of limitations from 1 to just 3 years. And, the FTC still wants us to report the unwanted calls which they say will empower them to stop the calls.

I am not a huge fan of doing the job for the FTC however, my mobile carrier already knows which calls are spam and which are not, perhaps the FTC should expand upon it’s ability to ask individuals for help and start asking mobile carriers, Google is also from what I hear and excellent resource to find known robocall numbers, YouMail actually keeps a free online known Robo/Spam caller index and includes the actual number of reported complaints along with each number and let me tell you, some of those numbers are staggering.

The biggest problem I have with the FTC asking everyone to report the numbers to them is that we have been doing just that for years and to date all we keep seeing is lip service, pretty little laws that are on paper, but other than that, not much is being done to actually stop the unwanted calls. Consumers want to see swift action, and harsh action.

 

Either do something or shut it, consumers are getting really tired of lip service from our Government who promises action, yet does very little in the way of that.

Cristal M Clark

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Robo, Telemarketing, Research & Scam Calls -Hitting Epic Proportions

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And Hitting the Nerves of Everyone

Did you know that for the month of June Americans received an estimated 4.1 billion robo calls? July’s numbers will more than likely be around the same, if not worse.

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That isn’t even the tip of the iceberg in terms of junk calls citizens and businesses receive on a daily basis.

These types of calls are not just annoying, they are hitting the nerves of anyone who is receiving them.

Years ago, when I worked at GOFAST Sports & Beverage Troy, the former owner of the company warned me that we’d get scammers calling all of the time when he and/or our athletes traveled. Turned out, we did.

Most of the calls were to inform us that someone was gravely injured either Troy or one of the athletes, and the callers would ask for money to pay for things like reattaching the head to the neck or a limb of some sort.

Maybe not that gruesome however, the callers did want money to pay for the supposedly athletes or Troy’s “medical treatment.”

All of the calls were a scam, even Troy’s poor grandmother received a call once at her home.

For most private citizens these calls are a combination of billing collections, sales related, insurance, surveys, offers for loans, scammers and the like, but for businesses, that is an entirely different set of nightmares all together.

The worst of this news is that the FTC is virtually powerless to stop many of these calls because so many are coming in, most of which are utilizing spoofed numbers, VoIp services and the like.

Telemarketers will actually argue with a business owner in an effort to gain the business, as if that actually works, I mean really, do these companies hire grade school dropouts that feel temper tantrums via a phone call will earn business or a credit card number?

They call relentlessly from blocked numbers (those numbers can be unblocked though), harassing businesses nationwide.

We have everything including over a dozen a day of those goddamned Google listing calls. Hey by the way to those of you running the companies behind these calls, we all know you are not affiliated in any way with Google, we can in fact, easily handle our own Google listing because we know how it works and Google actually hates you guys.

The list could go on all day but here are a few of the more popular ones aside from bill collectors:

The cheap health and life insurance calls

The Medicare calls

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Those guys who have a foreign accent so thick that the only things you can understand are that their name is Bob and they aren’t really from any American organization or America

The guys calling about an important business matter

The ones calling about the office copier

Those annoying robo calls that start with something like “Hi, this is Becky…”

Or “Do not hang up, we’re calling because you haven’t updated your Google listing”

Then the telemarketers and surveys

Your business has qualified for a fantastic loan

That long distance billing company that started years ago via snail mail, oh they still do the snail mail, but now they are also calling companies in the hope that someone, anyone will pay the past due bill they are calling about for the long distance calling plan you never signed up for.

Survey calls

I recently had a call from a company on behalf of Spectrum VoIP, they wanted me to take a survey. I told the guy no, thanks, I’m in a meeting and he proceeds to argue with me. Naturally I hung up and he calls back to inform me, yes me, that I’m not in a meeting, I hang up again and he calls back.

Yes, yes, pissing me off is a way to earn my business, Spectrum

Comcast contracts the same vulgar types of organizations who do the same thing.

Trust me, I am the last person you want on the other end of the line, I quite enjoy making a telemarketer’s job excruciatingly painful.

My most recent favorite calls are the robo calls in such poor broken English and grammar that you simply cannot decide to laugh or be upset at the intrusion.

Like the one that one going around supposedly from “Federal Government.” The call starts with “this is a call from Federal Government you been on the run for too long…” it goes on to inform you that they’ve found you, in the worst broken English robo call that I have ever heard, then asks you to please call them back at a completely different number.

Ummm to whomever is behind this call, here in the United States the feds do not give you a bloody curtesy call if you’ve been “hiding” from them and they are looking for you.

Rather, I believe they just kick in one’s door with a warrant in hand man.

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Not to mention very few individuals have a land line these days so more often than not these calls are going to a cell phone when it’s not going to a business line.

Who in the bloody hell actually answers their cell these days even if you know the callers? Don’t we all just look at our cells oddly wondering why in the hell our friends and loved ones are calling rather than texting? No one answers a call from a number that they do not know for sure.

I do have quite a novel idea here though. Why don’t all of the scammers, spammers and telemarketers dial up the United States Government, you know all of our defunct agencies that are in the nasty little habit of already committing fraud and waste through spending erroneously.

All of those oversight agencies, that rather than fight waste, abuse and fraud in the system, they commit it themselves.

You are sure to get some hard-earned tax payer money from all of these agencies, including the IRS, the Office of the Inspector General for Veterans Affairs, US Government Accountability Office, the US Department of Education, Human Services, USDA, the Department of Treasury, the Department of Labor, all of those annoying oversight committees that aren’t really doing much, you do get the point however, they all love just blowing money on nothing, for instance the salaries they are not really earning.

You should even telephone the White House for I am more than positive should you annoy the president enough he might very well just tweet his every credit card number in sheer frustration.

Do however leave our law enforcement and intelligence agencies alone, we need those lines open you know for urgent matters.

Instead of annoy millions of American’s and businesses, why not help us alleviate and annoy the organizations that are already pissing money away, who knows they might just piss some away to you.

Cristal M Clark

IOS users can find The Crime Shop on Apple News

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