Boca case leads to $10 million in FTC refunds. Are you due a check?

Federal officials said this week they are ready to mail more than 36,000 checks totaling more than $10 million in a case involving a Boca Raton tech support company.

The money comes from a settlement with Inbound Call Experts LLC, doing business as Advanced Tech Support, and other defendants. The Federal Trade Commission called it a scam that used high-pressure sales tactics  to market products and services by falsely claiming to find viruses and malware on consumers’ computers.

Average refund: $277.44.  Deposit or cash the check within 60 days, officials advised. Also: Never pay money or provide account information to receive a refund check.  Questions? Call the FTC’s refund line at (877) 793-0908.

Other defendants in the case, which goes back several years, include PC Vitalware LLC, Super PC Support LLC, Robert D. Deignan, Paul M. Herdsman and Justin M. Wright. Defendants neither admitted nor denied allegations in agreeing to the settlement, according to a court order.

Inbound Call Experts appears to be still in operation, or at least maintaining a phone line under that company name. A call this week was not immediately returned.

 

Western Union scam refunds: Window on $586 million closes Feb. 12

If you ever wired money at Western Union for something that turned to out to be a scam, your chance at a refund expires Feb. 12.

Western Union has agreed to provide $586 million to settle charges it failed to protect consumers adequately and discipline problem agents, federal officials  reminded consumers Tuesday 

We’re talking scams that go back up to 14 years, generating more than 550,000 complaints about money transfers related to fees to collect fake lottery prizes, phony family emergencies, fraudulent online romance and more. Western Union knew from reports inside and outside the company that such frauds were occurring, and the reports in some cases implicated its own agents, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Western Union said in a statement last year, “We share the government’s goal of protecting consumers and the integrity of our global money transfer network, and we worked hard to resolve these matters with the government.” The company added: “We are committed to enhancing our compliance programs to prevent illicit activity on our network and protect customers who transfer money to friends, family and businesses.”

Consumers have until Feb. 12 to file claims for refunds for fraudulent payments made via Western Union between Jan. 1, 2004 and Jan. 17, 2017.

The FTC felt obligated to add this warning: Don’t pay anything to file a claim for your refund. That’s a sure sign you are not dealing with the right people.  In other words, don’t get scammed in your attempt to get a scam refund.

“The U.S. Department of Justice is managing the claims process through the company they hired, Gilardi & Co.,” a Federal Trade Commission statement said Tuesday. “Your claim will go to Gilardi, but we suggest you start at FTC.gov/WU, which will link you to the claims website.”

 

 

FTC: Yes, our emails are real on $10M refunds for Boca tech scheme

A shadowy “tech support” industry based in Palm Beach County has given fits to consumers and regulators alike, with one Lake Worth man accused this year of faking Federal Trade Commission news releases in pursuing victims of past schemes.

That provides a colorful if slightly awkward backdrop to the FTC’s announcement this week it is sending emails to notify eligible consumers they are eligible for a share of $10 million in refunds after a significant settlement.  The refunds come from an agreement with Boca Raton-based Advanced Tech Support, which also used the name Inbound Call Experts.

That’s not the full amount consumers paid but what state and federal officials were able to seize for refunds, so a release describes the refunds as “partial.”

The FTC alleges that for years, a spate of such schemes have scared people into buying worthless software and support, sometimes for hundreds of dollars apiece, to “fix” non-existent computer viruses and malware. Palm Beach County has been home to several companies that employ various forms of advertising, computer pop-ups and telemarketing, often aimed at seniors.

There are even alleged follow-up scams, reaching out to victims and seeking fees to get refunds. One Lake Worth man, Daniel L. Croft, was ordered by a court in April to stop posing as someone affiliated with the FTC.

One tip to tell if the email is real: The FTC email will not ask you for any fees to claim a refund.

The FTC says its emails about refunds in this case will come from: subscribe@subscribe.ftc.gov

The email will have a claim number and a PIN that will give you access to apply for a refund, officials said. If you get an email, follow the instructions and respond by Oct. 27.

Still a little confused and wary?  That’s understandable in this case. You can avoid clicking the link in the email and start the claims process at ftc.gov/TechSupport or call the refund administrator at 877-793-0908, federal officials say.

The refund applies to eligible consumers who bought tech support products and services between April 2012 and November 2014. Again: the deadline to apply is Oct. 27, 2017.

 

Federal probe in Lake Worth drives hundreds of refunds

A Lake Worth company that promised to lower car payments delivered something else — a scam that took money from consumers struggling to pay debts, federal officials said.

Now hundreds of refund checks are going out, the Federal Trade Commission said this week.

A promotion from a Lake Worth firm included in an FTC complaint.

Regency Financial Services and principal Ivan Levy perpetrated a “vehicle loan assistance relief services scam,” the FTC charged. Websites promised beleaguered drivers could “lower your payments as much as 50% regardless of your credit score” and claimed consumers saved an average of $293 per month, according to an FTC complaint.

Instead customers paid up-front fees, often $499 in a lump sum or installments, relying on promises the company would prevent creditors from repossessing their vehicles and substantially reduce their interest rate, officials said. Regency typically provided “valueless referrals and advice,” according to the complaint alleging unfair or deceptive trade practices.

The FTC said it is mailing 288 checks totaling more than $109,000 to people who paid an up-front fee. Average amount: $380.

A settlement that produced the money also banned the defendants from telemarketing and selling debt relief products or services. Attempts to seek comment from defendants through an attorney were not successful.

Affected consumers should deposit or cash checks within 60 days, federal officials said, and if they have questions, they should contact the FTC’s refund administrator, Rust Consulting Inc., at 866-591-7249.

Amazon made $70M unlawfully from kids, FTC said. Are you due a refund?

Online retailer Amazon, accused of unlawfully billing parents for more than $70 million in purchases by game-playing kids, has settled a case with federal regulators. Refunds are available.

The deadline for submitting refund requests is May 28, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday.

The charges in question took place between November 2011 and May 2016, officials said.

Amazon has offered many children’s apps for download to mobile devices such as the Kindle Fire, the FTC noted.  Children playing games such as “Ice Age Village” could spend unlimited amounts of money to pay for virtual items such as “coins,” “stars,” and “acorns” without sufficient parental consent, federal officials said in a 2014 complaint.

“Even Amazon’s own employees recognized the serious problem its process created,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in 2014.

Last month the FTC and Amazon agreed to end their litigation.

An Amazon spokesman said Tuesday, “Since the launch of the Appstore in 2011, Amazon has helped parents prevent purchases made without their permission by offering access to parental controls, clear notice of in-app purchasing, real-time notification for every in-app purchase and refund assistance for unauthorized purchases. The Court here affirmed our commitment to customers when it ruled no changes to current Appstore practices were required.”

The company spokesman continued, “To continue ensuring a great customer experience, we are happy to provide our customers what we have always provided: refunds for purchases they did not approve. We have contacted all eligible customers who have not already received a refund for unauthorized charges to help ensure their refunds are confirmed quickly.”

The FTC said refund requests can be completed online at https://www.amazon.com/gp/mas/refund-orders/in-apprefund. Customers can go to their Amazon.com accounts and go to the Message Center to find information about requesting a refund under Important Messages. Questions about individual refunds should be directed to Amazon at 866-216-1072, the FTC said.