FTC warns of bogus debt collectors, continues investigation

The Federal Trade Commission is trying to stop a growing industry, fake debt collectors.

According to a report from The Baltimore Sun, one company in India has drawn the particular ire of the FTC. The company purports itself to be a debt collector aiming to collect past dues on payday loans. The company has collected $5 million from unsuspecting or intimidated consumers, who don’t actually own the debt.

In the last two years, the agency has logged more than 4,000 public complaints about fraudulent debt collectors, including many who go beyond normal means to threaten and harass consumers into paying debts they don’t actually owe to anyone. These companies will persistently call people at home or at work. They’ll call friends and family members and sometimes threaten them with repossession of property, liens against their property, garnishment of wages, and legal and police action. Continue reading FTC warns of bogus debt collectors, continues investigation

Watchdog groups believe Google Privacy Policy changes misleading public

Google and the Federal Trade Commission have drawn the ire of several online privacy advocacy groups saying the search giant’s proposed Privacy Policy terms violates an agreement it reached with the agency last year.

According to a report from Cnet.com, the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), the Electronic Privacy Information Center, World Privacy Forum, and Consumer Watchdog each have petitioned the FTC to take umbrage with Google’s planned switch in its user Privacy Policy on March 1. The groups believe Google is “misleading” the public into the real reasons for the changes in its policies. The groups also believe Google is attempting to change what information it shares from its users without consent. They believe this violates the terms of a deal Google struck with the FTC after a similar fallout related to its defunct Google Buzz social media network.

CDD, in its complaint filed this week with the FTC, believes Google is not disclosing the true reasons for its Privacy Policy changes, advertising and marketing plans for the information it will now collect under proposed changes. Google is not telling its millions (or billions) of users how “data collection, profiling, and targeting practices could violate their privacy,” citing the report. Google is advertising the changes in its Privacy Policy as a streamlining of several similar policies and that new terms are easier to read and understand and less cumbersome.

The watchdog group believes the changes in Google’s privacy policy will allow it to gather more information about its users, including search and browsing habits, which would allow it to make a more attractive pitch to advertisers. CDD believes Google’s change in privacy policy is an attempt to get this information to compete with Facebook and improve its new social media venture, Google+, its social search activities, and its patented “DoubleClick” advertising business.

Reverse Mortgage Schemes Target Seniors

A Delray Beach, Florida, loan officer was convicted for participating in a scheme to convince elderly clients to refinance their reverse mortgages. The conviction demonstrated how easy it is to exploit home-owning senior citizens.

The National Council on Aging ranks homeowner/reverse mortgage scams as the eighth most prevalent scam that puts seniors directly in the crosshairs. What is shocking is the fact that family, not mortgage professionals, is most often the ones who perpetrate such abuse. In fact, according to MetLife’s Mature Market Institute, about 60% of the financial abuse cases substantiated by adult protective services involve an adult child. Specifically, sons are more likely than daughters to rip off their parents or grandparents. Continue reading Reverse Mortgage Schemes Target Seniors

Bear Stears hedge fund managers reach accord with SEC on civil charges

Two Bear Stearns hedge fund managers have avoided a second trial on charges they lied to investors about the health of those investments.

According to a New York Times report, former executives Ralph R. Cioffi and Matthew M. Tannin were set to stand trial on those charges before they reached preliminary accord with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Their trial was scheduled to begin Monday in Brooklyn but has been postponed.

The hedge funds the men were promoting were backed by subprime mortgages, a fact not disclosed to their investors. The two men have already faced criminal charges from the Dept. of Justice for their roles in managing these hedge funds. Continue reading Bear Stears hedge fund managers reach accord with SEC on civil charges

PoolCorp Named in Antitrust Lawsuit

The self-purported “world’s largest wholesale distributor of swimming pool products” is in the crossfires of a plaintiff’s lawyers filing antitrust lawsuits.

PoolCorp and the Federal Trade Commission settled claims back in November that the Covington, LA- based company used its “monopoly power” to eliminate potential competition by pressuring manufacturers not to tell their products to other distributors. Continue reading PoolCorp Named in Antitrust Lawsuit

Mortgage help could come via $25BN settlement between states, lenders

A proposed settlement between potentially a million of homeowners who fell victim to fraudulent foreclosure practices and major home loan lenders may have been reached.

According to a Christian Science Monitor report, a $25 billion settlement has been proposed which would go to homeowners having difficulty paying their mortgages because their payments have increased drastically or they have already been removed from their homes due to questionable foreclosure practices.
Continue reading Mortgage help could come via $25BN settlement between states, lenders

Harper’s Bazaar magazine intern files minimum wage lawsuit

A former intern at Harper’s Bazaar magazine has filed a minimum wage lawsuit against the publisher claiming she was not paid for the work she performed.

According to a Reuters report, “Diana” Xuedan Wang filed her lawsuit last week against Hearst Publications. She said she worked between 40 and 55 hours per week for absolutely no pay. Her job was classified as an unpaid intern but her lawsuit is based on the argument this classification of worker is the most often abused by some of the country’s top companies.

Thousands, and possibly more, recent college graduates or those in their final year of school often seek these unpaid intern positions as a “stepping stone” along their career paths. The lawsuit states, “Unpaid interns are becoming the modern-day equivalent of entry-level employees.” Continue reading Harper’s Bazaar magazine intern files minimum wage lawsuit

NY Attorney General Files Suit Over Mortgages

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed suit against Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo over their use of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS), saying the banks submitted court documents containing false and misleading information that appeared to provide the authority for foreclosures when there was none. Schneiderman said the banks’ actions put homeowners at a disadvantage in foreclosures while saving the institutions more than $2 billion. The lawsuit also names MERSCORP of Reston, VA.

Schneiderman says the MERS registry has eliminated homeowners’ ability to track property transfers through traditional public records. Schneiderman claims in the lawsuit that the MERS system stores data that is plagued by in accuracies and “faulty and sloppy document preparation and execution practices.” Continue reading NY Attorney General Files Suit Over Mortgages

MetLife Shareholde Sues Over Unpaid Death Benefits

Shareholders in a derivative class action suit are accusing MetLife of using the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File (DMF) to stop its clients’ annuity payments, but ignoring that same database when it informed the insurer that it had to start paying on a life insurance policy.

According to lead plaintiff Jack Fishbaum, MetLife used the DMF to withhold over $52 million in life insurance benefits to survivors, for as long as 40 years. “Specifically, MetLife has consulted the DMF assiduously for those clients with annuities to enable the company to stop paying annuity payments at the time of death,” the complaint states. “For regular life insurance policies, however, MetLife ignores the DMF so that the company can avoid paying death benefits. MetLife disregarded the DMF for life insurance policies despite touting that beneficiaries would receive benefits upon the death of the insured. This practice enables Met Life to draw the value of a permanent life policy down to the final point of cancellation and continue to collect interest on unclaimed benefit cash.” Continue reading MetLife Shareholde Sues Over Unpaid Death Benefits

New Yorker Alleges Fraud in Tostito “All-Natural” Claims

Frito Lay is being sued by a New Yorker who says the company is misleading consumers by claiming its Tostitos and SunChips products are made with all-natural ingredients. Chris Shake says they are in fact made with corn and oils from genetically engineered plants.

The proposed class-action lawsuit filed in Brooklyn federal court says Shake spent about 10 cents more per ounce of chips when he purchased the “all-natural” snacks when he easily could have purchased a similar product more cheaply that did not make similar claims. Continue reading New Yorker Alleges Fraud in Tostito “All-Natural” Claims