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FTC Tackles Consumer Fraud with Operation Income Illusion

The Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) mission is "Protecting consumers and competition by preventing anticompetitive, deceptive, and unfair business practices through law enforcement, advocacy, and education without unduly burdening legitimate business activity." The FTC, along with 19 federal, state, and local law enforcement divisions announced a vigilant effort to prosecute firms that target consumers with fake promises of income generation with no basis in reality. The investigation, called "Operation Income Illusion," targets particular 'scams' including work-from-home employment scams, pyramid schemes, investment scams, bogus coaching courses, and other schemes that deceive consumers and cost them significant amounts of money. The FTC is asking courts to help halt these deceptive schemes and to provide restitution to those who were damaged by the deception.

One such FTC investigation of resulted in a temporary restraining order for fraudulently marketing investment-related services by providing stock tips through a subscription service. The FTC alleges that the company was targeting retirees, older adults, and immigrants who claim to have lost over $137 million to the scam in the last three years. The company also allegedly used sales pitches noting that consumers don't need 'a lot of time, money, or even experience.' The company also claimed that you could learn how to 'double or triple your account in a week.'

The FTC provides guidance for prudent and thoughtful evaluation of business opportunities. First, avoid high pressure sales tactics and take your time to understand the potential risk and reward trade off. Second, be skeptical about too many and too remarkable success stories. Finally, do your research. Look the company up and do searches to see if there are concerns about the integrity of the company's business model. The FTC Director, Andrew Smith, states that scammers prey on vulnerable consumers and make false statements of big income from working at home with little effort required. Another 'red flag' noted by the FTC, is the promise of guaranteed income after paying a required fee. The FTC works vigilantly to shut these unethical operations down.

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