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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Federal and state authorities target income scams

Federal Issues FTC Enforcement State Issues CFTC SEC Fraud

Federal Issues

On December 14, the FTC, along with 19 federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, announced “Operation Income Illusion,” which encompasses more than 50 enforcement actions against scams targeting consumers with false promises of income and financial independence. According to an analysis of complaint data by the FTC, consumers have reported that they lost more than $610 million to income scams since 2016—with more than $150 million of losses reported in the first nine months of 2020—which the FTC attributes to the increase in scams related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The announcement also includes four new enforcement actions and one settlement that are part of Operation Income Illusion, (i) an action and temporary restraining order against a Florida-based operation, which sold expensive memberships to programs by promoting earnings between $500 and $12,500 per sale; (ii) an action against a company with Spanish-language ads targeting Latina consumers with false promises of large profits reselling luxury products; (iii) an action and temporary restraining order against a company marketing investment-related services claiming they would enable consumers to make consistent profits off the market; (iv) an action and temporary restraining order against companies perpetuating a telemarketing scheme claiming false affiliation with Amazon.com to get consumers to purchase business opportunity programs; and (v) settlements (available here and here) with ten defendants involved in a scam targeting older adults while selling various money-making opportunities.

The other agencies reporting actions as part of the sweep include: the SEC, CFTC, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas; and state and county agencies in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.

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