Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Blog

Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog


Email Scam Du Jour: Netflix

The most recent email scams making the rounds involve everyone's favorite movie streaming service, Netflix. While email scams are nothing new, the new Netflix scams, like the newest Gmail scam, have learned from the mistakes of past scams.

Scammers, in their usual style, utilize a phishing campaign, which involves sending out mass emails hoping that a couple people don't recognize the deception. However, unlike most phishing scams, where it is usually pretty easy to spot the tell-tale signs of a scam, the newest Netflix scam is much more sophisticated and difficult to detect.

The scam works like this: a person calls you up claiming to be from the state or county or court or whatever government entity, and says that you missed jury duty, which is a serious offense. Then, they tell you to pay some amount now over the phone, or else you'll face some sort of penalty, like public humiliation or being arrested or larger fines. The amounts vary with reports indicating some scammers demanding as little as a hundred dollars, while others demand over a thousand. Also, notably, this scam has gone digital and is also perpetrated via email.

Generally, if you miss jury duty, or are in legal trouble, you are not going to get a phone call. Maybe if you were actually selected to serve on a jury and you don't show up, or you mouth off to a judge on your first day of service, you might get a call from an upset judge or frustrated bailiff, and get in some real trouble.

However, it is highly unlikely that you'll get a call if you fail to show up for jury duty, and even more unlikely that the caller would demand money. Also, if you do get a call from law enforcement, or a government official, generally, they will want you to come in to the official location, like the court, police station, or city hall, rather than just pay money over the phone.

When it comes to child safety, parents tend to pull out all the stops ... or maybe parents are the ones actually putting in all the stops. Regardless, a recent study about baby teething toys, or chew toys, which are not regulated in the same category as baby bottles, has shown that "BPA-free" may not actually really mean BPA-free. The study showed that not only did toys labeled as "non-toxic" contain toxic chemicals, but a majority of toys labeled as "BPA-free" actually contained BPA.

The study was designed to look at whether baby teething toys contained EDCs (endocrine disruptor chemicals), BPA, and other toxic chemicals. EDCs are harmful chemicals that can affect a person's development in many ways. Because all the harmful links between BPA, EDCs, and other toxins remain unknown, some researchers suggest avoiding as many as possible.

A recently filed lawsuit in the Northern District of California Federal Court alleges that Coca-Cola engaged in unfair and deceptive marketing practices in an effort to mislead consumers. While there is no claim of tampering with the results of the Coke Versus Pepsi challenge results, the lawsuit does claim that the beverage-maker intentionally downplayed the harmful health effects of sugar in their advertising. Additionally, the suit alleges that Coca-Cola has deliberated focused marketing on children despite having pledged not to do so.

This case is part of the larger war on sugar. Makers of sugar-sweetened beverages, and food products that needlessly contain high-fructose corn syrup, have found themselves coming under increased scrutiny over the past decade as a result of the relatively new found public awareness of the dangers of sugar. The organization that filed suit specifically stated when asked about Pepsi, that they were not sued because Pepsi doesn't misrepresent the effects of sugar to consumers.

The credit reporting companies Equifax and TransUnion were fined over $20 million as a result of an order issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB found that both credit reporting companies had deceived customers by tricking them into signing up for recurring payment subscription-like services, as well as lied about the cost of their services. Additionally, the CFPB found that the companies misled consumers into thinking that the reports and scores provided were more useful than they actually were by falsely claiming that they were the same reports considered by lenders.

Equifax also violated a provision of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) which required them to provide a free credit report once every 12 months. The company did provide it, but required consumers to view their advertising prior to receiving the report, which is a violation of the FCRA (which would have allowed advertising after receiving the report).

Unfortunately, the cost of legal help can often be prohibitive for most people. Consumers are often forced to forgo legal help because they cannot justify the immediate high cost, despite the potential for even higher costs over the long term. In order to capitalize on this insecurity of consumers, businesses have popped up offering consumers access to legal forms and legal services using low-cost subscription models. However, these services can often hurt consumers more than they help.

While many service industry jobs can easily be replaced by automation and outsourcing, legal services require a professional's touch. That is because each legal situation is different, and standardized documents and services frequently fail to account for individualized situations.

The past 365 days haven't been great for many reasons, a laundry list of lost artists and athletes and a nasty presidential election being just a few of them. But it wasn't a great year for food and drug companies, either. The past 12 months have been riddled with recalls, from E. coli-tainted burritos to non-dissolving antidepressants.

Here are the top five health scares of 2016:

A major household brand name in small appliances, Cuisinart, issued a voluntary recall this week that affects approximately 8 million of the company's food processor units. The recall applies to all units sold between 1996 and 2015 that have the four-rivet blade. Consumers have been warned to stop using the four-rivet blades immediately due to concerns that the product can cause injury.

The company issued the recall after it had received nearly 70 reports of consumers finding broken pieces of the food processor's blade in their food. Shockingly, a little less than half of these reports included individuals discovering the broken pieces of blade in their mouths. These types of blades break down over time and can break apart, leaving small fragments of metal blade in food.

Counterfeit toys are a problem year-round, but during the holiday season the problem is especially pronounced. When people are trying to find those highly sought after toys, counterfeiters are hard at work trying to make cheap replicas that will fool a purchaser, and disappoint (and potentially harm) a recipient. Despite the best efforts of customs and other federal investigators, counterfeit toys do get through and get sold to unsuspecting consumers.

Some fake toys can look identical to the originals, but may contain differences that are imperceptible to the naked eye, such as using lead based paint. One of the biggest concerns when it comes to fake toys are the materials that get used. Toy safety is a highly regulated industry that requires manufacturers to comply with extensive safety regulations. Counterfeiters ignore these regulations which, in turn, put children's lives in peril.

Stories about scammers asking for payment in gift cards, a relatively new trend, seem to be increasing in frequency. Gift cards, believe it or not, are a relatively untraceable method for scammers to steal money from victims. Generally, if a person is asking you to provide them with payment via a gift card over the phone, you are being scammed (that is unless you're legitimately shopping by phone using a gift card).

Recently, the story of John Gutz made headlines after his daughter saved him from giving a scammer $10,000 in gift cards. Mr. Gutz was able to walk into a Sam's Club and purchase the pile of gift cards, and luckily, his daughter inquired into what he was doing before he started reading off the numbers to the scammer over the phone.