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A rent-to-own chain secretly monitored customers through webcams on the computers they rented, capturing "intimate activities" and personal information, such as login credentials for email and financial accounts, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC reached a settlement last week with Aaron's Inc, an Atlanta-based company that rents computers, furniture and other electronics, after the FTC alleged Aaron's installed software on rental computers that tracked customers.
Aaron's monitoring activities included location tracking, but the FTC says they also "captured images through the computers' webcams, including those of adults engaged in intimate activities, and activated keyloggers that captured users' login credentials for email accounts and financial and social media sites."
The company must delete and destroy any stored information that was improperly collected. The company is also prohibited from using monitoring technology.
The company is allowed to install location tracking software of a rented products but must first give "clear notice and obtain express consent from consumers."
The owner of New York Plaza Produce, which was the source of a salmonella outbreak in August, obtained guinea pigs from an unlicensed supplier and "slaughtered live guinea pigs in the back warewashing area of the meat market," according to a Minneapolis inspection report.
Nieves Riera was issued a $1,000 citation on Oct. 1 for five violations related to the Ecuadorian Independence Festival held on August 11 on Lake Street where more than 80 people who fell ill after eating salmonella-tainted food, including guinea pig meat, that Riera served.
The outbreak was the largest documented incident of food-borne illness at a single event in Minnesota since 167 prison inmates got sick in 2009, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Health.
The five violations were discovered in an inspection of the market four days after the festival. There were three "critical" violations, one pertaining to cooking food at an unlicensed facility and two others related to the handling and purchasing of the guinea pigs.
"Nieves Riera obtained guinea pigs from an unlicensed supplier. The guinea pigs were sold at the Ecuadorian Festival," the compliance officer noted in the inspection report. "Cooked pork was purchased from a Minneapolis Meat Market. The pork was resold at the Ecuadorian festival. The source of the pork is not an approved wholesaler."
According to the report, Riera stated that she slaughtered the live guinea pigs in the back area of the meat market. "This is not a slaughter house and live animals are not allowed on the premises," the report says.
Riera must pay the $1,000 fine by Oct. 31. She could not be reached Tuesday.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture, which licenses the market, is still investigating the incident. No data, including previous inspection or incident data, has been released by the department.
A Florida-based marketing company that sent out more than 42.5 million unwanted and deceptive text messages agreed last week to turn over all their remaining assets to the Federal Trade Commission and to stop sending the text messages, the FTC announced Tuesday.
In its complaint, the FTC said Rentbro, Inc and its principals Daniel Pessin and Jacob Engel sent text messages to millions of consumers saying they had been selected to receive $1,000 gift cards to retailers such as Best Buy, Target and Walmart.
The texts included a hyperlink where consumers would input a code and then had to sign up "for more than a dozen risky trial offers, none of which was free, to qualify for the promised “free” gift card," according to the FTC.
Rentbro was able to obtain $377,321 from the scam, according to the FTC. The agency must turn over all of their assets and the FTC imposed a partially suspended monetary judgment of $377,321.
The Federal Trade Commission filed charges against operators of a telemarketing scheme aimed at defrauding seniors by offering phony prescription drug discount cards last week.
In the complaint, the FTC alleges that seniors across the United States were deceived into turning over their bank account numbers and used that information to take money from their accounts.
The operators, based in the United States and Canada, claimed they would send consumers a prescription drug discount card for a fee. The cards provided were already provided to senior for free by calling a toll-free number, the FTC said Monday in a news release.
The telemarketing scheme is another in a slew of scams targeting seniors. On Sunday, I wrote about scammers who are taking advantage of the confusion swirling around the Affordable Care Act. The majority of the people I spoke to for that story were seniors who had received a call from someone claiming they needed to send a new Medicare card.
The operators who are named in the complaint that are based in the United States include:
Last week I tried to reach Jennifer Carr, owner of Distinctive Cleaning, after Zerorez filed a lawsuit against her company. I didn't hear back from Carr in time for Sunday's column.
On Tuesday Carr said the Zerorez lawsuit against her company is simply an attempt to knock out the competition. Carr said Zerorez is going after a local family-owned company because “we can do a very similar job and it’s a threat to them.”
The lawsuit claims Distinctive Cleaning bought up Google search terms to trick customers looking for Zerorez and told customers that they used “exactly the same” cleaning process as Zerorez.
Carr said they use a “very similar” process as Zerorez and have a right to advertise that their business leaves no residue on customers’ carpets. She said company representatives always tell customers they are from Distinctive Cleaning.
Carr would not say that the company bought a “zerorez” Google AdWord, but said “if in the past we did use the trademark term ‘zerorez,’ it is not a search term that we currently put in there.”
“When we received the first cease-and-desist letter, I contact our Google AdWords manager, and she made sure that those words were out,” Carr said. Carr said the battle over the AdWords has already cost her company $20,000 in legal fees.
Zerorez owner Michael Kaplan responded to Carr's statements saying: "There is a great deal of trust involved in the relationships we foster everyday. To respect and protect this trust we found it necessary to pursue legal action only after multiple requests for Distinctive Cleaning to stop their deceptive practices were ignored."
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