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Posts about Businesses in hot water

Medical billing company banned from state faces more scrutiny

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: December 31, 2013 - 4:12 PM

A medical billing company that has been barred from doing business in Minnesota reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission for failing to protect patient data.

Accretive Health, Inc., based in Chicago, was charged with failing to adequately safeguard consumers' personal information, such a medical information, Social Security numbers and billing information.

The FTC said in July 2011, a company laptop was stolen from an employee's car that contained 20 million pieces of information on 23,000 patients. 

"The Commission alleges that Accretive created unnecessary risks by transporting laptops that contained sensitive personal information in a way that left them vulnerable to theft," the FTC said in a statement. 

Under the terms of its settlement, which was announced Tuesday, Accretive must design a program that would safeguard patient information. The program would then be evaluated every two years by a certified third party. 

Attorney General Lori Swanson banned Accretive from collection activity in 2012 for at least two years and charged Accretive $2.5 million for allegedly deceiving patients, harassing them for money in emergency rooms and mishandling patient data at Fairview and North Memorial hospitals. 

'Free' Bieber tickets were a scam

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: December 17, 2013 - 9:38 AM

An offer for free Justin Bieber concert tickets did nothing more than sign up consumers for a monthly charge.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Lin Miao and Andre Bachman of California pitched “love tips,“fun facts” and celebrity gossip alerts sent through text messages to consumers. But the texts unknowingly cost customers $9.99 a month.

In one instance, the FTC said, a website told visitors that they had won free Justin Bieber tickets and needed only to fill out an online quiz to claim them. The tickets never arrived, and consumer phone numbers were signed up for the paid services.

The FTC sued Miao and Bachman in Central California District Court to stop the operation and recover money lost by consumers.

Rent-to-own chain monitored consumers through webcams

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: October 28, 2013 - 1:19 PM

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."

Violations before food poisoning outbreak included illegal guinea pig slaughter

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: October 8, 2013 - 4:01 PM

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. 

Text spammers sending "free" gift cards to Target, Best Buy say they'll stop

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: September 17, 2013 - 11:47 AM

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.

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