FTC Attempts to Disinfect Us From Unknown Scammers

The case filed yesterday by the Federal trade commission (FTC) caught my eye because you don’t often see a case filed against “one or more unknown parties deceiving consumers.”

It appears the FTC just got fed up with a scammer claiming to sell products from Lysol and Clorox in this moment of Covid.

Whoever the scammers are, they claim to be located at an address in Ohio and have used that address for their domain registrations but wait for it; they are not actually located there. Get your surprise face out.

The FTC says, “Through each of the websites identified by name in this Complaint, Defendants have falsely represented to the public that Defendants have a mailing address in this District at 2180 Barlow Rd., Hudson, OH 44236. Defendants have no true affiliation with that physical address, but they have listed it repeatedly on their deceptive websites in the course of their scheme.”

And what are these fine jerks doing exactly?

The FTC claims, “Since at least July 2020, during the global pandemic, Defendants have been scamming consumers urgently seeking cleaning and disinfecting products by tricking them into purchasing such products from Defendants’ counterfeit websites. Specifically, Defendants purport to sell Clorox and Lysol products. Defendants take consumers’ hard-earned money but never deliver the products.

To lure consumers, Defendants have used internet search engine, social media, and pop-up advertisements to bring consumers to their websites to order Clorox and/or Lysol cleaning and disinfecting products. These products have been in high demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and consumers may have difficulty finding them available for purchase in their local areas. Defendants have made express references to the pandemic in their marketing.

Defendants’ advertisements take consumers to websites designed to look as if Defendants are, or are affiliated with, the makers of Clorox or Lysol products. Images A and B, below, are excerpts from examples of Defendants’ website homepages.

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Lysol scammer website image.

Clorox scammer website image.

In general, people have reported one of three typical outcomes:

  1. never hearing from Defendants again, even after attempting to check on their orders by email and/or telephone
  2. receiving communications from Defendants with falsified or fictitious delivery information about a purported shipment that never arrives, or
  3. receiving some shipment from Defendants of a worthless product that the consumer did not order, such as a pair of socks.

Scammers Foiling Chargeback Attempts

People who have fallen for the scam report that the credit card charges are appearing under multiple descriptions on their account statements. And again, this is another great reason to use a credit card for online transactions and not a debit card. At least when you are hit with a fraudulent charge, you can dispute it before it ever hits your bank account.

The FTC says, “In numerous instances, consumers have attempted to follow established procedures to obtain chargebacks or refunds through the institutions that provide the payment accounts through which they paid Defendants. However, in numerous instances, Defendants’ use of falsified shipment information has frustrated consumers’ efforts to use these mechanisms. When consumers have presented their claims through these procedures, Defendants have deceptively represented that they fulfilled consumers’ orders. As purported evidence that they have fulfilled consumers’ orders, Defendants have provided evidence of actual shipments that have been unrelated to the consumers at all or that reflect only Defendants’ shipments of worthless or incorrect items to consumers. In numerous instances, these deceptive tactics have led institutions to deny consumers’ requests for chargebacks or refunds.”

So at least with a credit card, you can fight the fraud without it coming out of your checking account balance like with a debit card. An extended fight is a pain in the butt, but I’d rather make that fight with a credit card charge than a checking account debit.

I’ll keep watching this case.

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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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