The Federal Trade Commission has won a settlement with Fat Giraffe Marketing and several other firms and individuals who are alleged to have used email and other channels to conduct a work-at-home scam.
The defendants have hit with a $10.9 million judgment, although most of that will be suspended because of their inability to pay. In addition, they are barred from selling business coaching services or opportunities.
The defendants also include Gregory W. Anderson, Garrett P. Robins, Cloud Click, L.L.C., Elevate Consulting International LLC, Cove Solutions LLC, and Lake View Holdings LLC
According to the FTC, consumers received emails offering schemes named Online Cash Commission, Excel Cash Flow and Cash From Home.
The emails, which were blasted nationwide through affiliate marketing networks, linked the potential victims to “pre-sale” websites.
These featured fake reviews using the logos and names of legitimate news organizations like CNN, NBC News, BBC and USA Today.
One featured the headline: “EXPOSED: Mom Makes $7,487/Month And You Won’t Believe How She Does It!”
Victims were charged $97 for the chance to earn income from posting advertising links onto websites, the FTC says. But they were never supplied the links, nor did they get the chance to do any work, it adds.
Telephone salespeople had access to the “names, addresses, IP addresses, email addresses, telephone numbers, purchase price, and purchase date” of people who had paid the fee.
People were told they could earn $58,500 a year, the FTC states.
From 2014 to 2017, the defendants “took in several million dollars from consumers who paid to join their bogus program,” says the FTC complaint filed in January with the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, Central Division.
In addition, the alleged perpetrators “took in millions more by assisting various telemarketing sales floors marketing purported one-on-one business coaching packages costing thousands of dollars to many of those same consumers,” the complaint continues.
The court approved the settlement order on Tuesday of this week.
Work-at-home scams were once conducted largely through direct mail, direct-response advertising and telemarketing.
“Be very skeptical of promises that you’ll make a lot of money by working from home,” Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, warns consumers. “In this case and many others, we see companies that are just out to take your money, not help you make it.”