(CN) – The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday announced a plan to crack down on the scammers who prey on consumers during economic hardship. “Operation Short Change” includes 15 FTC cases, 44 law enforcement actions by the Department of Justice, and actions by at least 13 states and the District of Columbia.
It targets scammers who bilk vulnerable consumers by promising non-existent jobs, charging consumers’ credit cards without permission, and promoting get-rich-quick schemes, bogus government grants and phony debt-reduction services, the FTC said.
In that vein, the FTC announced eight new cases against companies that allegedly took advantage of struggling consumers.
One lawsuit alleges that John Beck/ Mentoring of America, two principals and three purported “inventors” marketed get-rich-quick scams that led to hundreds of thousands of consumers losing more than $300 million.
The agency also honed in on Wagner Ramos Borges, claiming he targeted people seeking maintenance and cleaning work. Borges allegedly tricked them into paying for a worthless credential by claiming it would get them jobs.
Google Money Tree and its principals and affiliates were accused of misrepresenting their affiliation with Google to lure customers into divulging their financial information by advertising a low-cost kit they said would allow customers to earn $100,000 in six months.
Other defendants include Grants For You Now, Cash Grant Institute, Mutual Consolidated Savings, Penbrook Productions and Classic Closeouts.
The agency seeks permanent injunctions that would give alleged victims the chance to recover some of their money.
The announcement was made at a joint press conference on Wednesday. Speakers were David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection; Assistant U.S. Attorney General Tony West; North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper; and a Washington, D.C., scam victim.