First, we want to clarify the rules. The FTC has laws forbidding any sales robocall unless you’ve given your express written permission to receive it.
Some other types of robocalls are legal, such as informational calls from your doctor, calls from legitimate charities, and political messages. (In general, by the way, political robocalls are protected by the First Amendment.)
One commenter asked about calls from those claiming to be doing a research survey – the answer is that these calls are legal if the purpose of the call truly is to conduct a survey, but if the call is ultimately trying to sell you something, it’s illegal.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen an increase in calls from fraudsters who are apparently willing to both violate the laws against robocalls and ignore the Do Not Call Registry.
This is because over the past two years, new technologies have made it cheap and simple to send out millions of calls with just the click of a mouse. These technologies also make it easier to hide one’s location and evade law enforcement. With the combination of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls, cloud computing, auto-dialing software, and other advances, it is now possible to make robocalls for 1 cent per call or less, while also obscuring one’s identity quite effectively.
In the face of these changes, the FTC has continued its aggressive law enforcement efforts against robodialers. The agency has brought 12 enforcement cases targeting illegal robocalls, and violators have paid $5.6 million in total penalties so far.
Since January 2010, the Federal Trade Commission has shut down the companies responsible for more than 2.6 billion illegal telemarketing robocalls. We continue to pursue this approach, targeting high volume offenders and focusing on “chokepoints” in the calling process to stop the largest number of illegal calls. We use consumer complaints to do our targeting, which is why it helps us if you report illegal robocalls to donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222.
In addition to these law enforcement activities, the FTC is pursuing technological solutions. We’ve been holding meetings and calls with engineers, technologists, and industry experts to discuss how we can better trace calls, combat caller ID spoofing, and stop illegal robocalls.
In addition, we’re hosting a public Summit in Washington, DC on October 18, 2012, which will bring together law enforcement, legitimate industry, consumer groups, and other stakeholders in pursuit of the same goal. Please visit ftc.gov/robocalls to look for up-to-date information about the different initiatives underway.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and for your interest in this topic. Here at the FTC, we share your frustration and are doing everything in our power to stop illegal robocallers in their tracks.
Teach Your Kids and Teens the Dangers of Underage Drinking
By Chris Kuhn, manager of programs at The Century Council
Back to School is an exciting time for both students and parents as they prepare for a new school year and new challenges both in and out of the classroom. It also serves as a great time to remind students about the importance of staying safe and making healthy lifestyle choices.
The Ask, Listen, Learn program provides materials for parents and instructors on how to start and continue the conversation with young people. The program also offers youth the opportunity to play fun kids’ games, download printable activities, and read about Superstars like Olympian Steven Lopez, Soccer Hall of Famer Julie Foudy, and swimming champion Rebecca Soni.
According to the 2011 Monitoring the Future Study, nearly one third of 8th graders report they have tried alcohol once in their lifetime and 15 percent report they have been drunk. In a separate study, a majority (65 percent) of today’s youth who have consumed alcohol in the past year report family and friends as the leading source from which they get alcohol.
Make no mistake, tweens know what’s going on and they’re more than just a little curious about it. So before they’re presented with the opportunity, it’s critical to give them the information they need to make the right decision. Help support them by teaching them how to say “Yes” to a healthy lifestyle and “No” to underage drinking. Make sure that either as a parent, teacher, or caregiver, you get involved.
Sunday Marks the 92nd Anniversary of Women's Voting Rights
Every year on August 26th, the United States honors and celebrates Women’s Equality Day. This Sunday marks the 92nd anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 19th Amendment guarantees American women the right to vote, and was passed on August 26, 1920.
The passing of the amendment came after 70 years of fighting for women’s rights. Women’s rights were first addressed at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, where more than 300 men and women met at the very first women’s rights convention.
Update on Tropical Storm Isaac and Tips for Preparing for a Storm
Tropical Storm Isaac is churning in the Caribbean Sea, and the storm is currently tracking south of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We will have a better idea if and where it might hit the United States mainland in the next 12 to 24 hours.
If you live in an area that is in the current path of the storm or in coastal regions that could be affected, the Federal Emergency Management Agency advises you to listen to your local news to monitor weather updates and warnings and follow the instructions of local officials.
FEMA offers the following tips to prepare for tropical storms:
Tropical weather systems can bring heavy rains, flash flooding, and high winds, so if you haven’t already, visit Ready.gov for tips on creating your family emergency plan and getting an emergency kit.
Rains from tropical storms can cause flooding. A mere six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes only two feet of rushing water to carry away most vehicles. This includes pickups and SUVs.
High winds from tropical storms can cause power outages. The Consumer Product Safety Commission and U.S. Fire Administration urge consumers to use portable generators outdoors. Never use portable generators indoors or in garages. The exhaust from generators contains high levels of carbon monoxide that can quickly incapacitate and kill.
Everyone should also familiarize themselves with the terms that are used to identify a severe weather hazard. A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected within 36 hours. If local officials give the order to shelter in place, take action immediately; and if the order from local officials is to evacuate, leave immediately. Monitor local radio and television news outlets or listen to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest developments.
If you served in the active military, naval, or air service and were honorably discharged or released, you may qualify for VA health care benefits, including hospital services. Certain Reservists and National Guard Members may also qualify. Check your eligibility.
A wage garnishment is when your employer is required to withhold some portion of your earnings in order to pay off a debt. Wage garnishments do not include voluntary wage assignments—that is, when you voluntarily agree that your employer may turn over a specified amount of earnings to a creditor or creditors.
Most garnishments are made by court order. The IRS or a state tax collection agency can garnish your wages for unpaid taxes. Your wages can also be garnished if you have defaulted on student loan debt.
Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act limits the amount of earnings that can be garnished and protects you from being fired if your pay is only being garnished for one debt.
For questions about wage garnishment, contact the Department of Labor or call 1-866-4-USWAGE (1-866-487-9243) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in your time zone.
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security began accepting requests for “deferred action” status from people who were brought into the United States as children. Deferred action status would allow these people to remain in the United States and make them eligible to receive a work permit.
Children are often prescribed codeine for pain relief following surgery. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning parents and caregivers to be on the lookout for possible serious side effects after giving a child codeine.
At least three children between the ages of 2 and 5 died after receiving codeine for pain relief following surgery to remove tonsils or adenoids. This danger exists for children who are “ultra-rapid metabolizers,” which means that their liver converts codeine to morphine in higher-than-normal amounts. There are tests to check for ultra-rapid metabolism.
If you give your child codeine after surgery and observe any of the following danger signs, take your child to the emergency immediately or call 911:
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is soon launching weather emergency alerts to your mobile devices. Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are emergency messages sent by authorized government authorities through your mobile carrier.
Government partners include local and state public safety agencies, FEMA, the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Weather Service.
You will be able to sign up for weather-related emergency alerts through your mobile carrier. The alerts will include extreme weather warnings, local emergencies requiring evacuation or immediate action, AMBER alerts and Presidential alerts during a national emergency. The alerts will look like a text message, but will include a special tone and vibration, both repeated twice.
You can also receive alerts based on your phone’s current location. While most older phones are not WEA-capable, new mobile devices are. For information about which mobile devices are WEA-capable, please visit http://www.ctia.org/wea or contact your wireless carrier.
Check the Validity of Government Social Media Accounts
Every day, the government uses social media services like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to communicate with you and provide easy access to government benefits and services.
But unlike most government websites, which are hosted on a .mil or a .gov domain, social media sites are hosted on commercial domains. Without the .gov or the .mil, it can be difficult to determine which social media accounts are official government sources of information and which are impersonators.
To help solve that problem, we recently launched a social media registry in English and Spanish, where you can confirm the validity of a variety of government social media accounts.
The registry supports 22 of the most widely used social media services, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It tracks accounts that represent official U.S. government agencies, organizations, or programs, including accounts managed by federal agencies, elected officials (not campaign accounts), members of the President’s cabinet and heads of agencies.
So far 40 agencies and offices and 2,000 social media accounts are included in the registry. That number will continue to grow as the registry develops.
To check the validity of a government social media account, visit the social media registry and copy and paste the URL of a social media account to verify it.
If an account doesn’t appear and you know it’s a valid government account, you can contact the agency or office and request they add the account to the registry.
There are many things you can do to help your kids start the school year on the right track, like replacing an old backpack or getting them the school supplies they need. But there’s something more meaningful you can do that may not cost money: help them with their homework.
Students who do their homework consistently tend to have better grades. It’s not always easy to get them to do their homework, especially after a busy day, but these tips can help:
Talk to your children about their homework. It’s important that your kids understand why it’s important to do their homework and the positive impact it has on grades. Homework helps them practice what they’ve learned as well as prepare them for upcoming classes. Plus, by doing their homework they develop the discipline and skills they need to be successful throughout their school years.
Talk to the teachers. Different teachers might expect different things from parents, so be sure to talk to them to figure out your role. For example, some teachers prefer parents review their kids’ homework; others prefer parents make sure kids do their homework. Teachers can also tell you how much time your child should spend doing homework and what to do if the homework is too easy or too difficult.
Select a fixed time to do homework. The best time to do homework is the one that works best for your child and you. It can be before or after playing, watching television or dinnertime. What’s important is that homework time is consistent. Avoid leaving it for the end of the day, when your child is tired and sleepy.
Pick a quiet area and eliminate distractions. To help your children focus on homework, pick a place in the house where there’s plenty of light and no distractions. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be the kitchen table or a desk. Make sure the TV is off and put away electronic devices, unless they’re essential to doing homework.
Get them the resources they need. You don’t have to be an expert in all subjects to help your kids with homework. However, you need to make sure they have the tools they need to succeed. If you need expert help, you can always take them to the library or help them with their search online. You can also visit kids.gov to find information on homework topics. The Department of Education also has several resources to help your child with homework in different areas, including math, reading and writing.
Find Campsites, Hiking Trails, and Other Outdoor Attractions
Visit Recreation.gov to plan your outdoor activities at federal lands across the United States.
You can search for locations that offer the activities you enjoy—including hiking, biking, boating, horseback riding, and climbing—and make reservations for camping, lodging, picnic areas, permits, and tours.
Price Look-Up codes (PLUs) are printed on the small stickers attached to fresh produce at the grocery store. These codes are used to make check-out and inventory control easier for the store. They also tell you key pieces of information about the produce, such as how it was grown.
Conventionally grown food can be identified by a four-digit number, such as 4011 for bananas.
Organic food is identified by a a five-digit number that begins with a nine, such as 94011 for bananas.
Genetically modified food is indicated by a five-digit number that begins with an eight, such as 84805 for a vine ripe tomato.
If the sticker also has the USDA organic seal, then you know it’s been certified by the government through the National Organic Program. To be certified, products must be inspected and meet the USDA regulations. Learn more about organic label.
Summer heat can bring wildfires. If you live in an area where they are common, there are steps you can take to minimize damage.
The best thing you can do is use fire resistant building materials. If this isn’t possible, be sure to remove flammable materials, such as leaves, from your roof and store gasoline away from occupied buildings.