Agencies Cracking Down on Scams; Effort Includes Fourteen States

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew Johnson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The government announced a crackdown yesterday on more than 200 scam operations that offered lucrative - and false - work-at-home scams and other questionable business opportunities.

"Scam artists have a choice," said Deborah Platt Majoras, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, one of the agencies spearheading the crackdown. "Get out of the fraud business and stay out or you, too, will have an opportunity of a lifetime: Doing time behind bars."

Targets of "Project Biz Opp. Flop," an effort among the FTC, Justice Department, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and law-enforcement agencies from 14 states, include a DVD rental vending-machine company, a medical billing work-at-home opportunity, a work-at-home opportunity involving the assembly of kitty cat refrigerator magnets and an envelope-stuffing program.

Consumers in the cases brought by the FTC have lost more than $100 million.

Consumers filed more than 14,000 complaints about business opportunity programs - which attract customers by promising to earn big money for a minimal amount of work - and an estimated 950,000 incidents of business opportunity fraud occurred in the United States last year, according to the FTC.

One of the cases being prosecuted in the Southern District Court of Florida is against American Entertainment Distributors, which the agency says charged customers between $28,000 and $37,500 for one DVD vending machine and promised large earnings and location assistance.

The amount of money an individual person invests in a single business opportunity program can range from $50 to $40,000, Ms. …