If you’re interested in technological, financial or social innovation, you’ve probably heard of Bitcoin. It’s a virtual currency used by people around the world to make purchases online, or in person using a mobile app. As more merchants accept the currency — and more companies pitch Bitcoin investments — more people are curious about how it works.
Unlike dollars, pesos or yen, bitcoins are not backed by a government or distributed by a central bank. Instead, bitcoins are created on the peer-to-peer bitcoin network through a process called “mining.”
You may have heard about them in the news, through one of your favorite online shopping sites, or from a friend who always has the latest scoop on technology trends: cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, are a way to buy things online — or in person, using a mobile app — with sellers who agree to accept them.
Counsel, Division of Consumer & Business Education
Have you ever snagged a great deal right from your tablet? Or maybe you’ve donated to a charity from your phone? Then you know first-hand that mobile technologies give us unprecedented efficiency and convenience. The FTC is addressing the issues that affect consumers as new mobile technologies come on the scene. The Commission has sued companies that have broken the law, held workshops about mobile commerce, and issued several reports documenting the state of mobile privacy, security, and consumer protection.
So when our sister agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, put out a call to learn more about financial services and mobile technology, especially as used by underserved consumers, the FTC lent its support and sent comments. Here are some of the points we highlighted about the challenges consumers face when using mobile financial services.
News reports of large-scale data breaches — like this week’s announcement from Home Depot — have prompted some of our readers to ask about a credit freeze. Also known as a security freeze, this tool lets you limit access to your credit report, which makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.
The FTC recently attended DEF CON 22, and challenged the tech-savvy to help us zap “Rachel from Cardholder Services” and her robocall buddies. How? The agency hosted a contest to see who could develop a cutting-edge robocall honeypot — an information system designed to attract robocallers, and help researchers and investigators understand and minimize illegal calls. Today, the FTC announced the winners, who will receive a combined total of $12,000 in prizes.
You get an email from your boss’s boss requesting that you make a wire transfer to a new vendor. The email is marked urgent, so you ignore the 20 others that need your attention to take care of it. You handle wire transfers all the time, and you’ll definitely score points for responding so quickly, right? Maybe not.
In a recent scheme, sometimes called “masquerading,” a hacker poses as a senior executive and asks an employee to complete a financial transaction, like a confidential business investment or a payment to a vendor. Once money is wired to a bogus account, it can be nearly impossible to recover.
Love breezing through tollbooths with your E-Z Pass? A new scam is taking advantage of that.
Here’s how it works: You get an email that appears to be from E-Z Pass. It has the E-Z Pass logo, and says you owe money for driving on a toll road. It also provides a link to click for your invoice.
Guess what? The email isn’t from E-Z Pass. If you click on the link, the crooks running this scam may put malware on your machine. And if you respond to the email with your personal information, they’re likely to steal your identity.
With today’s technology, organizations and companies can collect and analyze massive amounts of consumer data at lightning speed. What people search online, buy in stores, and do and say on social media is information that helps companies market more efficiently. This era of "big data" may hold lots of promise – but also some pitfalls.
Next month, the FTC will explore the use of big data for marketing and other purposes.
You may have heard about it in the news: reports that Russian hackers have stolen more than a billion unique username and password combinations, and more than 500 million email addresses, grabbed from thousands of websites. What should you do about it? We asked our resident expert, Maneesha Mithal, director of our Division of Privacy and Identity Protection.