FTC Obtains Orders Halting Mobile Cramming Scheme

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The Federal Trade Commission has obtained orders with the four remaining individual defendants and their affiliated companies in a mobile cramming scheme that the agency says bilked consumers out of more than $100 million through bogus charges added to their mobile phone bills.

The proposed settlements with Darcy Michael Wedd and Phwoar, LLC.; Fraser Robert Thompson and Ocean Tactics, LLC; Erdolo Levy Eromo and Erdi Development LLC; and Michael Pajaczkowski, Concise Consulting, Inc., and MMJX Consulting, Inc., resolve the FTC’s charges related to the MDK Media mobile cramming scheme. The FTC in 2015 reached settlements with six other individual defendants and affiliated companies. The FTC’s case against the remaining defendants was then put on hold pending the outcome of related criminal charges brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. These actions resulted in criminal sentences against Wedd, Thompson, Eromo, and Pajaczkowski, with the last case resolved in July 2023.

“Putting a stop to unauthorized charges has been a longtime priority of the FTC,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “This case showcases the financial harm these practices cause, and the need to ensure that developing technologies do not become a haven for fraudulent schemes.”

In the complaint first announced in 2014, the FTC charged that the defendants used deceptive practices, including fake websites with bogus offers of “freebies” or gift cards, to trick consumers into providing their mobile phone numbers. The defendants then placed monthly subscription fees for a variety of “services” on consumers’ mobile phone bills without their authorization—a practice known as mobile cramming.

The “services” described in the complaint consisted of subscriptions for text messages sent to consumers’ mobile phones that contained short celebrity gossip alerts, “fun facts,” horoscopes, and other items. The subscriptions typically cost consumers $9.99 or $14.99 per month, which renewed automatically each month. The defendants made it difficult for consumers to dispute charges. Some consumers were crammed for multiple months and, even after significant effort, were unable to obtain a full refund.

Under the proposed settlements, Wedd, Thompson, Eromo, and Pajaczkowski, as well as their related companies are prohibited from placing any charges on any telephone bills, from making any misrepresentations about any product or service, and from engaging in any unfair billing practices. In addition, they are prohibited from using or benefitting in any way from the customer data they collected through this scheme and are required to destroy any remaining customer data.

Many consumers who were impacted by the defendants’ practices received refunds through settlements the FTC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reached with the four major mobile carriers, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon, related to mobile cramming charges that were placed on customers’ bills without their authorization. The mobile carriers discontinued such third-party billing practices following the actions by the FTC and other state and federal agencies to crack down on cramming.

The Commission vote approving the stipulated final orders with Wedd, Thompson, Eromo, and Pajaczkowski, as well as their affiliated companies, was 3-0. The FTC filed the proposed orders in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

NOTE: Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

Official news published at https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2023/11/ftc-obtains-orders-halting-mobile-cramming-scheme

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VIP Minds CEO and Visionary Nora Abou Chakra Launches ‘Power Hearts,’ a Transformative Initiative Driving Social Change

CEOs revolutionizing philanthropy through inspiring charitable actions

Today marks the launch of "Power Hearts," an innovative initiative led by businesswoman and visionary Nora Abou Chakra. With each endeavor, Power Hearts embarks on a different mission, empowering CEOs to take direct action and make a tangible impact. Through immersive experiences and hands-on involvement, Power Hearts addresses pressing societal issues, fostering empathy and inspiring CEOs to become advocates for change within their organizations and communities.

Nora Abou Chakra, a respected entrepreneur known for her philanthropic endeavors, has once again demonstrated her commitment to driving social change with the launch of Power Hearts. Under this empowering initiative, CEOs from diverse industries come together to tackle pressing issues and create transformative solutions.

An example of these missions is hunger. Power Hearts combats hunger and alleviate the suffering of those affected by it. CEOs gather in a large-scale communal kitchen, where they actively participate in purchasing groceries and cooking meals for those in need.

The immersive experience provided by Power Hearts goes beyond the kitchen. CEOs physically hit the streets, personally distributing the freshly prepared meals to individuals experiencing hunger. This direct interaction with those in need further deepens their understanding of the issue, sparking a profound connection and a sense of shared humanity.

CEOs return to their organizations with a renewed perspective and a profound commitment to addressing the issue of hunger. They become ambassadors for change, leveraging their influence and resources to advocate for hunger relief initiatives within their respective communities and among their staff members.

Nora Abou Chakra, the driving force behind Power Hearts, expressed her enthusiasm for the initiative, stating, "Power Hearts aims to create a ripple effect of compassion and advocacy. By immersing CEOs in the realities of pressing social issues, we ignite a powerful drive for change that reverberates throughout their personal and professional spheres. Together, we can make a significant difference and create a more compassionate and equitable world."

Power Hearts represents Nora Abou Chakra's unwavering commitment to leveraging the influence and resources of business leaders for the greater good. By providing CEOs with transformative experiences, Power Hearts empowers them to become catalysts for change and advocates for social causes that resonate with their hearts.

For more information about Power Hearts and its upcoming initiatives, please visit powerhearts.com or follow us on @power.hearts

Contact Information:
Stephanie Khalil
Executive Assistant to CEO

Original Source: VIP Minds CEO and Visionary Nora Abou Chakra Launches 'Power Hearts,' a Transformative Initiative Driving Social Change

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