In 2011, the FTC conducted a consumer fraud survey and found that an estimated 25.6 million people were victims of one or more of frauds. Approximately 5.1 million U.S. consumers were victims of fraudulent weight-loss products. 2.4 million fell prey to fraudulent prize promotions. Other top ranking fraud schemes included unauthorized billing for buyers’ club memberships, unauthorized billing for Internet services, and fraudulent work-at-home programs.
Everyone is out to make a quick buck, and too often the most vulnerable populations including minorities, seniors, and those suffering devastating life events are taken advantage of by fraudulent business practices and full on scams, especially in the digital world. The Urban Lobby is dedicated to arming consumers with the tools needed to advocate on their own to settle disputes, report fraudulent businesses, or retain legal representation in major cases. While we advocate for all victims of fraudulent and predatory business practices, we take special interest in online business scams and work to reform the online business world.
Digital Accountability: Regulating the Digital Information Economy
The Coaching Craze - Everyday there is a new self-dubbed online coach, from life coaches to business coaches and more. Many of them repackage New Age spiritual philosophy and spin it into a pseudo-mysterious mindset problem that can only be solved by hiring a "coach" for at least $10,000 a month. A majority of these "coaches" have no professional training or experience in counseling, business management, psychology, etc. The only thing they truly have to offer are social profiles with images of an unattainable dream and ad copy that even Facebook has flagged as predatory and intimidating.
The coaching community itself has begun to notice a growing number of unqualified scammers that take tens of thousands of dollars from clients only to deliver no results and a lot of heart ache, if not a full on financial disaster and mental breakdown. The trend is this: a person who has had a bad life experience takes a few professional photos and "positions" oneself as the "expert" on a topic that he or she may or may not have actual expertise in.
The Urban Lobby advises consumers to do due diligence in vetting these "coaches" according to FTC anti-fraud advice, report fraudulent programs to the FTC, and support legislation to regulate the coaching industry in order to set a legal standard of certification requiring formal education and training to produce qualified coaches and counselors in particular fields.
The Veritas Act - With the prevalence of fake news, from fake news blogs from foreign countries to extreme from mainstream media publishers, it's time to get serious about requiring a standard of truth when it comes to reporting news. Journalistic ethics need to be placed at the forefront; authoritative, verifiable sources should be linked to in all digital content; and any blogs or opinion pieces should be clearly labeled as such with a disclaimer.
The Urban Lobby advocates for legislation that makes the above requirements law and holds all publishers, large and small -- personal and public -- to a higher standard of ethics and truth to prevent the prevalence of fake news and misinformation campaigns as well as curb the growing concern of foreign interference in national elections.
Online Education Accreditation - Universities are beginning to embrace the value of online learning. So are online scammers. E-learning is beneficial to a busy population as long as the content is accurate, verifiable, and worth the amount of money consumers are paying. Thousands of online courses are being launched by amateurs and self-dubbed "experts" looking to make a buck. The latest trend is a $97-$397 online course on how to launch an online course.
The Urban Lobby advocates for regulating the distribution of online courses by requiring an accreditation of courses by an institution of higher learning or a professional association directly related to the course. All course information must be verifiable with professional text books and learning materials, and all content must have bibliographies linking to authoritative source content. If people pay to be educated on their own, they should be confident that the course or program is credible and can add real, professional value to their lives and careers.
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