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Operators of work-from-home scheme settle with FTC

The operators of a work-from-home scheme and the CEO of their main affiliate marketing network will pay nearly $1.5 million to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that they used misleading spam emails to lure consumers into buying work-from-home services.

In its complaint, the FTC alleges that Nevada-based Effen Ads, LLC and its owners, Jason Brailow and Brandon Harshbarger, worked with an affiliate marketing network called W4 LLC to promote a work-from-home scheme by sending bulk unsolicited email, or spam, to consumers, which generated more than 50,000 sales of the Effen Ads program. The emails included “from” lines that falsely claimed they were coming from news organizations like CNN or Fox News, and “subject” lines that falsely suggested the opportunity was endorsed by celebrities such as investor Warren Buffett and personal finance expert Suze Orman.

In addition to violations of the FTC Act’s prohibition against unfair and deceptive practices, the FTC also alleges that Effen Ads, Brailow, and Harshbarger, as well as Jason Walker, who was CEO of W4, violated the CAN-SPAM Act by disseminating spam emails containing misleading header information and subject lines.

As part of the settlement, Walker will pay $1.3 million, is permanently banned from marketing or selling any work-from-home program, and is prohibited from providing any affiliate marketer with ads containing false or misleading representations about celebrity endorsements, objective reviews, or news-source affiliations. The settlements with Harshbarger, Brailow, and Effen Ads impose an $11.3 million judgment, which will be suspended upon payment of $25,000 by Harshbarger and $121,948 by Brailow because of their inability to pay the full amount. In addition, they are permanently banned from marketing or selling business opportunities or business coaching products and are prohibited from making any misrepresentations in the marketing or sale of any product or service. Harshbarger, Brailow, and Effen Ads are also permanently prohibited from violating the CAN-SPAM Act and engaging in credit card laundering.

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