France, a senior investigator for the Federal Trade Commission, visited Zillow recently as part of the ongoing Zillow Speaker Series.
She believes anyone can be duped when the right vulnerability is targeted — be it weight loss, hair loss or a desire to get rich quick. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
So how do you protect yourself? France identifies two red flags everyone should be aware of: upfront fees and an urgency to close the deal.
In the real estate industry, for example, France has seen cases of fraudulent timeshare resales, foreclosure scams and loan fraud.
At the other end of the spectrum, one of the most common scams involves a simple IQ test where you must enter your phone number to get the results. Entering a phone number, however, can lead to you becoming the victim of a mobile-cramming scam, where consumers are charged for unauthorized services.
In FTC v. Wise Media, LLC, France’s team filed a lawsuit against a company that had fraudulently collected $6 million in 18 months, with 2 million phone bills wrongly charged.
“We all want to know how smart we are,” France said in explaining why it’s easy to fall victim to this kind of scheme.
Ultimately, France said, you have to be aware and ask the right questions.
Previous Zillow Speaker Series guests include:
- Rand Fishkin, Moz Founder & CEO
- Matthew Winkler, Bloomberg News Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief
- Exec and Justin.tv Founder Justin Kan
- Scripps Networks Interactive CEO Ken Lowe
- Darrell Cavens, CEO of Zulily
- Georgetown Brewing Co-Founder Roger Bialous
- Cinnabon Co-Founder Greg Komen
- TrueCar CEO Scott Painter
- Joel Spolsky of Stack Exchange
- Tom Douglas, chef and restaurateur
- Steven VanRoekel, White House Chief Information Officer
- Jay Inslee, then-candidate for Washington governor
- Gabe Zichermann, author and consultant
- Rob McKenna, former Washington attorney general and candidate for governor
- Ronnie Chan, chairman of Hang Lung Properties Limited
- Hadi Partovi, angel investor, startup investor
- GrubHub co-founders Mike Evans and Matt Maloney
- Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn
- Adam Goldstein of Hipmunk
- Adam Lashinsky, author of “Inside Apple”
- Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
- John Cook of GeekWire
- FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski
- Gordon Stephenson of Real Property Associates
- Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital
- Richard Tait of Cranium
- Adrian Hanauer of Sounders FC
- Steve Souders of Google