back to article Hi, Congress. FTC here. It would be so wonderful if you could let us recover money stolen from victims by crooks

America's consumer watchdog has pleaded with lawmakers to pass legislation to restore its ability to recover ill-gotten gains from scammers and pass the money back to victims cheated by the crooks. This comes after the US Supreme Court ruled last month that the FTC cannot effectively force fraudsters to hand back the cash they …

  1. hedge

    What's going on?

    Have scammers been making kickbacks to Congress?

    Why doesn't Congress sort out the problem ASAP?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's going on?

      Perhaps CongressCritters fear that the "snake oil" salesman example hits too close to home for them?

    2. DavidRa
      Devil

      Re: What's going on?

      Just being deliberately obtuse perhaps, but this stance is consistent with the US stubborn belief that perfectly free markets are wonderful and business is the only thing worth supporting.

      Allowing clawbacks for fraud opens businesses to such oppressive actions like having to deliver what's been sold lest the business have to refund.

      I know it's not actually that had but it sure seems like it sometimes.

      1. Youngone Silver badge

        Re: What's going on?

        I'm not sure the libertarian magical thinking about free markets is an exclusively American thing.

        1. Claverhouse Silver badge

          Re: What's going on?

          It started off in the 18th & 19th centuries as a mainly British and French thing, but soon found it's natural home in the United States from the start, as heriting so much from both political regimes; flowering in the Gilded Age, and reaching it's final delirium there in the mid-20th century to now decay into it's ultimate mania.

        2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

          Re: What's going on?

          By inclination and education I am a natural liberal (note: small l). I also believe in free markets. Can you explain the "magical thinking"?

          This is not some snide dig, just an opportunity for education. Capitalism red in tooth and claw is not necessarily the best way ahead.

          1. HandleAlreadyTaken

            Re: What's going on?

            Perhaps a good example of "magical thinking" is the widespread American belief that free market principles should apply to health care. Various fixes proposed for health care tend to go into the direction of making the market "more free", by example by easing regulations and lowering the bar for various insurance companies to provide "market driven solutions".

            This, IMHO, is a direct result of the belief a free market somehow solves all problems under the sun. I think what we want from a healthcare system is to maximize health. However, a free market is a great tool for maximizing profits, and, unsurprisingly, that's just what it does. It maximizes the profits of insurance companies and other entities. What it doesn't do is improve health - because it wasn't designed for that.

            The results of this thought process are easily visible - health care in America is more expensive than in most other developed countries, has worse results on average, and the difference in the quality of health care for the rich and the poor is larger than in most other places, and growing.

    3. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      Re: What's going on?

      Professional courtesy.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's going on?

      The United States Congress has stopped working for the American people many moons ago.

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: What's going on?

      "Why doesn't Congress sort out the problem ASAP?"

      Possibly, they are looking at what happens when Police forces find they can increase their "budget" when they get to keep the "proceeds of crime" when they win a prosecution.

      It started as a great incentive, but rapidly introduced corruption and incentivised raking in as much as they can because that extra money is often available for shiny new toys they'd otherwise not be able to have, like military hardware, tank-like APCs etc.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: What's going on?

        "Possibly, they are looking at what happens when Police forces find they can increase their "budget" when they get to keep the "proceeds of crime" when they win a prosecution."

        Force them to return the proceeds to the victims and that stops being a problem.

    6. Diogenes8080

      The House Always Wins

      A money service bureau [bank] unknowingly accepts the business of a fraudster. The MSB takes its usual fees. The victims lose, but the MSB profits [unknowingly] from the crimes. The fraud is detected and the account is frozen. The MSB holds the funds until the allegations are proven and the moneys are returned to the victims or the allegations are disproven and the account unfrozen. This may take some time, during which the balance remains with the MSB. Stage 3 applies.

  2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Civil vs Criminal Penalties

    The FTC has the responsibility of bringing criminal cases against fraudsters. Recovery of the fraudulent gains is a civil case, brought by the aggrieved customers. It's a (possibly misguided) attempt to maintain the government's neutrality in a case as a prosecutor. Litigating on behalf of the public interest at large rather than as a recovery agent for a subset of that public (the wronged customers).

    1. Shalghar Bronze badge

      Re: Civil vs Criminal Penalties

      I would believe that giving back stolen or defrauded proceeds to the victims should be part of the judicial efforts. Instead, nearly every judiciary systems seems to concentrate on the "revenge for breaking the rules" part while widely or totally ignoring victims interests.

      In this case, letting the victims alone and making the refund/clawback process something for the wealthy (as lawyers are needed for civil law claims, victims with financially smaller losses have no incentive of paying double to get smaller sums back), it effectively shows criminals that individual damages can be adjusted to a "scam more people for smaller sums" scheme to mitigate or effectively nullify any risk of having to give up the scammed profits.

      This is not only a severe malfunction of the US "justice" system, other countries like germany are so misguided, that doing physical harm to a victim is punished way less than streaming a movie and physically harmed victims normally do not get any recompensation at all, leaving hospital bill and other such dire outcomes to be paid by insurance or victim instead of perpetrator.

      There also is no automatic recompense/refund system here. Unless the victims make additional (expensive) efforts, bad luck, as with the US.

      Apart from big cases, where consumer protection agencies may take part, germany is definitely scam friendly territory (yes VW, also speaking of you), going so far as launching unchecked controversial payment orders and sullying any credit rating just because some scammer says there is a contract. Getting the latter sorted out is a nightmare as credit rating agencies are not legally obliged to keep their data correct if the victims do not prove their point, showing again what a toothless non improvement GDPR and its purely theoretical pursuit really is.

      As long as there is no consistent, stringent,victim oriented automatic "full service", scammers get away with enough to keep scamming profitable.

    2. Shalghar Bronze badge

      Re: Civil vs Criminal Penalties

      I hope its the language barrier but why would a government have to be "neutral" ? Is that not the judges most important part of the job ?

  3. Claptrap314 Silver badge
    Pint

    WAT?

    No partisan sniping? Well, I'm sure the congresscritters will be leading the way shortly...

    As always, for crying in. ---------------------->

  4. Norman123

    As long as the "campaign contributions" are coming in, F the victims and vey to the fraudsters.....Has anyone been bothered by telemarketers? ;))

  5. Chris G Silver badge

    Snake oil?

    I am sure the critters on the Commerce commitee understand 13b fully. They will also understand that if the FTC has full powers to go after and recover money falsely obtained from customers, it may impact some of their contributors.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To protect the scammed from other scammed?

    Remember, Bernie Made-off had clients that actually made money and got out before the scam fell apart. The FTC wanted to claw back that money from the clients who were not complicit in Made-off's scam, thus harming the smart or fortunate. It's a complicated issue, that Congress is guaranteed to make a greater mess of.

  7. DJ
    Coat

    A truly cynical person

    might say the US Congress are the scammers.

    I couldn't possibly comment.

    (reaches for coat with downvote protection...)

    1. Shalghar Bronze badge

      Re: A truly cynical person

      Obviously your downvote protection coating does not work consistently. ;)

      Then again, not sharing the general assumption that politicians are corrupt might mean that there is at least one of them reading here, which might impact my assumption of politicians disinterest for what vorters think as well as politicians assumed (and sadly much too often proven) technical "competence".

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