Outfit that sued WOT members gets $90m fine for deceptive advertising

Dynamoo
Posts: 18
Joined: Tue May 10, 2016 9:34 pm

Outfit that sued WOT members gets $90m fine for deceptive advertising

Post by Dynamoo » Tue May 10, 2016 9:34 pm

Back in 2010, several WOT members plus myself were sued by several companies under the control of Alec Difrawi for comments that they asserted were libellous that were posted on this forum and on the scorecards of several companies under his control. (For the record, I did not post any of the comments that were alleged. That is another story).

On April 28th, the FTC issued a press release confirming that one of the successor companies the suit was (named [url=https://www.mywot.com/en/scorecard/gigats.com t=_self]Gigats[/url] also known by Expand Inc and [url=https://www.mywot.com/en/scorecard/softrock.org t=_self]Softrock[/url]) to those filing found to have been guilty of deceptive lead generation, including advertising jobs that had expired or they were not authorised to advertise. The [url=https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2016/04/ftc-charges-education-lead-generator-tricking-job-seekers t=_self]press release from the FTC[/url] reads:
FTC Charges Education Lead Generator with Tricking Job Seekers by Claiming to Represent Hiring Employers
Settlement Bans Operators of Gigats.com from Deceptive Lead Generation Tactics
For Release
April 28, 2016

In the agency’s first enforcement action against an education lead generator, operators of Gigats.com have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that the company claimed it was “pre-screening” job applicants for hiring employers when it was actually gathering information for other purposes, including lead generation for post-secondary schools and career training programs.

According to the FTC’s complaint, the operators of Gigats.com gathered online job announcements posted by multinational companies, government agencies and other employers, and summarized them on its website, which appeared to accept applications for the jobs. Many of the job openings were not current, and for those that were, the employers had not authorized Gigats to collect applications or screen or interview applicants. In addition, the defendants never sent the information they collected from consumers to the employers.

Instead, the FTC alleges, consumers, who had provided Gigats with the kinds of personal information typically requested in a job application, were directed to call the defendants’ “employment specialists,” who then steered the consumers toward enrolling in education programs that had paid the defendants for consumer leads. Many consumers also were transferred to the defendants’ “education advisors.” The FTC alleges that these so-called advisors falsely claimed to be independent education advisors but in fact only recommended schools and programs that had agreed to pay the defendants, typically from $22 to $125, for consumer leads that met their enrollment requirements.

Under a proposed stipulated court order, the defendants are prohibited from making misrepresentations like those described in the complaint, and promoting job openings without a reasonable basis to expect that employers are currently hiring for those jobs. They also are barred from transferring consumers’ personal information to third parties without clearly disclosing that it will be transferred, and their relationship with the third party. In addition, the defendants are prohibited from using the information covered under the order unless consumers affirmatively opt in to their services.

The proposed court order imposes a $90.2 million judgment that will be suspended upon payment of $360,000. The full judgment will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.

The defendants are Expand Inc., also doing business as Gigats, EducationMatch and SoftRock Inc., and Ayman A. Difrawi, also known as Alec Difrawi and Ayman El-Difrawi.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and proposed stipulated court order was 3-0. The proposed order has been submitted to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. Stipulated orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
Contact Information

MEDIA CONTACT:
Frank Dorman
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2674

STAFF CONTACT:
Brian Shull
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3720

Daniel Dwyer
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2957
Legal documents pertaining to the case can be found [url=https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/152-3124/expand-inc-gigats t=_self]at the FTC website[/url]. This site was previously discussed in the forum [url=https://www.mywot.com/en/forum/8004-gigats-gigats-com-phishing-scam t=_self]here[/url] (note that I do not necessarily endorse the views expressed).

destinationtruth
Posts: 806
Joined: Tue May 12, 2015 7:47 pm
Location: Cherokee Nation

RE: Outfit that sued WOT members gets $90m fine for deceptive ad

Post by destinationtruth » Tue May 10, 2016 9:46 pm

Awesome news. . . and does this mean you will return to an active position here.

Site-rater
Posts: 5846
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 7:48 pm

RE: Outfit that sued WOT members gets $90m fine for deceptive ad

Post by Site-rater » Tue May 10, 2016 10:25 pm

They should be forced to pay that fine to victims of their lawsuits against WOT users, in order to send a message that bullying will be punished. Maybe affected users could try to contact the FTC in order to discuss damages?

Guest

RE: Outfit that sued WOT members gets $90m fine for deceptive ad

Post by Guest » Tue May 10, 2016 11:40 pm

@Dynamoo =

Thank you, for the news and I hope, you come to stay:-)

MysteryFCM
Posts: 4912
Joined: Mon Jul 14, 2008 4:47 pm

RE: Outfit that sued WOT members gets $90m fine for deceptive ad

Post by MysteryFCM » Wed May 11, 2016 12:02 am

Nice one1 :)

Dynamoo
Posts: 18
Joined: Tue May 10, 2016 9:34 pm

RE: Outfit that sued WOT members gets $90m fine for deceptive ad

Post by Dynamoo » Wed May 11, 2016 5:50 pm

<quote user="site-rater">
They should be forced to pay that fine to victims of their lawsuits against WOT users, in order to send a message that bullying will be punished. Maybe affected users could try to contact the FTC in order to discuss damages?
[/quote]

Lawyers would argue that Gigats and Expand Inc is not the same legal entity that sued WOT. It just had all the same people working for it, using the same methods and I believe the same premises. However, it might be of note that ANOTHER previous iteration of the company sued a blogger named Archie Garga-Richardson in 2009 and won a $2m default judgement. They have also sued or attempted to sue many other critics, in all cases they have either failed or the cases were settled out of court. It does seem to me that the justice system has been heavily abused.

c۞g
Posts: 21225
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2009 4:02 am

RE: Outfit that sued WOT members gets $90m fine for deceptive ad

Post by c۞g » Thu May 12, 2016 5:20 pm

Historically..
2009

WikiLeaks archive of deleted Wikipedia article
_https://wikileaks.org/wiki/Florida_businessman_Ayman_El-Difrawi_aka_Alec_Defrawy_deleted_Wikipedia_article,_2009.

2010
[url=https://www.mywot.com/forum/5541-the-difrawi-bell-phishing-scam-referral-thread t=_self]The Difrawi & Bell phishing scam referral thread[/url]
[url=https://www.mywot.com/forum/8004-gigats-gigats-com-phishing-scam t=_self]Gigats gigats.com phishing scam5[/url]

2012 Site evaluation
[url=https://www.mywot.com/forum/30104-gigats-com t=_self]gigats.com[/url]
- where I just posted a list of fresh domains gathered off the same servers

2016
A 2016 Orange County booking photo of Ayman "Alec" Difrawi. (Orange County Jail)


[img]https://www.mywot.com/w/images/4/46/2016_Difrawi_Orange_County_Jail.jpg[/img]

courtesy: Orlando Sentinel
article: _http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-alec-difrawi-fraud-20160428-story.html

  • Difrawi said the $90 million judgment is about how much money he made in one year from the business, but the FTC is letting him settle in exchange for $360,000, and agreements to stop committing fraud.

... stop committing fraud
LMFAO!!!


@ OP
Thanks for the heads up!

Dynamoo
Posts: 18
Joined: Tue May 10, 2016 9:34 pm

RE: Outfit that sued WOT members gets $90m fine for deceptive ad

Post by Dynamoo » Thu May 12, 2016 9:39 pm

It's interesting to compare the FTC statement against the accusations made on WOT years ago. The bulk of them do seem to be the same.

Out of interest, I did look to see if Mr Difrawi has started any new companies since the FTC findings. So far, nothing. I'm not really sure he has any other skills though..

Site-rater
Posts: 5846
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 7:48 pm

RE: Outfit that sued WOT members gets $90m fine for deceptive ad

Post by Site-rater » Thu May 12, 2016 9:53 pm

<quote user="c۞g">
2016
A 2016 Orange County booking photo of Ayman "Alec" Difrawi. (Orange County Jail)


[(image)]

courtesy: Orlando Sentinel
article: _http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-alec-difrawi-fraud-20160428-story.html

  • Difrawi said the $90 million judgment is about how much money he made in one year from the business, but the FTC is letting him settle in exchange for $360,000, and agreements to stop committing fraud.

... stop committing fraud
LMFAO!!!


@ OP
Thanks for the heads up!
[/quote]

Does MyWOT Team have any comment as to whether or not this individual is still allowed to maintain a WOT account? On the plus side, the account has no ratings associated with it (My ratings: 0* on the profile page).

c۞g
Posts: 21225
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2009 4:02 am

RE: Outfit that sued WOT members gets $90m fine for deceptive ad

Post by c۞g » Fri May 13, 2016 3:17 am

<quote user="site-rater">
Does MyWOT Team have any comment as to whether or not this individual is still allowed to maintain a WOT account? On the plus side, the account has no ratings associated with it (My ratings: 0* on the profile page).
[/quote]

I cannot comment for the current MyWot Team.

Back in 2012 when that topic was created, there were private discussions with the original MyWot Dev Team about that very topic. It was decided that as long as the account holder did not violate any Forum Guidelines, there would be no justification to ban the account, otherwise Staff would be engaging in censorship. Back then, WOT Staff attempted to be unbiased towards anyone who joined as a user and created a Site Evaluation; something I hope they intend to honor now and in the future. Everyone should the opportunity of [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech t=_blank]freedom of speech[/url] within these forums, even Difrawi.

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