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Attorney General Reyes Urges Google and Apple to Ensure Contact Tracing Apps Protect Consumer Privacy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 17, 2020

“I WILL CONTINUE TO AGGRESSIVELY ADVOCATE FOR THE PRIVACY AND PROTECTION OF UTAHN’S PERSONAL DATA.” —ATTORNEY GENERAL REYES
Attorney General Reyes Joins Bipartisan Coalition to Demand Apple and Google Ensure Consumer Privacy

SALT LAKE CITY – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes is demanding Google and Apple ensure all contact tracing and exposure notification apps related to COVID-19 adequately protect consumers’ personal information.
 
Specifically, Attorney General Reyes and a bi-partisan coalition of 39 state attorneys general are urging Google and Apple to guarantee that such apps, when available to consumers, are affiliated with a public health authority and removed from Google Play and the App Store once no longer needed by public health authorities.
 
Today, in a letter sent to the Chief Executive Officers of Apple and Google, the attorneys general acknowledge that while digital contact tracing and exposure notification tools are valuable in understanding the spread of COVID-19 and assisting public health authorities, these same technologies pose a risk to consumers’ privacy.
 
“We understand the value of using technology to limit exposure to COVID-19, but the personal information of Utahns must be safeguarded in the process. I believe we can find that balance. But, until we do, I will continue to aggressively advocate for the privacy and protection of Utahn’s personal data,” said Attorney General Reyes.
 
The coalition expressed concern regarding contact tracing and exposure notification apps available to consumers in Google Play and the App Store, particularly the “free” apps that utilize GPS tracking, offer in-app purchases, and are not affiliated with any public health authority or legitimate research institution.
   
To protect consumers without interfering with public health efforts to monitor and address the spread of COVID-19, the letters ask Google and Apple to:

  1. Verify that every app labeled or marketed as related to contact tracing, COVID-19 contact tracing, or coronavirus contact tracing or exposure notification is affiliated with a municipal, county, state or federal public health authority, or a hospital or university in the U.S. that is working with such public health authorities;
  2. Remove any app that cannot be verified as affiliated with one of the entities identified above; and
  3. Pledge to remove all COVID-19 / coronavirus related exposure notification and contact tracing apps, including those that utilize the new exposure notification application program interfaces (APIs) developed by Google and Apple, from Google Play and the App Store once the COVID-19 national emergency ends. In addition, the attorneys general asked Google and Apple to provide written confirmation to their offices once the apps have been removed or an explanation why removal of a particular app or apps would impair the public health authorities affiliated with each app.


As of today, Utah has 15,344 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 8,552 patients have recovered and there have been 149 deaths.
 
Read a copy of the letter to Google and Apple here.
 
The attorneys general in Nebraska and Oregon sponsored the letter and are joined by attorneys general in Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.
 

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Utah Fraud Squad: Watch Out for Stimulus Package Scams

April 15, 2020

Today, the Utah Department of Commerce launched a new website aimed at informing Utahns of the latest COVID-19 scams, such as scams involving the federal stimulus package. View the Utah Fraud Squad website here.

Starting this week, most Utahns will receive money as the result of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion stimulus package providing emergency assistance to the American people, businesses and health care providers amid the response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The package includes a one-time direct cash payment to individuals and families across the country to help them financially weather this crisis.

Unfortunately, the bill’s passage has opened up a brand-new opportunity for scammers to take advantage of vulnerable people during an emergency situation.

Taxpayers should be advised that the Internal Revenue Service will not ask you to pay anything up front to get this money. There are no fees or charges associated with receiving the payment. No one from the federal government will call, email or text message you and ask for your Social Security number, bank account information or credit card number. Anyone who does this is a scammer.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said the checks will be sent out for people who have been working and paying taxes since 2018.  Anyone calling and telling you they can get the check to you sooner is a scammer. We advise you to not answer calls, emails or text messages from phone numbers or email addresses you do not know. Do not click on links from unsolicited emails or text messages. If you do answer a phone call and realize it is not someone you know, just hang up.

The Treasury Department plans to run a public awareness campaign for those who have not filed a tax return for either 2018 or 2019. Information will be posted as it becomes available online on www.irs.gov/coronavirus.

Stay aware of the latest scams by visiting the Utah Department of Commerce Utah Fraud Squad website.

To report scams, call the Utah Division of Consumer protection at 801-530-6601 or 1-800-721-7233, or visit them online at: consumerprotection.utah.gov.

Read the Department of Commerce press release regarding the Utah Fraud Squad website here.

Attorney General Reyes Warns Utahns on Fraud and Price Gouging During Virus Emergency

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 16, 2020


FRAUD AND PRICE GOUGING DURING VIRUS EMERGENCY
Attorney General Reyes: “I Want Citizens and Consumers to be Protected.”
 

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes continues to alert both consumers and merchants of scams and price gouging which are a serious, potential threat to the health and well-being of citizens in the State of Utah.
 
Scams
Right now, health threats from the coronavirus are affecting people’s physical, mental and behavioral well-being and are the most pressing concerns. While we are focused on those emergencies, predators will try to take advantage of people’s uncertainties and fears.
 
“Our office is receiving questions and concerns about phone calls, emails and websites that are potentially frauds or scams,” Attorney General Reyes said. “As Utahns, we are known for generosity when it comes to donating and supporting others in emergencies. We also tend to be very trusting. Both are great qualities that can be potentially exploited during emergencies.” 
 
“Scams and fraud proliferate during natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina,” Reyes continued. “The Utah Attorney General’s Office and Utah Division of Consumer Protection continually work together to investigate and prosecute these types of cases.”
 
Scams may come in the form of requests for charities that don’t exist or donations to causes that sound real but are not.

  • Simply because someone calls you and uses the name of a recognized charity doesn’t mean they are legitimate. If someone contacts you asking for money or your personal information, you can always hang up and call the business or entity back at a number that you can confirm.
  • No government agency will call you for payment over the phone or by wire. Before you send any money to help others, particularly via wire, cash or on a debit card, please check with a trusted advisor or contact the Division of Consumer Protection or Attorney General’s Office. 

Price Gouging
The Utah Attorney General’s Office and Division of Consumer Protection are becoming aware of several allegations of price gouging due to the temporary shortage of certain consumer items in stores. Unlike some states, our legislature passed laws to outlaw this conduct during emergencies. The Governor has now declared a state of emergency so our anti-gouging laws are in effect and penalties can be enforced.
 
Remember, excessive price inflation during emergencies is against the law. (Utah Code 13-41-101-202, Price Controls Under Emergencies Act). 
 
We hope this warning gives offenders a chance to do the right thing and stop the exploitation,” Attorney General Reyes said. “But if they don’t, they are in danger of state enforcement. Taking advantage of this tragedy for the sake of profit is NOT acceptable.”
 
Attorney General Reyes points out that some mark-ups will in fact reflect the scarcity of items and is acceptable under the statute.
 
Items like baby formula or medicine, toilet paper, bottled water, batteries, hand sanitizer filtering masks, etc. are among the items that can be typically marked up. Sellers should review the statute with their legal counsel if they have any questions.
 
We are working with our friends at the Division of Consumer Protection on both price gouging and scams, and they are working hard to investigate complaints.
 
If you notice incidents of price gouging, please call their office 801-530-6601 or 1-800-721-7233, or visit them online at consumerprotection.utah.gov.
 
If you suspect criminal fraud has occurred, you may also reach out to the Attorney General’s Office at 801-366-0260.
 

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Utah Attorney General Reyes Joins 50 Attorneys General in Multistate Google Investigation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 9, 2019

UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL REYES JOINS 50 ATTORNEYS GENERAL IN GOOGLE MULTISTATE BIPARTISAN ANTITRUST INVESTIGATION 
 

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today announced that Utah is joining the attorneys general in 48 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico in a multistate, bipartisan investigation of tech giant Google’s business practices in accordance with state and federal antitrust laws.

The bipartisan coalition announced plans to investigate Google’s overarching control of online advertising markets and search traffic that may have led to anticompetitive behavior that harms consumers. Legal experts from each state will work in cooperation with Federal authorities to assess competitive conditions for online services and ensure that Americans have access to free digital markets.

“Now, more than ever, information is power, and the most important source of information in Americans’ day-to-day lives is the internet. When it comes to internet search, Google is-and has been-the 90% market share leader.” said Attorney General Reyes. “There is nothing wrong with a business becoming the dominant player if it does so fairly, but we are concerned Google’s dominance has been achieved and maintained through business practices designed to thwart competition and prevent new alternatives from ever existing. If true, such practices have undermined consumer choice, stifled innovation, violated users’ privacy, and impermissibly put Google in control of the flow and dissemination of online information.

“At times, there is a fine line between aggressive and abusive business practices. This investigation will tell us if Google has crossed that line. We intend to closely follow the facts we discover in this case and proceed as necessary. I raised these issues with the FTC several years ago but didn’t have the resources as a single state to pursue this behemoth. I am glad so many of my colleagues have seen the wisdom and importance of pursuing this investigation.”

Past investigations of Google uncovered violations ranging from advertising illegal drugs in the United States to now three antitrust actions brought by the European Commission. None of these previous investigations, however, fully address the source of Google’s sustained market power and the ability to engage in serial and repeated business practices with the intention to protect and maintain that power.
 

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Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century

June 11, 2019

You might be surprised at just how much tech companies know about you these days, and how easily companies cooperate to link your personal information (address, phone number, email, social media) to your shopping habits, financial information, political affiliation, recreational and workout habits—even the route you take to and from work.

Relatively few companies have the power to profit from this information efficiently, and there is growing concern that big market power can result in collusive, exclusionary or predatory conduct or conduct that might even violate consumer protection laws.

That’s why the Utah Attorney General’s office is part of a nationwide effort to investigate the ways that explosive expansion of technology is affecting consumer privacy, competition in technology platform markets, mergers and acquisitions, sales of data, and more.  Follow this link to the agenda and hearings “Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century.”

On Wednesday June 10, 2019, Deputy Attorney General David Sonnenreich (Antitrust Section) will participate in a hearing that will bring 43 other Attorneys General together with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate what action should be taken to address these concerns.

Sonnenreich is scheduled to testify at 10:25 am.

Follow this link to the hearing while it is happening.


Notes:

This letter from 43 Attorneys General Details topics and concerns regarding Competition and Consumer protection in the 21st Century.  (put in NAAG link)

Roundtable agenda and streaming link https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/events-calendar/ftc-hearing-14-roundtable-state-attorneys-general

Here is a link to the FTC’s main page for its Hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century:  https://www.ftc.gov/policy/hearings-competition-consumer-protection

Recognize & avoid financial fraud

November 6, 2018

What exactly is financial fraud?

It is any attempt to deceive another for financial gain. Seems fairly straightforward, right? Therefore, it should be easy to prevent. Unfortunately, there are numerous ways to take advantage of the average Utahn and many are falling for these ploys. 

What’s the best way to protect yourself? 

EDUCATION.

In a measure designed to protect Utah Consumers, federal, state, and local officials established Stop Fraud Utah to educate consumers about the many aspects of financial fraud and how to avoid it. Twice a year, Stop Fraud Utah hosts the Financial Fraud Institute to help Utahns recognize and protect themselves against Financial Fraud. 

Join us for this fall’s seminar in Weber County.
Registration is free, but required since space is limited. For more information and to RSVP, go to www.utfraud.com.

Dept. of Justice hosts discussion on tech companies with state AGs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 25, 2018

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL SEAN D. REYES JOINS U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL TO DISCUSS TECH COMPANIES
State attorneys general share consumer protection concerns on tech company platforms

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, eight other state attorneys general, and representatives from five state attorneys general offices at the Department of Justice to discuss competition, free exchange of ideas, and consumer protection surrounding tech company platforms.

AG Reyes shared the following statement after the meeting concluded:

Today’s meeting was part of a critical, ongoing dialogue on protecting consumers and competition in the technology sector without unnecessarily burdening innovation or investment. State AGs have grappled with these issues for years. Having a federal perspective was welcome. The meeting was bipartisan. It was productive. We compared notes with our federal partners about a range of issues including cybersecurity, privacy, data gathering, and monetization of personal information by members of the tech community.

We shared ideas and concerns about the impact of dominant market players on competition and how they may be unfairly leveraging their position for competitive advantage. We agreed that at the federal and state level, we are both seeking robust protection of consumers and markets through responsible regulation and disciplined enforcement.

Utah is a rapidly expanding innovation hub. As such, consumer protection, privacy, and a level playing field in the tech ecosystem are of utmost concern to me and the Utah AG Office. I want to thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his team at the U.S. Department of Justice for inviting us to collaborate in addressing issues crucial to the future of our nation.

Utah joined attorneys general from Alabama, California, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia, as well as representatives from the Office of the Attorney General in Arkansas, Arizona, Missouri, Texas, and Washington.

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Photo by Marvin Meyer

Stop Veteran Charity Scams

In an effort to reduce the number of donations given to fraudulent charities, Francine Giani, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Commerce, announced last week that the state of Utah would participate in a new national donor education campaign, “Operation Donate with Honor.”

Every year, Americans give back to those who gave and risked so much for our freedom. Most charities dedicated to serving veterans and servicemen live up to their promises, but there are some who do not deliver on what they say they provide. Before giving, take a moment to walk through the following steps provided by the Utah Division of Consumer Protection to protect your donation: 

  1. Don’t rely on a sympathetic sounding name to make a donation.
  2. Ask for the charity’s name, website, and physical location.
  3. Ask how much of a donation will go to the charitable program you want to support.
  4. Check with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection to see if they are registered at https://dcp.utah.gov/consumerinfo/veterans_charities.html
  5. Search the charity’s name online with the word “scam” or “complaint” to see what other people say about it.
  6. Check out the charity’s ratings at the Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Watch, or Charity Navigator.
  7. Never pay with cash, a gift card, or by wiring money.
  8. Consider paying by credit card, which is the safest option for security and tax purposes.
  9.  If you wish to file a complaint, go to this link with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection: https://dcp.utah.gov/complaints/manual.html

The education campaign is intended to help potential donors recognize fraudulent and deceptive solicitations to ensure their contributions will, in fact, benefit veterans and service members. The campaign was developed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the National Association of State Charity Officials, which is the association of state offices charged with oversight of charitable organizations and solicitations in the United States. 

Along with the Utah Department of Commerce, the campaign includes the Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs, the FTC, law enforcement officials and charity regulators from every state, as well as the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, and Puerto Rico.   

You can find the press statement released by the Department of Commerce as well as additional information and resources here: https://commerce.utah.gov/releases/2018-07-19_dcp-donate-w-honor.pdf.

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