Posts Tagged: U.S. Federal Trade Commission


5
Feb 20

When Your Used Car is a Little Too ‘Mobile’

Many modern vehicles let owners use the Internet or a mobile device to control the car’s locks, track location and performance data, and start the engine. But who exactly owns that control is not always clear when these smart cars are sold or leased anew. Here’s the story of one former electric vehicle owner who discovered he could still gain remote, online access to his old automobile years after his lease ended.

Mathew Marulla began leasing a Ford Focus electric vehicle in 2013, but turned the car back in to Ford at the end of his lease in 2016. So Marulla was surprised when he recently received an email from Ford.com stating that the clock in his car was set incorrectly.

Out of curiosity, Marulla decided to check if his old MyFordMobile.com credentials from 2016 still worked. They did, and Marulla was presented with an online dashboard showing the current location of his old ride and its mileage statistics.

The dashboard also allowed him to remotely start the vehicle, as well as lock and unlock its doors.

Mathew Marulla turned in his leased Ford EV to Ford 4 years ago, so he is no longer the legal owner of the car. But he can still remotely track its location and usage, lock and unlock it, and start the engine.

“It was a three-year lease from Ford and I turned it in to Ford four years ago, so Ford definitely knows I am no longer the owner,” Marulla said, noting that the dashboard also included historic records showing where the Focus had been driven in days prior.

“I can track its movements, see where it plugs in,” he said. “Now I know where the current owner likely lives, and if I watch it tomorrow I can probably figure out where he works. I have not been the owner of this vehicle for four years, Ford knows this, yet they took no action whatsoever to remove me as the owner in this application.”

Asked to comment on Marulla’s experience, a spokesperson for Ford said all Ford dealerships are supposed to perform a “master reset” as part of their used car checklist prior to the resale of a vehicle. A master reset (carried out via the vehicle’s SYNC infotainment screen by a customer or dealer) disassociates the vehicle from all current accounts. Continue reading →


19
Oct 15

Don’t Be Fooled by Fake Online Reviews Part II

In July I wrote about the dangers of blindly trusting online reviews, especially for high-dollar services like moving companies. That piece told the story of Full Service Van Lines, a moving company that had mostly five-star reviews online but whose owners and operators had a long and very public history of losing or destroying their customers’ stuff and generally taking months to actually ship what few damaged goods it delivered. Last week, federal regulators shut the company down.

updownthunbsNBC Miami reports that Full Service Van Lines (FSVL) was shut down by the U.S. Department of Transportation, but not because of consumer complaints. The DOT reportedly revoked the company’s license due to a pattern of safety violations. And that’s saying something: The NBC story said FSVL received more complaints this year than any other Florida mover of its size.

My July story on FSVL concluded that the company’s owners likely inflated and manipulated their online reputation via a search engine optimization (SEO) firm they owned. Unfortunately, this practice is incredibly common among labor-intensive services that do not require the customer to come into the company’s offices but instead come to the consumer. These services include but are not limited to locksmiths, windshield replacement services, garage door repair and replacement technicians, carpet cleaning and other services that consumers very often call for immediate service.

Bryan Seely, a security expert who’s working on an as-yet unpublished book on these so-called dark/black SEO practices, said such services are rife for SEO experts who create hundreds or thousands of phantom companies online with different business names, addresses and phone numbers. The calls to each of these phony firms are eventually all routed back to the SEO company, which sells the customer lead to one of several companies that have agreed in advance to buy such business leads.

As a result, many consumers think they are dealing with one company when they call, yet end up being serviced by a completely unrelated firm that may not have to worry about maintaining a reputation for quality and fair customer service. Continue reading →