John Drisco (not his real name) had designed and created his first online program where he could sign up customers who wanted to learn how to set up an email system that would help build a client’s marketing list. When viewers of his advertisement clicked through to the landing page, there was also a guarantee on that page that subscribers to the program would be able to build a series of emails that would acquire 50,000 new sign-ups on an email list by the end of six weeks.
John, being relatively new to marketing, advertising, and not a whole lot of money to spend on lawyers and assistants, ran into trouble when it appeared that many of his customers were not having success with his email program. About 50 percent of customers, in fact, wanted their money back because they felt the program did not really do the job in building the right email series that each needed for his or her needs.
After six weeks in the initial run of the first advertisements for the new program, John found that he might have to pay back a lot of money that he did not have anymore. He had charged a fee of $397 to each new subscriber for the program and was now in a dire position of paying back about half of what he took in over six weeks. Much of the income had been put back into the business as well as paying overdue vendor bill.
What You Do Not Know, Can Hurt You
John’s naive mistake in this endeavor was the “guarantee” that the program would work for his subscribers. In fact, a guarantee of this nature is nearly impossible to expect to have such results. Each person who does that program can only put in an amount of effort to achieve success, based on his or her own level of effort, which is not always the same as John’s effort when he built the program in the first place.
The United States Code 18 § 1030
John was now charged with federal internet fraud after several subscribers complained to the state’s attorney general. As many of the complaining customers were located across the United States, the case was now a federal charge.
It was not John’s intention to deceive anyone, but more than he was overconfident about what he expected to have happened by building the program and making guarantees he could not back up with facts. The charge and claim by the customers were that John had intentionally intended to defraud them by obtaining personal information, including credit cards, and the fees for the program.
The solution to avoiding such an issue ever happening is to visit a lawyer to get an idea of how to word an advertisement in such a way as to avoid legal liabilities. If John had also built a company through which this program was offered, then the lawyer could also ensure that the company would be secured, along with the appropriate business insurance to cover such liabilities.
If you have been charged with federal or state internet fraud, call us at once for a consultation. (619) 234-2300