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FTC Knuckles Down on Faux Stimulus Relief Ads

At a press conference this week, a representative from the Federal Trade Commission admonished online media companies to "monitor their sites for scam ads and get rid of them."

"We're reaching out broadly and asking for help on this," stated acting director Eileen Harrington of the FTC's Bureau of consumer Protection. And while the FTC recognizes online ad networks and third-party marketing firms "play a pivotal role" in enabling such ads, she stressed that "the buck stops with the publisher."

The FTC plans to crack down on ads and emails that deceptively promote access to economic stimulus-related grants, for example. Media firms that serve such ads will also be implicated.

Facebook has agreed to ban the ads as it finds them; Google is working directly with the FTC to examine potential violators in its own ad programs.

According to ClickZ, a Google search for "economic stimulus cash" generates to ads for sites like ObamaStimulusPlan.info and Stimulus.GrantPacket.com. Some even use the President's likeness or name: "Find Out How I Got My Stimulus Check From Obamas Bailout Early," one text ad claimed.

These ads often guide users to registration forms that request credit card information in exchange for a list of available government grants — data provided free by the Fed. Users that fail to cancel their memberships can be build monthly charges and higher fees.

"Our AdWords Content Policy does not permit ads for sites that make false claims, and we investigate and remove any ads that violate our policies," Google vowed.

Harrington also encouraged consumers to inform websites when they see scam-related ads.

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