Scam of the day – May 3, 2012 – Time share scams

Timeshare sales have had more than their share of scams involved with them, but in the last three years the number of people victimized by time share scams have increased dramatically.   Recently, 22 people were indicted for timeshare resale fraud in Illinois.   In Florida, timeshare resale fraud is the subject of the greatest number of consumer complaints.  Timeshares are a legitimate vacation option for many people, but particularly since the economy first soured in 2008, resales have been difficult for many people and the scammers have come in to prey upon timeshare owners trying to sell their interests with promises of buyers that never materialize after charging the timeshare owners upfront fees of between $2,000 and $8,000 that vanishes with the scammers.

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Always check out the legitimacy of anyone proposing to help you sell your timeshare.  You can check with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org, your state’s attorney general at www.naag.org and your local consumer protection agencies at www.consumeraction.gov.  Make sure you have a lawyer review any contract before you sign it and it is a good idea not to pay in advance for the services of someone purporting to assist you in reselling your timeshare unit.

Scam of the day – April 17, 2012 – New gift card scams

Gift cards have been a source of numerous scams with the most recent being a scam that comes in the form of a text message where the potential victim is told that they have won a free gift card as a result of a contest in which they were automatically enrolled when they made a recent purchase using their credit or debit card at a local retailer.  The problem is that in order to claim your gift card, you have to pay a $25 dollar processing fee.  Of course, the contest is a scam and anyone paying the money and providing personal information runs the risk of not only losing their $25, but also of becoming a victim of identity theft through the personal information they provide the scammer.

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Chances are if you had enrolled in a contest, you would have remembered so when you are told that you have won a contest about which you have no memory of ever entering, it is a scam.  If you have any thoughts that you might have won a legitimate contest, contact the company allegedly putting on the contest to see if indeed it is legitimate.  It is also a good idea to check with your local attorney general to also check out whether it is a fraud.

Mystery Shopper Scam

These scams lure victims by telling them that they will be paid to shop at various stores and then report on their shopping experience to market research firms that work for the retailers to help them evaluate and improve their customer relations.

How the scam works is that once the victim signs up for the program, he or she receives a certified bank check to cover the cost of the purchases (which the mystery shopper is allowed to keep) as well as the payment to the mystery shopper for his or her services.  The scam artist further instructs the victim to wire back to the scam artist the balance remaining of the funds sent by the certified check.  Many victims have thought they were being careful by waiting for the check to clear before making their purchases and sending back the remainder only to find that banks routinely give provisional credit for checks of less than $5,000 within five days.   Once the certified bank check is discovered to be a forgery, the bank deducts the amount of the check from the victim’s account.  Unfortunately, also deducted from the victim’s account are the funds that the victim wired to the scam artist under the mistaken impression that the certified bank check indeed was an actual certified bank check.

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Whenever you are provided payment by check, always wait for the check to truly clear before trusting that the funds are legitimate.  One reason that mystery shopping scams work is that there are legitimate mystery shopping jobs although they are relatively few.  A good place to check out if a mystery shopping company is legitimate is with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association, a trade organization of legitimate mystery shopping companies.  Their website can be found at http://www.mysteryshop.org/

As always, you should also check into the particular mystery shopping company you are interested in with the FTC, the Better Business Bureau and your local state attorney general.

Work at Home Scam

Working at home sounds very appealing.  No commute and you get to work in your pajamas.  What could be more convenient than that?  Stuffing envelopes, a common work at home scam from the past has been updated to offers of being paid to read emails.  The range of work at home scams is constantly changing and evolving, but the result is always the same – rarely are these work at home schemes legitimate nor do they provide any income except for the scammers who operate them.  Often the advertisements for these work at home scams appear in legitimate media who have not properly checked out the legitimacy of the advertisement.

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As always, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.  Check out work at home scams with the big three – your local attorney general, the Better Business Bureau and the FTC.  And as always, you can Google the name of the particular company offering you the work at home program with the word “scam” next to it and see what turns up.