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Scam Watch: Summer burglaries and penny stocks

July 11, 2011|By Stuart Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times

Here is roundup of alleged cons, frauds and schemes to watch out for.

Burglary season — The summer months of July and August typically have the highest rate of home burglaries, in part because many people leave town for vacations, the Better Business Bureau said in a recent alert. Homeowners should consider installing security systems before they vacation this summer, the BBB said. Homes without such systems are about three times as likely to be burglarized as those with the systems, it said. Consumers who buy such systems should be careful to ask for a report of all costs upfront and use only professional installers, the BBB said.

Penny stocks — The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil lawsuits against several chief executives who, it alleges, paid bribes and kickbacks to artificially inflate the value of their companies' stocks. Some of the cases involved an undercover FBI agent who posed as an associate of a corrupt pension fund trustee who would buy stocks in the companies if he received a kickback. The companies involved included Real American Brands Inc., KCM Holdings Corp. and SmokeFree Innotec Inc., the SEC said in a news release. "Investors deserve better than secret investment strategies based on kickbacks and bribes," said Robert Khuzami, director of the SEC's enforcement division. "As our charges make clear, these CEOs got more than they bargained for but exactly what they deserved for making illicit payments to manipulate microcap stocks."

Beauty pageants — Parents should be careful when responding to promotions for beauty pageants, which can sometimes include hidden fees and result in expensive disappointments, the Better Business Bureau said in a recent bulletin. In 2010, the BBB received more than 10,000 inquiries from consumers about beauty pageant promotions, the BBB said. Parents should investigate the pageants on the Internet to determine their qualifications and such things as whether refunds are allowed, it said.

stuart.pfeifer@latimes.com

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