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Immigrants seeking legal help are targets of fraud

The Federal Trade Commission warns immigrants to beware of scammers posing as government officers or lawyers. Also, a calling card firm's marketing is temporarily halted and the maker of guitar-instruction DVDs is fined $250,000.

June 13, 2011|By Stuart Pfeifer

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

Immigration services — Immigrants seeking legal representation should beware of scammers who pose as government officers or lawyers, the Federal Trade Commission said in a news release. A federal court recently shut down a Baltimore firm that provided immigration services without a license, the FTC said. "Scammers often try to take advantage of immigrants by claiming to be affiliated with government immigration agencies, posing as immigration lawyers, or pretending to provide legitimate immigration-related services," FTC Commissioner Edith Ramirez said. "What's even more appalling is that they target people who are among the most vulnerable."

Calling cards — Acting at the request of the FTC, a federal court has temporarily halted the marketing of telephone calling cards by Millennium Telecard Inc. The FTC accused the company in a lawsuit of misrepresenting the number of minutes the cards deliver and failing to disclose fees that eat away at the cards' value. The company marketed several calling cards with service to foreign countries under such names as Africa Magic, Hola Amigo and Viva Ecuador, the FTC said.

Fake reviews — A company that sold guitar-instruction DVDs has agreed to pay a $250,000 fine to resolve civil charges that it paid marketers to pose as ordinary customers and give its products positive online reviews. The FTC had filed a suit accusing Legacy Learning Systems Inc. and its owner, Lester Gabriel Smith, of deceptive advertising. In addition to the fine, the Nashville, Tenn., company agreed to set up a system to monitor its marketers' actions.

Gas mileage — With gasoline prices hovering around $4 a gallon, it may sound tempting to invest in products that claim to improve gas mileage. But the Better Business Bureau warns that many of these products "are simply too good to be true." The BBB advises consumers to be wary of products that can be attached to cars or be added to fuel. "The marketing of supposed miraculous gas gadgets has occurred during every gas crisis period since the mid-1970s," said Dale Mingilton, president of the BBB in the Denver area.

stuart.pfeifer@latimes.com

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