Here is a roundup of alleged cons, frauds and schemes to watch out for:
Stolen credit cards — A Costa Mesa man has been convicted of identity theft and other federal crimes related to the theft of credit cards from Vietnamese immigrants living in Southern California. A federal jury in Los Angeles convicted Hung Van Tieu, 62, of conspiracy, credit card fraud and identity theft. The charges carry a sentence of two to 32 years in federal prison. Tieu was part of a team of con men who called credit card companies in 2010-11, impersonated customers and asked for new cards to be mailed to addresses on file. The team intercepted the cards from the mail and used them to run up more than $100,000 in purchases of luxury goods, including Rolex watches, and to withdraw thousands of dollars at Las Vegas casinos, including the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay and MGM Grand.
Weight-loss supplement — As part of a crackdown on companies promoting bogus health claims, the Federal Trade Commission settled charges brought against three people and two companies for deceptively advertising a supposed weight-loss supplement ingredient. The settlement imposes a $22.5-million judgment against David J. Romeo and two New Jersey companies he controlled, Nutraceuticals International and Stella Labs; the judgment will be suspended when Romeo forfeits a vacation home in Vermont and assigns to the FTC the right to collect on $635,000 in business loans owed to him, the agency said. The FTC also banned Nutraceuticals International principal Craig Payton from marketing any foods, drugs or dietary supplements. A $4-million judgment against Nutraceuticals International marketing executive Deborah B. Vickery has been suspended because of her inability to pay, the FTC said. The marketers were part of a scheme that supplied manufacturers of weight-loss supplements with a substance they claimed was derived from a plant native to southern Africa known as hoodia. The individuals and the companies have been barred from making any more deceptive claims.
Chimney sweeps — With winter approaching, the Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to be careful about whom they hire to clean their chimneys. This year through October, the bureau has received more than 380 complaints from consumers who say they were scammed by chimney cleaners who did poor work — or no work at all. That's an increase from 342 complaints during the same period last year. "Chimney sweeping is not something that homeowners deal with often, so we may lack knowledge of the cleaning process," said Katherine Hutt, spokeswoman for the umbrella group Council of Better Business Bureaus. "Many scammers take advantage of this." Hutt's group suggests that consumers research chimney sweep companies on the Internet, find out how long they've been in business, whether they have liability insurance and whether employees have been certified by the nonprofit Chimney Safety Institute of America.