Here is a roundup of alleged cons, frauds and schemes to watch out for.
Beauty queen – Prosecutors in Santa Clara County have accused the former Mrs. Pakistan World of using her good looks to entice desperate homeowners into paying her tens of thousands of dollars in a loan-modification scam. The Santa Clara County district attorney’s office charged Saman Hasnain and her husband, Jawad, with 17 counts of grand theft for allegedly bilking 17 homeowners, the San Jose Mercury News reported. In the scheme, Hasnain and her husband told homeowners that, for an advance fee of at least $4,500, they would negotiate with banks to reduce their mortgages and forgive overdue payments. But the couple did not negotiate with banks, absconded with the money and returned to Pakistan, prosecutors said. Consumer advocates recommend never paying an advance fee to a loan-modification firm. Instead, payments should be made only after the loans have been modified.
Energy bills – Law enforcement officials are warning the public that a computer virus is being transmitted through emails that appear to be from utility companies. The email says that a utility bill needs to be paid and instructs recipients to click a link to view the bill. People who click on the link have reported that their computers were infected with viruses, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Computer-security advocates caution that people should only click on email links if they are confident they know -- and trust -- the person who sent the email.