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Pay debt-relief firms only after getting results

Also: The Better Business Bureau warns people to avoid Wade Capital Management, a 'vacation ownership closing company.' And report suspicious emails to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

April 10, 2012|By Stuart Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times

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

Mortgage relief: One of the most common scams in recent years involves companies that promise to provide debt relief to homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgages. Avoid any company that asks you to pay an upfront fee for this kind of service — instead, fees should be paid only after the firm is able to reduce monthly payments or provide other favorable results. The Federal Trade Commission recently obtained a $3.9-million judgment against three firms that charged homeowners as much as $4,000 apiece, promising to reduce mortgage payments and interest rates but failing to deliver.

Time shares: There's no shortage of scams in the time-share business. The Better Business Bureau is warning people to avoid a company called Wade Capital Management, which bills itself as a "vacation ownership closing company." The company has attempted to get consumers to wire money to an account in Mexico as a "transfer commission fee" involving the sale of a time-share property. The BBB said consumers should never wire money to people they don't know. "Wiring money is like handing over cash; once the transaction is complete, it is irretrievable."

Suspicious email: If you've received a suspicious email, you can report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, which monitors Internet crime and refers cases to appropriate law enforcement agencies. A common problem involves emails that tell recipients they've won a lottery or prize. Once contact is initiated, the recipients are told they need to pay the taxes upfront before they can receive the prize. But after the payment is sent, the prize money does not arrive.

Here's an email that a Times reporter recently referred to the Internet Crime Complaint Center: "On behalf of the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) in affiliation with Western Union Campaign for Global Economic Crisis eradication, we wish to notify you that your E-mail Address has won the sum of (1.8 Million Dollars). For security reasons and to avoid misappropriation of funds, proper verifications must be carried out before the fund is transferred. We require the details below for verification so that the transfer can be carried out. Your name, your country, tel, age, sex, occupation. Send the above details to us via the email addresses stated below. Thanks and God Bless."

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