Here is a roundup of alleged cons, frauds and schemes to watch out for.
A Seal Beach man has agreed to pay a $5-million penalty to resolve allegations that he operated a fraud that targeted homeowners, renters and banks. Terrill Meisinger agreed to pay the money to resolve a lawsuit filed against him by the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles. Federal attorneys had accused Meisinger of contacting people who were facing foreclosure and making small cash payments, typically $500 to $1,500, to them if they deeded their homes to him and moved out before banks completed foreclosure. Meisinger then transferred the titles to third parties, whose identities he had stolen, and filed bankruptcies that triggered automatic stays on foreclosures. While banks tried to assess what had happened, Meisinger rented the homes, raking in huge profits, the U.S. attorney's office alleged. From 2000 to 2004, Meisinger collected more than $1.5 million in rents without making mortgage payments on the properties, most of which were in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, the U.S. attorney's office said.
It's not uncommon for people to knock on your front door, offering to sell something. One recent scam involved people selling meat or produce door to door, promising higher quality and lower prices than grocery stores, the Better Business Bureau said in a news release. The agency said it has received complaints from consumers who said they purchased food from door-to-door salespeople, but the food was poor quality or did not arrive at all. Before buying anything from a door-to-door salesperson, the BBB said, consumers should research the companies online and through the BBB's website to see if they have been the subject of complaints. Do not fall for high-pressure sales tactics, the organization said. If the company is legitimate, it will give consumers plenty of time to make a decision.
Prizes, with a price
The Federal Trade Commission has mailed refund checks to more than 500 people who were victimized by a common scam in which people are told they have won cash prizes but must pay the taxes upfront. The FTC collected the refund money from the operators of the Prize Information Bureau, which told potential victims that they had won millions of dollars but needed to pay fees in order to receive their prizes. This type of scam is common and is often perpetrated through email. In this case, the Prize Information Bureau contacted victims through mailings that included fictitious government agency names and official-looking seals. According to the FTC's lawsuit, the mailers were sent to hundreds of thousands of consumers and included false statements, such as: "Your identification as recipient for reported cash award entitlements totalling [sic] over $2,500,000.00 has been confirmed! We are so pleased at having the honor of informing you of this wonderful news." More than $180,000 was refunded to victims of the scam, the FTC said. The agency warned the public that no legitimate lottery or sweepstakes will ask for money upfront.