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Scam watch: March Madness, car loans, identity theft

March 18, 2012|By Stuart Pfeifer
  • UNC-Asheville and Syracuse basketball players fight for a loose ball during a first-round game Thursday. Syracuse won, 72-65.
UNC-Asheville and Syracuse basketball players fight for a loose ball during… (Gene J. Pusker/Associated…)

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

March Madness – Not that Southern California college basketball fans have much to worry about, but the Better Business Bureau warns that scams frequently pop up during the men’s college basketball playoffs. Fans should be careful when buying tickets on websites such as Craigslist, which does not guarantee that products sold on the site are authentic and does not collect personal information from sellers, the BBB said. Other areas of concern are counterfeit merchandise and hotel- or other travel-related scams. The BBB suggests that fans buy tickets directly from the NCAA or through reputable brokers. “Major sporting events like the NCAA tournament almost always inspire scammers to capitalize on the scarcity of tickets and fans’ desire to snap up souvenirs or team jerseys,” the BBB’s Michelle L. Corey said. “The BBB advises fans to check out offers with the BBB before plunking down money or giving credit card numbers.”

Car loans – Five car dealers from across the United States have agreed to stop running ads in which they promised to pay off consumers’ car loans no matter how much was owed. The Federal Trade Commission had accused the dealers of deceiving consumers because the loan balances were rolled into new loans, meaning the debt was simply transferred, not eliminated. "Buying a new car or truck is a major financial commitment, and the last thing consumers need is to be tricked into thinking that a dealer will 'pay off' what they owe on their current vehicle when they really won't," said David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The Federal Trade Commission is constantly on the lookout for potentially deceptive ads and brings actions to stop them when appropriate."

Identity theft – A Riverside County woman has been accused of defrauding the state of California by filing disability and unemployment claims in the names of others, without those people's knowledge. Maria M. Rocha, 43, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Riverside on 18 counts of mail fraud and three counts of identity theft. The indictment alleged that Rocha filed 83 fraudulent disability claims and 12 unemployment claims, using the names and personal information of co-workers, friends and relatives. The state lost more than $280,000 in the scam, the indictment said.


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