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Scam watch: Facebook 'cancellation,' Ponzi scheme, website ads

May 27, 2012|By Stuart Pfeifer | This post has been corrected, as indicated below.
  • Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. (Paul Sakuma / Associated…)

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

Facebook "cancellation" – Facebook users should be cautious if they receive an email that claims they need to take action to prevent their Facebook accounts from being canceled, according to the Internet security blog Naked Security. Users who follow a link on the email can end up downloading code that allows hackers to spy on their activities and take over their computers. Instead of following links in the emails, users should sign into their Facebook accounts and communicate with Facebook staff directly.

Ponzi scheme – An Irvine attorney has been sentenced to more than seven years in federal prison for her role in an investment scheme that caused victims to lose about $20 million. Jeanne Rowzee, 53, and her partner, James Halstead, attracted investors by promising returns of between 25% and 35% every three to four months. Victims were told that their money would be used to make short-term loans to businesses and that there was no chance they would lose money. In reality, the victims' money was never invested. Rowzee and Halstead instead used the money to make Ponzi payments to some investors and to support their lavish lifestyles. According to court documents, Halstead used $191,005 of victim-investors' money to buy a Ferrari, more than $1 million to purchase a home for himself in the Las Vegas area and $162,350 to buy a Porsche. Halstead was previously sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Own-your-own website – A federal judge in Arizona has temporarily stopped a business that offered consumers the chance to start their own websites with promises of big advertising revenue. The Federal Trade Commission had alleged in a lawsuit that North America Marketing and Associates charged consumers between $100 and $400 to build and host websites, which generated little or no revenue. In addition, the FTC said, the company tried to sell customers more expensive plans. When customers started to complain, the FTC said, the company shut down and opened under a different name.

[For the record, 4:25 p.m. May 27: An earlier version of this post said victims of a Ponzi scheme were told that there was a chance they would lose money. In fact, the victims were told that there was no chance they would lose money.]

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