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Real estate scams still problem in Victoria

Jan. 13, 2011 at midnight
Updated Jan. 14, 2011 at 7:15 p.m.


By Alan Bligh

Real estate scams are prevalent today and are showing no signs of going away. A common form of these scams involves a con artist advertising a house as a rental when it is not. In fact, it's a house that is actually for sale and being advertised on a legitimate local real estate company's website. The con artist takes the picture from the website and puts it on his fraudulent website. He advertises on craigslist that the house is for rent, asking for first and last month's rent. A web address is given to view the house. The prospective tenant checks out the house online and sends the deposit. Many times con artists ask their victims to wire the money. Once the money is wired, it is gone, and there is no getting it back.

In the past, we have talked at length about phishing scams. You know, those annoying e-mails that claim to be from your bank, department store, etc. They always try to trick you into going to a bogus site. Well, here is a new one.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has received numerous reports from consumers who received an e-mail that has the appearance of being sent from the FDIC. The e-mail informs the recipient that "in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security, the FDIC has withdrawn deposit insurance from the recipient's account 'due to account activity that violates the Patriot Act.'" It further states deposit insurance will remain suspended until identity and account information can be verified using a system called "IDVerify." If you do go to the link provided to correct the information, your personal data will be stolen or a virus/malware will be installed on your machine.

For-profit colleges currently enroll 1.8 million students, according to the U.S. Department of Education. While for-profit schools are becoming a more popular option for students, a recent investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that some are misleading students about the cost and quality of the education they will receive. Last year, your BBB received nearly 1,200 complaints against for-profit schools and recommends consumers do their research before enrolling. Common complaints against for-profit schools allege unauthorized or additional billing for tuition or enrollment fees, high pressure sales tactics or problems in obtaining certificates of completion or refunds.

The federal government is poised for the first time to make public thousands of complaints it receives each year about safety problems with various products. The compilation of consumer complaints, set to be launched online in March by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has been hailed by consumer advocates as a resource that will revolutionize the way people make buying decisions. But major manufacturing and industry groups have raised concerns about the public database, saying it may be filled with fictitious slams against their brands. Competitors or others with political motives could post inaccurate claims. The problem is the agency will not be able to verify each complaint for truthfulness.

Alan Bligh is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau in Corpus Christi. Contact him by e-mail at abligh@corpuschristi.bbb.org.

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