In a representative case, federal prosecutors in New York City just charged a husband-and-wife team, Philip Pestrichello and Rosalie Florie, with running a nationwide fraud under the name Preferred Platinum Services Network. They allegedly told people they could get good pay for addressing mail from their homes. The feds say respondents "typically got nothing in return" after paying up-front an $80 "enrollment fee."
It's certainly understandable that laid-off workers who have lost their medical coverage would seek out the cheapest deals. But authorities report a growing problem with cut-rate online pharmacies that send drugs that turn out either to be bogus or to have less medicinal content than advertised.
Mystery Shopper Scam
With time on your hands, you might be attracted by Internet ads seeking "mystery shoppers" to buy products and report on the shopping experience to marketers. You're sent a check for, say $2,000, with instructions to write your own check and return the unused balance. The $2,000 check is no good, but you don't find that out until long after you've forked over your part.
In the face of economic adversity, you want to maintain decent credit. So you might be more responsive when you get a call from someone saying they're from your credit-card company checking out "unusual activity" on your account. Beware. Let the caller tell you your full credit card number, and never provide that three-digit security code on the back.
Guaranteed High-Yield Investments
You want to preserve your limited nest egg and live on it too. But lucrative sure-things just don't exist in the world of investments, especially in today's low-interest era. Still, the Internet is as full as ever of pitches for such products: 18% annually from buying car loans; 16% investing in Brazil land deals; 10% per month trading options. At best, such returns come only by assuming a huge amount of risk, which is being minimized in a fraudulent manner.
“You’re A Winner” Notices
You just got a letter or e-mail saying a big prize awaits you from winning a lottery or sweepstakes. The answer to your out-of-work prayers! But wait. Did you ever buy a ticket? If not, throw away the request asking for bank account information to which your winnings can be wired.
Nigerian-Style E-mails From Everywhere
As obviously phony as they might seem, elaborately worded e-mails offering a hefty fee for the simple use of a personal bank account to move vast sums out of some foreign country still catch some people. Originally sent in the name of widows of assorted African bureaucrats, more recent efforts key to worldwide events in the news ("Because of the earthquake in Haiti, I ask your help in transferring ...")
Garage Sale Payments
In times of economic distress, getting rid of unneeded goods at a garage sale seems like a good way to raise a little money. But from strangers, only accept cash. Police agencies report problems with unknown buyers walking off with goods after paying with a check that later bounced.
Property Tax Reduction Services
As you try to hold onto your home, the pitch comes in an official-looking envelope. Since property taxes are based on market values, which are way down, hire us for a fee--$179 in one recent Los Angeles-area mailing--to file a request for a reduction in your property valuation. Legal, but sketchy. That's because this usually can be done for free using a form downloadable from the local tax assessor's Web site. In many places--including Los Angeles County--the assessor already automatically reassesses likely candidates for reduction.