EBay fraud, wedding scams: Your weekly ScamWatch

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

EBay fraud –- A man who defrauded more than 250 people out of about $1.5 million by advertising high-end appliances on EBay and then failing to send the products has been sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison. Darin French, 40, was convicted by a jury in February on 22 counts of mail fraud, 11 counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering. Prosecutors said French and his wife, Jennifer, who was also convicted, established an online business called “Look What We Got,” which advertised kitchen appliances by Sub Zero, Viking and Wolf at discount prices. After initially shipping products to a few customers, the couple failed to send merchandise to about 250 customers and kept their victims’ money. The couple, who then lived in Incline Village, Nev., established multiple accounts on EBay and gave themselves positive feedback to trick customers into believing that they were trustworthy, prosecutors said. The couple used the stolen money to buy a $50,000 Bayliner boat and a Ford F250 pickup truck, prosecutors said. Jennifer French is scheduled to be sentenced July 11.

Wedding scams –- As the wedding season approaches, the Better Business Bureau is advising aspiring brides and grooms not to be blinded by love when planning for their big day. The BBB received nearly 1,000 wedding-related complaints in 2010. If you’re planning a wedding, the BBB said it’s important to research online vendors carefully, review terms of all contracts, keep all receipts and pay by credit card to provide additional protection in the event of a dispute. In addition, the BBB said, it’s a good idea to purchase wedding insurance, which can cover a host of potential problems, including vendor no-shows or other unexpected issues.

FDIC emails –- The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is cautioning the public about fraudulent emails that appear to be sent by the FDIC but are actually attempts to steal recipients’ personal information. Some of the emails are addressed to “business customer” or “business owner” and include phrases such as “We have important information about your bank.” Recipients of the emails are instructed to follow links, which can load malicious software onto victims’ computers or direct people to provide confidential information. The FDIC does not contact consumers in this way, the agency said in a recent alert.


Magazine sales –- The Better Business Bureau is cautioning consumers to be careful when dealing with door-to-door magazine salespeople. The BBB received more than 600 complaints in the first five months of 2011 about magazine sales, many of them from people who said that the magazines never arrived or that they were tricked into ordering more subscriptions than they intended. If you are considering buying from a door-to-door salesperson, the BBB suggests that you ask for everything in writing and then carefully review all materials and inspect the sales company before making any purchases.

-- Stuart Pfeifer