Used cars, immigration lotteries: Your weekly ScamWatch

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

Used cars –- Consumers should take caution to avoid fake dealerships when purchasing used cars on the Internet, the Better Business Bureau said in a news release. Some con artists are setting up websites for fake dealerships, requesting deposits and then failing to deliver the cars, the BBB said. Michelle Corey of the BBB said consumers should take caution when paying in advance for anything marketed on the Internet. She suggests consumers purchase only from well-established businesses with solid reputations. They also should use credit cards whenever possible in case they later need to challenge the purchases.

Immigration lotteries –- Immigrants living in the United States have been targets of a scam in which they receive emails that claim they have won lotteries to receive U.S. immigrant visas. The emails include an official-looking State Department letterhead and request payment of $819 through Western Union to a company in London, said Paul Young Choi, an immigration lawyer in Encino. Immigrants who receive such emails should ignore them, Choi said. He notes that U.S. government agencies do not send invoices by email requesting payment to third parties in foreign countries.

Online “Yellow Pages” –- A European-based operation has bilked U.S. small businesses, churches and nonprofit organizations out of millions of dollars through phony bills for online advertising, the Federal Trade Commission has alleged. The operation, based in Spain, England and the Netherlands, sends invoices to U.S. offices for online advertising they did not want and then refuses to issue refunds to companies that discover they’ve been duped, the FTC alleged in a lawsuit against several companies, including Yellow Page Marketing Yellow Publishing and Yellow Data Services.


-- Stuart Pfeifer