Scam watch: Facebook lottery, unclaimed money, foreclosure rescue


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

Facebook lottery - Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Inc.’s founder and chief executive, is a savvy businessman. As much as you may want to believe it, he’s not going to just hand you $1 million. The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to delete emails that say they’ve won $1 million in ‘our 2011 Sweepstakes (Facebook Inc).” The emails are not from Facebook and recipients should not click on links in the email to claim the ‘prize.’ The links will likely install malware –- harmful or malicious programs -– on the recipient’s computer, the BBB said. Or they’ll lead to an email reply from a scammer asking to be paid in advance to cover taxes or fees on the nonexistent prize.

Unclaimed property - The Better Business Bureau is warning about another email offer that sounds too good to be true -- and probably is. The emails advise recipients that they have ‘millions of dollars’ of unclaimed money available to them, if they call an overseas telephone number. Anyone who calls the number will end up on the line with a scammer who wants to get personal information such as bank account, credit card and Social Security numbers, the group said. If you receive an email claiming you have unclaimed property, chances are it is a scam. The best option is to delete it. Many states do hold unclaimed money from long-ignored bank accounts, returned tax refunds and other places. But they do not send out emails advertising this. Instead, many states have websites that consumers can search for unclaimed money.


Foreclosure rescue - Many financial scams target people in distress. Federal prosecutors in Arizona say a Phoenix man duped at least 1,800 people into paying him for a bogus offer to help people avoid foreclosure. Luis Belevan, 34, pleaded guilty this month to charges related to the scheme. Prosecutors said he had told people about to lose their homes that he could buy their homes and offer restructured loans at much lower monthly payments. Homeowners paid $1,595 up front, but got nothing in return, according to prosecutors. As part of a plea agreement, Belevan, who has agreed to pay more than $2 million to victims, faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.


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-- Stuart Pfeifer