Scam watch: Cyber Monday, pre-IPO fund, tech support


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

Cyber Monday -- Online shoppers can expect to find many discounts the Monday after Thanksgiving, or Cyber Monday. But the biggest online shopping day of the year also can present opportunities to Internet criminals. The Better Business Bureau has some recommendations to avoid scams on Cyber Monday, including: installing anti-virus software, shopping only at trusted sites, avoiding deals that sound too good to be true, paying with a credit card because those charges can be disputed and looking for the “s” in https:// -- a sign that a website is encrypted.

Pre-IPO fund -- For investors who had been excluded from recent initial public offerings of hot companies, one Florida-based hedge fund seemed like a golden opportunity. Operators of the Praetorian Global Fund claimed to hold pre-IPO shares of coveted companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Groupon. Investors responded in droves, piling more than $12.6 million into the fund since August 2010, much of it through a broker in New York. What the investors didn’t know was that the fund was operated by a convicted felon named John A. Mattera and held no pre-IPO shares, the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged in a recent lawsuit. Instead, Mattera used most of the investors’ money to support a lavish lifestyle, spending it on private jets, luxury cars and fine art, the SEC said. The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan filed criminal charges against Mattera, who was arrested Nov. 17.


Tech support phone calls -- North Carolina consumers have reported getting calls from phony tech support specialists who are out to access their personal information and use it to steal their money, North Carolina Atty. Gen. Roy Cooper said. More than a dozen North Carolina residents have called Cooper’s Consumer Protection Division in November to report suspicious calls from phony tech support specialists claiming to be partners with Microsoft or Windows. The consumers are directed to a website through which the scam artists are able to access all data stored on the victims’ computers, Cooper said. The calls seem to target seniors and other consumers who may not be technologically savvy. Cooper and other law enforcement officials encourage consumers to never provide personal information such as bank account or credit card numbers to a stranger over the telephone. If you have a concern about your computer, contact the manufacturer directly.


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-- Stuart Pfeifer