Scam watch: Immigration assistance, online brokerage, Ponzi scheme

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

Immigration assistance -- U.S. immigration laws have been changed to allow certain young immigrants who entered the country as children to apply for permits to live and work in the United States. Such changes could provide an opportunity for scams that young immigrants should be careful to avoid, California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris said in a news release. To protect themselves, prospective program applicants should check out attorneys online at the State Bar of California website or by calling (800) 843-9053, Harris said. Immigration consultants who are not attorneys cannot provide legal assistance, Harris said. They can only provide nonlegal help, such as translating answers on immigration forms.

Online brokerage -- Brokerage firm Scottrade Inc. is advising its customers who access their accounts online to take caution if they receive pop-up messages that ask for credit card, ATM card or Social Security numbers. Do not respond to the inquiry, the firm said. If that happens, “your computer is likely infected with a virus,” Scottrade told its account holders. “Please contact your Scottrade team to report it .… In addition, you will need to take the necessary steps to remove this virus from your computer.”

Ponzi scheme -- The Securities and Exchange Commission has obtained an emergency court order freezing the assets of an online investment firm it accused of operating a Ponzi scheme. The SEC alleged that Paul Burks of Lexington, N.C., and his company, Rex Venture Group, raised more than $600 million from investors through the website Investors were promised up to 50% of the company’s daily net profits. But there were no profits, the SEC said. Instead, new investor money was used to pay returns to early investors, the SEC said. “The scheme is teetering on collapse with investor funds at risk of dissipation,” the SEC said. “If customers continue to increasingly elect to receive cash payouts rather than reinvesting their money … cash outflows would eventually exceed its total revenue.” Burks, without admitting or denying guilt, agreed to settle the charges against him and cooperate with a court-appointed receiver who is attempting to recover investor money.



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