Scam watch: Credit cards, auto repairs, phone cards

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

Credit cards — At the request of the Federal Trade Commission, a federal judge has halted a telemarketing campaign that allegedly sold bogus credit cards and drained money from victims' bank accounts. Operating as Platinum Trust Card and Express Platinum Card, the businesses offered credit cards with a limit of up to $9,500 for an advance fee of $99 and a monthly charge of $19. The company said the cards could be used at any business that accepted Visa or MasterCard, but they actually could be used only at an online store the business promoted.

Auto repairs — Car problems are difficult enough. Getting scammed into paying for unnecessary repairs or those performed poorly or not at all can make things much worse. Consumers filed more than 14,000 complaints in 2011 with the Better Business Bureau about alleged scams by auto repair shops. The BBB issued a bulletin recently that suggested consumers take care when getting cars repaired. Among the tips: Ask friends or co-workers to recommend car repair shops; get a written estimate of parts and labor before authorizing any work; and get a written receipt listing all work performed and warranties after you pick up your car.

Phone cards — An operation that marketed prepaid calling cards to immigrants has agreed to pay $2.3 million to resolve allegations, brought by the Federal Trade Commission, that it overstated the number of minutes the cards would deliver. The calling cards were promoted with names such as "Hola Amigo" and "Viva Ecuador," the FTC said. The agency tested nearly 200 cards and found that more than 98% failed to deliver the number of promised minutes because of hidden costs such as hang-up fees and weekly fees. The companies that sold the cards operated as Millennium Telecard Inc., Coleccion Latina Inc. and Telecard USA Center Inc.

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