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Scam watch: Credit cards, weight-loss supplement, chimney sweeps

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

Stolen credit cards -– A Costa Mesa man has been convicted of identity theft and other federal crimes related to the theft of credit cards from Vietnamese immigrants living in Southern California. A federal jury in Los Angeles convicted Hung Van Tieu, 62, of conspiracy, credit card fraud and identity theft. The charges carry a sentence of two to 32 years in federal prison. Tieu was part of a team of con men who called credit card companies in 2010 and 2011, impersonated customers and asked for new cards to be mailed to the address on file. The team intercepted the cards from the mail and used them to run up more than $100,000 in purchases of luxury goods, including Rolex watches, and to withdraw thousands of dollars in Las Vegas casinos, including the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay and MGM Grand hotels.

Weight-loss supplement -- As part of a crackdown on companies promoting bogus health claims, the Federal Trade Commission settled charges brought against three people and two companies for deceptively advertising a supposed weight-loss supplement ingredient. One defendant was banned from making any weight-loss claims related to foods, drugs or dietary supplements and was ordered to turn over a vacation home and other assets to the FTC. The marketers were part of a scheme that supplied manufacturers of weight-loss supplements with a substance they claimed was a derivative of a plant native to southern Africa commonly referred to as hoodia.

Chimney sweeps -– With winter approaching, the Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to be careful about who they hire to clean their chimneys. So far this year, the group has received more than 380 complaints from consumers who say they were scammed by chimney cleaners who did poor work or no work at all. That’s an increase from 342 complaints in all of 2010. “Chimney sweeping is not something that homeowners deal with often, so we may lack knowledge of the cleaning process,” said Katherine Hutt, spokesperson for the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “Many scammers take advantage of this.” The group suggests that consumers research chimney sweep companies on the Internet to find out how long they’ve been in business, whether they have liability insurance and whether employees were certified by the nonprofit Chimney Safety Institute of America.

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-- Stuart Pfeifer

Photo: The Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. Credit: Jim Laurie / Associated Press 

 
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