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Your weekly ScamWatch

April 3, 2011 |  6:07 am

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

Timeshare sales – The Federal Trade Commission has filed a lawsuit that seeks to stop a Florida company from running a scam that targeted timeshare property owners. The FTC accused Vacation Property Services and two related companies of charging upfront fees as high as $8,000 to sell timeshare properties quickly, but rarely followed through with sales. When consumers realized they had been duped, company officials declined to pay refunds, the lawsuit said. The FTC is seeking an order barring the company from further illegal conduct and requiring refunds for consumers.

Insurance agent – A former insurance agent has been convicted of two misdemeanor charges of theft from an elder. Paul Edward Broussard was accused of stealing $32,500 from an elderly woman whom he helped obtain a reverse mortgage.  Broussard persuaded the victim to let him invest $25,000 for her, but made no investments and did not return the money.  He also borrowed money from the woman and did not fully repay it, prosecutors said. After his conviction, Broussard was sentenced to probation and ordered to never again work as an insurance agent in California. He refunded all the money to the victim.

“Free” trial offers – The Federal Trade Commission is cautioning consumers to be wary of “unscrupulous merchants” who make it difficult to avoid charges for products that were initially offered as free trials. Some of these merchants put conditions on returns or cancellations that make it next to impossible to avoid charges, the FTC said in a news release. “Find the terms and conditions of the offer. If you can’t find them or can’t understand exactly what you’re agreeing to, look for another merchant. You don’t want to commit to recurring charges for products or services by mistake –- or before you’ve tried them and made your decision,” the FTC said.

 -- Stuart Pfeifer