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'Free' vacations, lines of credit: Your weekly ScamWatch

May 29, 2011 |  5:33 am

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

‘Free’ vacations –- The Federal Trade Commission is suing a company it said preyed on the Spanish-speaking community by charging fees for vacation packages that victims supposedly had won in contests but failing to provide the trips. According to a lawsuit filed in Florida, VGC Corp. of America placed ads on Spanish-language television and radio stations promising prizes to callers if they could answer a trivia question. Callers who gave the correct answer were told that they had won free trips but would have to pay $400 to receive the package. Once they paid, however, callers did not get their prizes and were told that they did not meet certain undisclosed requirements. VGC operated All Dreams Vacations, All Dreams Travel and other companies.

Credit lines –- Acting at the request of the FTC, a federal judge has ordered the operators of a credit line marketing company to pay $3.7 million for violating a court order that barred them from making unauthorized debits from customers’ bank accounts. In 2008, Dale Paul Cleveland, William Richard Wilson and EDebitPay and three defunct companies paid more than $2.2 million to settle FTC allegations that they made unauthorized debits from customers who had signed up for prepaid debit cards and short-term loans. The court order prohibited them from similar conduct in the future. In February, a federal judge found that the defendants were marketing a “$10,000 credit line” that appeared to be a general line of credit when it actually was only an opportunity to make purchases from a shopping club. In addition, the judge found that the company had made unauthorized debits from customer accounts, a violation of the 2008 order. The defendants have appealed.

Unexpected packages –- The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to be extremely careful if unexpected emails arrives advising them that they’ve received packages they weren’t expecting. The BBB advises consumers not to click on links or attachments in the emails until they can confirm they’re not malicious. Often, emails containing grammatical mistakes or typos were sent from overseas scam artists hoping to obtain recipients' personal information, the BBB said.

-- Stuart Pfeifer