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Scam watch: Bank theft, e-books, mortgage modification

December 26, 2011

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

Bank theft -- A Central California bank employee has been sentenced to 15 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to stealing nearly $100,000 from the accounts of two customers. Brenda Hurtado, 26, pleaded guilty in August to committing theft by a bank employee. A former employee of U.S. Bank in Arroyo Grande, she admitted changing the contact information for two customers in their 80s, closing their accounts and issuing herself cashier's checks for the closing balances. It is a good idea to check bank statements regularly to avoid mistakes, improper charges or theft, consumer advocates say.

E-books -– Consumers should take care when purchasing electronic books for devices such as Amazon’s Kindle or the Barnes & Noble Nook, the Better Business Bureau said in a recent bulletin. Some websites have been offering e-books for sale that were pirated or contain harmful malware, the BBB said. The bulletin cautions consumers to check the URL to make sure it begins with https://, a sign that it is secure, and to use reputable websites to avoid being victimized.

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Mortgage modification -– Five people have agreed to repay millions of dollars to victims who they duped by promising to help them reduce their mortgage payments but providing no services after receiving their fees of $4,250. According to a lawsuit filed last year by the Federal Trade Commission, the defendants offered a “Government Mortgage Relief Program,” even though they had no affiliation with the government. The company promised full refunds if they were unsuccessful at reducing mortgages, but failed to return the money and disconnected their telephones.

-- Stuart Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times

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