Holiday Purchases Online Means Increased Scams, Identity Thefts

As on-line holiday purchases have just passed the $10 million mark, cyber criminals are taking note and increasingly looking to the internet to scam consumers.

According to a recent FTC survey, identity theft continues to top the charts for consumer complaints, with 313,982 last year alone, a 21% increase from 2007.

Consumers are reminded to not give our crucial information such as credit card and bank account numbers without confirming the legitimacy of the business.

In addition, shoppers are reminded to keep records of online transactions and to store financial information in a safe place.

Consumers getting high interest rates will soon know why

Consumers receiving loans at higher-than-average interest rates due to their past credit history will now be giving more information about the loan offer.

According to a report at Bloomberg News, the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Reserve Board announced this week they’ll give consumers information on why they received lending terms like they did, and also offer them a free credit report and score.

As laws stand now, lenders don’t have to give any reason why they’ve offered a consumer a certain interest rate on a loan, or why they’re denying a prospective consumer.

The Federal Register said it will send consumers who get “unfavorable” loan terms information about their credit past, as well as the free report and score.

The new laws to protect consumers were signed in 2003 but aren’t scheduled to take effect until the beginning of 2011.

Holiday Purchases Online Means Increased Scams, Identity Thefts

As on-line holiday purchases have just passed the $10 million mark, cyber criminals are taking note and increasingly looking to the internet to scam consumers.

According to a recent FTC survey, identity theft continues to top the charts for consumer complaints, with 313,982 last year alone, a 21% increase from 2007.

Consumers are reminded to not give our crucial information such as credit card and bank account numbers without confirming the legitimacy of the business.

In addition, shoppers are reminded to keep records of online transactions and to store financial information in a safe place.

Two New Jersey men convicted on charges related to mortgage fraud scheme

Two New Jersey men were convicted late last week on charges related to a mortgage fraud scheme they operated.

According to an AP report, Frederick Ugwu and Amer Min were found guilding on wire fraud and money laundering charges in connection with a fraud ring they ran in Paterson, N.J.

Lawyers for the U.S. government say the co-defendants conspired to get millions in loans for unqualified home buyers and would “flip” properties in an attempt to gain larger-than-deserved profits.

Each man faces up to eight years in prison but federal prosecutors are expected to ask the sentencing judge to increase the penalty in this case.

Homeowners Warned Against Fake Chinese Drywall Tests, Treatments

The FTC is warning homeowners to be on the alert for anyone trying to sell test kits, inspections, and quick fixes for tainted Chinese drywall.

The Federal Interagency Task Force is studying testing and remediation protocols for affected homes, but no federally-approved testing kits or remediation methods currently exist.

The FITF has found a strong association between the problem drywall, the hydrogen sulfide levels in homes with that drywall, and corrosion in those homes.

Federal agencies investigating the matter include the CPSC, the EPA and CDC.

First attempt at reclaiming money lost to auction-rate securities fails

Auction-rate investors must try again to sue banks over billions in losses in recent years.

According to a Bloomberg report, the first five cases against banks like Citigroup Inc. and UBS AG have been dismissed because auction-rate investors failed to prove they lost money after the market froze in February 2008.

Before that time, banks participated in auctions which set interest rates on investments, and said the securities were as safe as cash.

However, that market froze and banks were suddenly no longer in the lending business, and auction-rate investors claim they lost out on $149 billion.

Many people who purchased these securities were told it was a safe investment. Municipal bonds and bonds on student loans were touted as fail-safe, but when the market froze, those who purchased these securities could no longer sell them at face value – as they had been pitched.

Those who had their cases dismissed were told they could re-file their claims.

Federal officials promise convictions after wave or corporate fraud

U.S. regulators, lawmakers and law enforcement officials recently vowed to keep tracking down perpetrators of corporate fraud.

The call to action came in reponse to Delaware Sen. Edward Kauffman asking why he and millions of Americans haven’t seen any convictions related to the widespread cases of fraud that brought down much of Wall Street, and the American economy, in the last two years.

Actually, very few convictions have followed reports of corporate fraud. Regulators claim it’s difficult to track these corporate criminals due to a lack of a paper trail, per se.

Much of the corporate fraud happens because the criminals are able to hide money in foreign accounts, however, a lot of crimes occur right under the proverbial nose of regulators.

At a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, members of the Justice Dept., FBI, and Securities and Exchange Commission they’re exhausting their abilities to bring mroe corporate criminals to justice.

SEC Approves Surprise Audits in Wake of Madoff Scandal

The Securities and Exchange Commission has approved a measure intended to ensure that no more Bernard Madoffs slip through the cracks.

The rule, dubbed by some “the Madoff fix,” allows for surprise audits of investment advisers and was approved unanimously by a five-member SEC committee.

The surprise-audit rule will require certain SEC-registered advisers, who have custody of clients’ assets, to retain an independent public accountant to conduct an annual surprise exam to verify that the money actually exists.

If funds are found missing during the process, the accountants must notify the SEC.

Medical Fraud Raids Result in Arrests in Three States

Federal agents have arrested 26 suspects in three states, including a doctor and nurses, in a crackdown on Medicare fraud totaling $61 million.

The arrests were made in Brooklyn, Detroit and Miami.

The raids came a week after a report that Miami-Dade County got more than half a billion dollars from Medicare in home health care payments intended for the sickest patients in 2008, more than the rest of the country combined.

Only 2 percent of those patients nationwide live there.

Attorneys General Ask FTC to Stop “Free” Credit Report Ads

A group of state Attorneys General has asked the FTC to toughen restrictions against companies that advertise “free” credit reports.

Most advertise “free” credit reports but require consumers to purchase other products or services to access their annual report.

Each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies must already provide consumers with a free copy of their credit report upon request every 12 months as required by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The Annual Credit Report Request Service, which is the free, federally-authorized service sponsored by the three national credit reporting firms, is also available.