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Scams & Warnings

WANTED: Con Artists Who Sold Woman a Fake ‘Gold Brick’

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NORWALK — Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department detectives are searching for two con artists targeting and swindling elderly individuals in several cities including Norwalk, Paramount and Anaheim.

On notable scam occurred in October when two fraudsters entered a popular retail establishment located on the 10600 block of Firestone Boulevard in Norwalk and took advantage of an 80 year-old elderly lady by tricking her into giving them $4,000 cash for a fake “gold brick.”

The fraudsters had convinced the 80 year-old lady to buy the “gold brick” by offering it to her at half the claimed value. Additionally, the suspects claimed it was real and that they could not sell it because of their illegal immigration status.

The 80 year-old lady then drove to a nearby bank with the suspects in her car, withdrew the $4000 cash and gave it to the fraudsters.

The female fraudster (pictured in the flyer) is described as a female Hispanic, approximately 40-50 years of age, standing approximately 5 feet tall and weighing about 210 lbs. She wore a dark bandana, eyeglasses, a black shirt and blue jeans.

The second fraudster who is also pictured in the flyer is described as a male Hispanic, approximately 60 years of age, standing approximately 5’11” tall and weighing about 180 lbs. He wore a straw hat, light green shirt and tan/beige colored pants.

Novelty gold bar for sale on Amazon.

If you recognize any or both of the two pictured fraudsters, you are encouraged to contact Norwalk Sheriff’s Station, Detective Hernandez at 562-466-5431 or email aahernan@lasd.org.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department wants you to know that the elderly are frequent targets of con artists like these because generally, elderly individuals exemplify politeness and trust, are willing to listen and are considered naïve. The elderly may also tend be alone and not able to provide enough detailed information to family or investigators.

If you or someone you know are elderly, please consider the following information to avoid being scammed:

  • 1. If someone approaches you and tries to sell you anything in public, it’s probably a trick or a fake product. Walk away.
  • 2. Don’t believe any strangers out in public attempting to sell you gold or diamonds for a cheaper price. Walk away.
  • 3. If the deal or prize is too good to be true; it’s more than likely a scam. Walk away and don’t give these individuals your attention or time.

If you prefer to provide information anonymously, you may call “Crime Stoppers” by dialing (800) 222-TIPS (8477), use your smartphone by downloading the “P3 Tips” Mobile APP on Google play or the Apple App Store or by using the website http://lacrimestoppers.org

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Scams & Warnings

Scammers Are Posing as Census Workers on the Phone and in Person

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Photo: Public News Service

DENVER — Census numbers are used to allocate political representation and to determine how many federal tax dollars are sent back to states for education and health programs, transportation, infrastructure and more.

But imposter scams continue to target older Americans, and with the upcoming 2020 Census, many Colorado residents could be receiving phony census contacts fishing for personal information that can result in fraud or identity theft.

Natriece Bryant, deputy executive director of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, says the more people understand how the Census actually will work, the more likely they’ll recognize shady activity.

“There’s only 10 questions that they will be asked, and none of those questions includes anything regarding their Social Security number, bank information, credit card information,” Bryant points out. “They’ll never ask for any money or donations.”

Invitations to participate in the once-a-decade count will be sent by mail this month. People can fill out the form online, or by mail, or by telephone if assistance is needed.

If people don’t respond, starting in May, Census workers will start knocking on doors to ensure an accurate count.

Official workers should be able to show you their Census Bureau photo ID badge with a Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date.

Nearly half of U.S. adults said they had been targeted by an imposter scam, according to a recent AARP survey, and the number of scams where criminals pose as government representatives increased more than 50% over 2018.

Bryant says one common scam to look out for involves getting a voicemail threatening arrest if you don’t call back.

“And it’s kind of like the same type of scams that you get with the IRS scam, of someone from the IRS saying they’re contacting you, if you don’t call them back that they could arrest you,” she explains. “That’s never something that will be utilized by the Census Bureau, it’s never something that anyone should ever receive.”

Scammers have learned to capitalize on current events, and Bryant says now that the Census is in the news, be on the lookout for criminals looking to deceive people into sharing sensitive information or handing over money.

If you think you’ve been targeted, or if you’re not sure if a Census form is legitimate, visit colorado.gov/census2020.

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Consumer News

Officials: Coronavirus Price Gouging and Scams Will Be Prosecuted

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LOS ANGELES — Warning members of the public to beware of misinformation, price gouging and scams connected to the coronavirus pandemic, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and District Attorney Jackie Lacey have announced the creation of a Joint Coronavirus Task Force.

The L.A. County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs and L.A. County Counsel are also participating with multiple efforts to stop illegal and dangerous practices.

“We’re fighting to protect an anxious and uncertain public from price-gouging, online scams and misinformation,” said Feuer.

“My office is investigating traditional stores and online retailers, uncovering unsubstantiated advertising claims about alleged coronavirus prevention, treatment, and cures, and investigating safety products—such as protective masks—that may not perform as advertised, as well as products being sold at astronomical prices. And we’re taking action. If you’re a victim, please contact our Office.”

“As prosecutors, we see first-hand how consumer fraud can infringe on our sense of security, shatter our trust and endanger our well-being,” Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said. “The consequences of today’s scams are more than just financial. These frauds may affect our health and the health of those around us. Unfortunately, every one of us is at risk of being duped by one of these scams.”

“With the spread of COVID-19, the most important action item is to safeguard our health and practice important prevention techniques. There is no room for moral depravity and putting profits over people. Under this State of Emergency, California’s price-gouging and consumer protection laws go into full effect. I encourage everyone to exercise decency and work with the City Attorney, District Attorney and Attorney General’s offices to end illegal acts in this critical moment,” said Assemblywoman Christy Smith, Chair of the California State Legislature Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management.

In its first effort to protect consumers from coronavirus scams, the City Attorney’s Office has announced immediate success in removing internet advertising making alleged false claims about coronavirus prevention and treatment.

Attorneys from Feuer’s office discovered alleged false advertising from the Los Angeles-area company CEN Group LLC via its website, www.safebabyhealthychild.com, which markets and sells vitamin supplements.

It alleges, among other alleged false claims, that vitamin C is a “safe and proven treatment” that “can protect against coronavirus,” that “[p]eople are dying needlessly of coronavirus,” that “high doses of vitamins, especially Vitamin C, can be used to address the coronavirus outbreak”, and that “the coronavirus can be dramatically slowed or stopped completely with the immediate widespread use of high doses of vitamin C.”

The F.D.A. and F.T.C. have recently warned that there are currently no vaccines or drugs approved to treat the coronavirus, and the National Institute of Health has also cautioned that “alternative” treatments—such as high doses of vitamins A, C and D also do nothing to protect from the virus and are ineffective against Covid-19—and can in fact be harmful.

Feuer’s office is concerned that the advertising claims related to Vitamin C as a treatment for coronavirus might induce consumers to ignore bona fide recommended precautions, such as vigilant hand-washing and social distancing, contacted the company.

In response, CEN Group LLC immediately agreed to remove these claims from its website.

Consumers must also be alert to price gouging laws, triggered whenever a federal, state, or local state of emergency has been declared, as on March 4  in Los Angeles County in connection with coronavirus.

Under the law, for 30 days following the emergency declaration, it is unlawful for any consumer good, food or service to be sold, or offered for sale, at a price higher than 10% more than it was sold, or offered for sale, prior to the emergency declaration.

This includes medical supplies and any items purchased online and delivered to Los Angeles.

The City Attorney has the authority to proceed both criminally or civilly in response to price gouging violations. Violators may be sentenced to up to one year of county jail and/or fined up to $10,000.

Civil law enforcement actions for price gougers can result in penalties, restitution to ripped off consumers and court orders to curb price gouging.

Investigators from the City Attorney’s Office have also been scouring brick and mortar and online businesses looking for overpriced items.  Over the last week City investigators found and purchased on Amazon a hand sanitizer two-pack for $149 and a half-gallon of bleach for over $100, and have since alerted Amazon to these practices. 

The City Attorney is awaiting delivery of these items and, if his office can identify their third-party sellers, is prepared to take legal action.    

Besides ripping off consumers, price gouging has another negative consequence. Even if consumers don’t make the purchase, just seeing such inflated prices can raise concerns and fuel general panic about a scarcity of items tied to this emergency.

Feuer’s office also is requiring companies advertising in California on coronavirus-related issues to substantiate claims with scientific or other appropriate evidence. To this end, the office has sent letters to companies which claim their products can prevent exposure to coronavirus and/or treat it.

Among the products the office has requested evidence about are “Silver Solution,” which is sold by televangelist Jim Bakker and claims to kill strains of coronavirus, and face masks sold on ModernBeyond.com, accompanied by claims that the masks can reduce the risk of contracting coronavirus by 95.99%.

If these companies do not substantiate or stop making these claims, the City Attorney’s Office will take further legal action.
Feuer and Lacey also warn of additional consumer scams related to coronavirus, which can include:

  • Websites selling fake cures and safety gear.
  • Fake emails, texts and social media posts from phishers posing as the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, or the Department of Health and Human Services who spread false information about a cure in an attempt to get credit card and personal information or to convince people to click on links that can infect their computers with malware.
  • Fake donation requests, which may come in the form of people asking for donations to help those impacted by coronavirus and needing donations only by cash or gift card.
  • Fake investment opportunities such as products or services of publicly-traded companies being able to treat and cure coronavirus and whose stock will dramatically increase, so consumers are pressured to “get in now!”          

Feuer urges anyone who is a victim of price gouging or a coronavirus consumer scam to file a complaint with the Office of the City Attorney – either online or by calling 213-978-8340. 

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Prosecutions

Man Who Extorted Santa Monicans With Gay Sex Ads Pleads Guilty

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LOS ANGELES (Santa Monica Mirror) — A man has pleaded guilty to using Craigslist, among other sites, to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from Santa Monica and Los Angeles men who responded to ads offering gay sex services.

28-year-old Tyler Buchanan pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal felony charges using an interstate facility to facilitate an unlawful activity, transmitting threatening communications with intent to extort, receiving and disposing of proceeds of extortion and criminal forfeiture.

Buchanan, who remains in federal custody due to being deemed a risk to flee, faces up to 10 years in federal depending on the outcome of a sentencing hearing set for May 11.

Over a period of six years, Buchanan purchased more than 1,300 ads […]

Continue reading at smmirror.com

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