Fraud & Scams

Revenge for a Gym Membership Scam


Reddit user virinix says he was scammed by GoodLife Fitness back in the 90s. In brief, he signed up for a trial membership, decided to cancel, and canceled his membership before it began. Two years later, the trouble started.

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A Third of Herbal Supplements Don’t Contain the Herb on the Label

Using DNA barcoding, Canadian researchers tested 44 popular supplements and found that a third of them weren’t what they claimed to be. Here’s the New York Times:

Many were adulterated with ingredients not listed on the label, like rice, soybean and wheat, which are used as fillers.

In some cases, these fillers were the only plant detected in the bottle …

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Bancorp Didn’t Think it Was Weird to Mail 1,000+ Tax-Refund Cards to the Same Address


When a tax-refund fraudster left a wallet with 13 debit cards issued in 13 different names — none of them his own — at a United Airlines ticket counter, it raised a few red flags. It also resulted in the bust of a huge tax-refund fraud ring, centered in Florida.

Here is how the fraud works:

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Patent Trolls Find More Victims: Scanner Users

Imagine you are a patent troll, holding onto a portfolio of patents you can only assert against a handful of companies. At some point, you start running out of victims. So why not invent some more?

That’s what a group of companies with names like AccNum, AllLed, AdzPro, CalNeb, ChaPac, FanPar, FasLan, FulNer, GosNel, and HunLos do. They send out copies of a letter like this to small companies:

Apparently, something like 18% of companies that receive the letter do actually pay, according to Ars Technica. Why? Fear, I guess. And as Ars points out, invalidating these almost-certainly-invalid patents would be difficult or impossible, and would definitely be expensive. Similar to debt collectors sending thousands of robo-signed demand letters at a time, these patent trolls have found a sort of loophole in the system that allows them to engage in a sort of legalized extortion.

Gangs Add Identity Theft and Tax Fraud to Dealing Drugs

Guest post by Nussin S. Fogel.

Gangs across the country are finding white collar crime much easier than dealing drugs on street corners: they’ve learned how to profit from identity theft and tax fraud.

Florida is ground zero for the crime, but the problem is growing throughout the US.

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Ohio AG Goes After California Debt Settlement Companies

Debt settlement is basically debt collection by another name. Out of one side of their mouths, debt settlement companies promise creditors they will help them get paid. Out of the other side of their mouths, debt settlement companies promise consumers great “deals” to resolve their debts. In order to appear more effective (or trustworthy, maybe), many debt settlement companies go to great lengths to appear to be law firms, while putting WE ARE NOT YOUR LAWYER disclaimers in the small print to attempt to avoid violating unauthorized practice of law regulations.

At best, consumers spend a lot of money to get settlements they could easily have gotten themselves with a few phone calls. At worst—and far too often—consumers spend a lot of money and get nothing.

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Phishing by Phone

Tonight, I received the following official-sounding message from “the Transaction Review Department of Wells Fargo Bank” asking me to “verify recent transactions on [my] credit Visa card.” While I do have a Wells Fargo business card, this message doesn’t sound quite right. First, I’ve never heard anyone refer to a “credit Visa card.” Second, as far as I can tell, Wells Fargo does not have a “Transaction Review Department.” Third, there are no unusual charges to my account—by me or anyone else.

I haven’t called the number, because I’m pretty sure this is a phishing attempt, and I’m not interested in giving the phisher in question any verification that it has the correct phone number.

It is just good enough that many people would probably respond. I’m quite certain those who respond will be asked for their account information, and would find their cards maxed shortly after.

Be on the lookout for scams like this. Don’t believe anything that doesn’t sound right, and don’t ever give out your account information over the phone.

“Free Trials” Usually Aren’t

Minnesota consumer lawyer Randall Ryder points out that a “free trial” is like a fishing lure; it looks like a nice treat, but it is just a hook designed to haul you in. Don’t bite.

Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. When you sign up for a free trial, you are paying with the information you provide, and giving the company permission to continue marketing to you. At a minimum, you pay for the “free” stuff with your permission and attention. If you don’t read the fine print carefully, you may wind up paying from your wallet, too.

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From Robo-Signing to Forgery, the Foreclosures Continue

At least robo-signers actually sign their names, even if they have no idea what they are signing. Some foreclosure law firms have a room full of clerks signing attorneys’ names to foreclosure documents. Bank of New York attorney Gary McCafferty said “many documents his firm submitted to court with his signature had in fact been signed by administrative staff . . . .”

As bankruptcy lawyer Max Gardner explains:

“They have a small number of attorneys and a very large back office,” Gardner said. “The first time an attorney knows anything about a case in these kinds of operations is when someone like me files a response.”

As with the robo-signers, forged signatures have resulted in the dismissal of foreclosure lawsuits in courts across the country. It wouldn’t surprised me if they result in the dismissal of a few lawyers from the bar, as well.

(Thanks, Consumerist!)