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Hustle leaves Amazon customers holding the box

If you get an empty box from Amazon, it might not be a mistake.

Scam Detector Inc. is reporting a new kind of fraud involving items purchased from a “Just Launched” product on Amazon.

These bogus third-party sellers are taking orders, collecting payment and then shipping empty boxes to customers. What they’re hoping is that you will sign for the delivery because once you do, the item is no longer eligible for Amazon’s “A to Z Guarantee,” Scam Detector says.

The scammers get the money, and you get an empty box.

The moral is to be wary of “Just Launched” items on Amazon that have no ratings yet, Scam Detector says. Especially raise an eyebrow if the supposed seller is advertising a wide range of products, and doesn’t appear to have any particular speciality.

In addition, adopt the old adage of suspecting anything that seems to good to be true.

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There’s a new kind of credit card fraud, with a new kind of name.

Instead of “skimming,” which involves placement of a device to read magnetic-strip cards when they’re swiped, the latest thing is “shimming.” It’s a way to rip people off by stealing information from chip cards. Turns out the old-style skimmer devices don’t work on cards with the newer chip technology.

This latest “data-pocketing technique” relies on a paper-thin, card-sized device with an embedded microchip and flash storage, says. The device is inserted into the card slot, so it can’t be detected like the old skimmers that were attached externally and were often bulky or wobbly.

When you insert your card at a gas pump, ATM or in another card reader, the shim device copies and saves the payment information. Scammers return later with a special card that collects the stolen information, such as PIN and card numbers, the Better Business Bureau says. That information can be used to make purchases with your account information.

This type of fraud first appeared a couple of years ago in Mexico and Arizona. Experts recommend these steps to make sure you don’t become a victim:

• Be aware of how smoothly the chip reader handles your card. If it gets stuck or if the reader seems to have a “tighter than normal grip” on your card, there could be a shim inside, the Better Business Bureau says. “You may want to cancel your transaction and notify the business.”

• As always, keep a close eye on your bank and credit accounts. Check online statements regularly to make sure there are no suspicious charges.

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Consumers who turn to online lending for such things as home or auto repairs, credit card debt consolidation or just plain help with personal expenses should heed this warning: beware of hidden fees that could total hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Federal Trade Commission filed suit recently against Lending Club, which offers personal lending online. Most personal loans are unsecured, meaning they don’t require collateral like a house or car, and typically have higher interest rates than secured loans.

Lending Club is accused of marketing loans by promising consumers “no hidden fees” but nevertheless charging a hidden up-front fee. The FTC says when the approved loan amount shows up in the customer’s bank account, a certain amount has been deducted as a fee. The FTC also alleges Lending Club has told consumers they have been approved for loans when they have not been and makes unauthorized withdrawals from consumers’ bank accounts.

The company, in a statement, said the allegations are “legally and factually unwarranted.”

In general for online lending, the FTC recommends:

• Getting a list of all fees, including any origination fees. Others could include prepayment penalty fees, late payment fees and check processing fees.

• Shopping around. Different lenders may quote different rates and terms, so you want to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

Ellen Marks is assistant business editor at the Albuquerque Journal. Contact her at or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-844-255-9210.