Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It's All a Scam!

Do you ever the sense that everyone really is out to get you?  I'm not talking about that sick sense you have in the back of you mind that tells you you're crazy (although sometimes those voices do have some pretty good ideas). No, I'm talking about all those tricks people play to squeeze your hard, earned money out of your hands.  I work with a lady who works at Target (a department store here in California) who was telling me about one popular scam she sees everyday.  The scam works like this - people buy things with a coupon. Then they go to another Target store and return the item and get the full cash value in return.  So, say the coupon gives them $10 off; they drive to the other store and get what they paid, plus the $10.  They do this over and over and over.  You'd think Target would get sick of this scam and write code into their cash registers to keep track of this stuff.  You'd think.

Another scam deals with automobiles.  Actually, this one hits pretty close to home as it happened to me.  See, I was in the market for buying a used car.  I found one - a Honda Hatchback.  It was 12 years old, had a clear title and the price was pretty OK.  The thing that should have tipped me off was that the engine was spotless - not a drop of oil or grease or dust anywhere.  That and the odometer read 20,000 miles.  12 years old and 20,000 miles.  Yeah, right.  Well, I was young and stupid and I bought the car, anyway.  4 months later, I threw a piston rod and the mechanic says, "This is an old, old engine!"  What I didn't realize when I handed over my cash was that the sellers had turned back the odometer to say the miles are lower than they were - suggesting to the mind that the engine was in great shape.  Live and learn, I guess.  Actually we here at our law library have a great resource that deals with car scams.  It's called Automobile Fraud and is put out by the National Consumer Law Center.  It covers car scams, lemon law(s), and everything that has to deal with underhanded automotive dealings.

Another type of scam is identify fraud.  This one covers a whole gamut of offenses and leads to a whole lot of litigation.  I remember not too long ago my wife and I got our credit card numbers lifted.  In minutes, the person(s) who stole our numbers were at the fast food places, buying televisions, a bunch of stuff we wouldn't do - which is why the credit card was frozen by our bank because it saw a funky pattern of purchases.  Maybe you've been a victim of Identity theft/fraud.  Maybe you'd like to read up on identify theft/fraud.  If so, perhaps you should point your attention to a great pamphlet Online Identity Theft Protection for Dummies. Another great resource is called Credit Repair by Nolo Press.  Sadly, it deals with the after effects of identity theft, but at lease it's something.  

The last type of scam I want to address in this posting is a personal sticking point because people who are in a position of public trust are intentionally messing with our heads for profit.  Not that I've ever had the misfortune to deal with it but it's still a scam nonetheless.  Specifically, I'm talking about expunging a felony record.

Here's the situation.  A person gets charged with and is prosecuted for a felony (i.e. a year or more in prison).  The person gets out on probation, serves his full probation, doesn't do another bad thing, is a stellar citizen, and then tries to get a job.  Now, every job application has a question somewhere that says - have you ever been convicted of a crime?  That's where the felony thing comes up.  If you answer "YES" you can forget about getting that job.  If you answer "NO" and they do a background check, you'll be fired before too long.  Here's where the scam comes into play.  The courts created this thing called EXPUNGEMENT.  In essence, if you apply and are granted expungement, you can legally say "NO" on the job application because your felony magically disappears.  

Well, actually it doesn't.  There is forever a record of your felony on the files with the state Attorney General.  Yeah, tell me about it.  All it would take to get you fired is a call by the employer to the state Attorney General, pay a fee (to get a copy of your record), and you'll be fired post haste - because you technically lied on your job application and you technically lied on your job application because you had applied for expungement and the courts had said if you expunge your felony that you can technically lie on the job application.  Yeah, it's not so - the courts and attorneys have lied to you and the reason they lied to you was because it allows attorneys to charge you upwards of $1,500 to file the expungement on your behalf.  One thousand five hundred dollars to file one (1) legal form and attach a letter saying you've been a good boy or girl and are sorry for what you've done and that you'll never do it again.  Bottom line, expungement is a SCAM of the worst kind because the courts and lawyers are behind it all the way.  If you still want to try your hand at expungement, might I point your attention to The Criminal Law Handbook by Nolo Press or California Criminal Practice, Motions, Jury Instructions and Sentencing by West Publishing (pay particular attention to Chapters 24 and 59).

The best advice I can give you is to just listen to your momma who always seemed to know what was going to happen long before it happened.  Yep, like momma always said, be sure to wear clean underwear before you leave home, be home before it gets dark, and if it's too good to be true, it is.  Words to live by.