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Consumer Reports

Feds crack $6 million golf club scam | SANTA ANA, Calif. (UPI) -- A Southern California telemarketing operation that allegedly swindled amateur golfers out of nearly $6 million was shut down Thursday with the arrest of nine suspects on fraud charges.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Los Angeles said the eight defendants, as well as a ninth suspect who remained at large, were involved in an increasingly popular scam in which victims send in a credit card number as a deposit in return for being allowed to "test" supposedly top-of-the line golf clubs at no cost for 60 days.

"Crooks have been operating these golf club scams for the past several years, and they continue to entice innocent victims who remain unaware of this con," Debra Yang, the United States Attorney in Los Angeles, said in a release.

According to prosecutors, the Orange County Boiler Room Apprehension Task Force discovered that a Huntington Beach company called Professional Golf Products was able to convince victims to send them a credit card "security deposit" of around $1,000-$1,600 in return for the use of the clubs.

"Once this security deposit is paid, the victim is sent a set of cheap, low-quality golf clubs worth well less that the so-called security deposit," the release said. "After the victim tries the clubs and realizes they have a relatively low value, it is nearly impossible to return the clubs to the telemarketers and obtain a refund of the security deposit."

The defendants, who were scheduled to appear in federal court in Santa Ana Thursday afternoon, allegedly absconded with $5.8 million in deposits. If convicted, they face 10 years on each of the multiple mail fraud and wire fraud counts.

Some of the scammed golfers sent the clubs back in hopes of having their money returned while others were allegedly told by PGP that they had "bought" the clubs because their supposed field testing did not satisfy the company's technical standards.

"It is always a bad idea to give personal information or a credit card number to anyone who calls offering a 'deal' unless you are absolutely positive of their identity and legitimacy," Yang cautioned.

Yang said that identical scams had occurred before in Southern California, including a recent case that cost victims $4 million and sent the owner of the supposed golf company to prison for eight years.

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