'Tis the season for scams. Consumer protection advocates are again sending out warnings of scam artists preying on the gullible, greedy and hurried this holiday season.
"I couldn't believe the deal," said shopper Mary Ferring, recalling some cookware she saw on the Internet. â€śIt looked like it was worth about $400 or $500 and the cost was $60."
Suffering through tight economic times, Ferring was searching the Web for good gifts and great prices when she found what appeared to be expensive set of cookware for an incredibly low price. What she got in the mail after she made the purchase, however, was cheaply made tin pots and pans that she equated to a camping mess kit.
(Click the audio player to hear more on this story from CNN Radio's Jim Roope)
"I wouldn't give this to anybody,â€ť Ferring said. Though she wanted to return the set, she found no return address on the label and no contact information on the site from which she purchased it.
â€śHer story is all too common,â€ť said Audri Lanford, who founded scambusters.org in 1994. "The fact that she actually got something in the mail is unusual. Most of the time, people donâ€™t get anything when they send their money in."
Many scams operate during the holidays. Consumer protection people point to the "12 Scams of Christmas." Here are those scams, and some tips to avoid them:
A Virginia Tech police officer was among two people killed Thursday on the school's campus, prompting a sweeping search and school-wide lockdown that lasted over four hours.
Around 4:30 p.m., the school in Blacksburg, Virginia, announced on its Twitter feed that "law enforcement agencies have determined there is no longer an active threat or need to secure in place. Resume normal activities."
Police said the incident started shortly after noon, when the police officer made a traffic stop in the Coliseum parking lot near McComas Hall. During that stop, a person who wasn't involved in the traffic stop approached and shot the officer, authorities said.
After witnesses told police that the shooter fled toward a nearby parking lot, an investigating officer saw a "suspicious person" alive in that lot. When the officer circled back to approach the person - described as a white male - that person was dead of a gunshot wound, police said.
Editor's note: This post is part of theÂ Overheard on CNN.comÂ series, a regular featureÂ that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
News of a shooting incident at Virginia Tech today, in which two people - including a Virginia Tech police officer - were killed, brought out a spirited debate about violence in educational institutions, as well as gun use. Some people were critical of Virginia Tech, but many were supportive. Among these comments were several passionate notes from the Virginia Tech community, with scores Hokies and their families expressing sadness over the deaths and support for the school.
One student posted the following comment while waiting in lockdown.
Ryan: "I'm currently a student at Virginia Tech, and I am currently locked in Pamplin Hall which is near where the events have taken place. This school is an amazing place with an amazing community, and nothing could happen here that would convince me to go to a different school no matter what anyone says. I feel extremely safe at this school, and I couldn't imagine myself anywhere else. To everyone that is being disrespectful, I'm praying for you that you can recognize how tragic some of the events that have happened here are."
Students shared their feelings and fears with the community:
Carol:Â "I am a Hokie and will go for my Ph.D. to Blacksburg and I really feel we do not deserve this. My prayers with all the Blacksburg students." FULL POST
A Marine Corps cameraman was able to capture a rare, firsthand glimpse into a battle with the Taliban. The footage offers an unfiltered look at the Marineâ€™s experience when faced with a surprise attack by the Taliban on November 22, 2011.
Lance Cpl. Jacob Lagoze captured footage of the Marines of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment as they engaged in aÂ firefight with the Taliban for more than three hours at a remote outpost in southern Afghanistan.
The Marines stationed at Patrol Base Georgetown found themselves under fire from Taliban forces embedded in caves across the Helmand River. This video offers a glimpse into the grim realities of war, and includes sound from several Marines as they reflect on their combat experience. The Marine regiment was forced to call in an airstrike to provide backup fire during the battle. While the unit did suffer some injuries as a result of the conflict, all marines are currently recovering or have returned to duty.
A top GOP critic of President Barack Obama's Justice Department cranked up the political heat Thursday on Attorney General Eric Holder, threatening possible impeachment over the handling of Operation Fast and Furious, a severely flawed and now discredited federal gun-sting plan.
"Heads should roll," Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner told Holder during an appearance by the attorney general before the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee.
"There is really no responsibility within the Justice Department. The thing is, if we don't get to the bottom of this - and that requires your assistance on that - there is only one alternative that Congress has and it is called impeachment."
Sensenbrenner did not make clear if he was referring to the possible impeachment of Holder or other top Justice Department officials.FULL STORY
European Union leaders on Thursday begin a two-day summit in Belgium to determine how to save the euro, a roughly decade-old currency whose viability has been threatened because of EU membersâ€™ national debts.
Among the items of discussion will be proposals by the leaders of Germany and France, which want the European Union to have more influence over the budgets of the nations that use the euro. (Seventeen of the EUâ€™s 27 countries use the common currency.) The French minister for European affairs, Jean Leonetti, warned Thursday that the euro could "explode" and Europe could "unravel" if a solution isn't found.
The following is a collection of information and links that will help you understand how the EU got to this point, and what EU members hope to do.
Events leading to this week's meeting
The national debts of euro members including Greece, Ireland and Portugal have pushed the euro to the brink of collapse, with a series of austerity measures and bailouts not yet convincing world markets that the single monetary system for 17 nations can survive.
Back in 2004 - two years after the euro debuted in note and coin form - Greece admitted it gave misleading financial information to gain admission to the eurozone, CNN's Peter Wilkinson and Irene Chapple report. Greece then revealed its 2009 budget deficit would be 12.7% of gross domestic product - well beyond the eurozone limit of 3%. Worried investors no longer would give Greece the money it needed to fund itself, and the country took a â‚¬110 billion bailout from its eurozone peers and the International Monetary Fund.
Donald Trump is a man of many titles. Reality TV mogul, business tycoon, potential political power broker.Â You name it, the man has his hands in just about everything. And he seem to have an opinion on just about everything too. For today's Gotta Watch, we bring you more of the outlandish things "The Donald" loves to say. Have you ever listened to this guy? One might think the man just loves to hear himself talk.
The military council that runs Egypt and an Islamist party that has done well in parliamentary elections accused each other Thursday of plotting a dictatorship.
"We will not allow a dictatorship and we do not want to remain in power, but we do want a civil government representing all Egyptians without marginalizing any minorities," said Lt. Col. Amr Imam, a spokesman for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has run the country since a popular uprising ousted former President Hosni Mubarak in February.
His remarks seemed aimed at Islamist parties that have done well in the first round of parliamentary elections, including the relatively moderate Muslim Brotherhood.
Its Freedom and Justice Party has said it had won 34 seats in early parliamentary elections, while the more hardline al-Nour party said it had won five.
Former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky posted $250,000 bail and left jail Thursday, according to his attorney.
Sandusky was arrested Wednesday on four counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and two counts of unlawful contact with a minor.
He will be placed under house arrest and will be required to wear an electronic monitoring device, court officials have said.
Thick black smoke and darting flames enveloped the turbulent Syrian region of Homs Thursday after what the government and activists say was an attack on an oil pipeline.
Amateur video said to be from the site of the strike shows smoke and the flames from the pipeline near the western city of Homs.
Homs and its province of the same name have become hotbeds of resistance to the government of President Bashar al-Assad. It has been wracked with violence during the nine-month-long government crackdown against peaceful protesters.FULL STORY
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin blamed the United States Thursday for encouraging opposition protests that have broken out since parliamentary elections Sunday.
His accusation followed comments by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week on Russia's election in which she called for a "full investigation" of apparent irregularities.
The United States had "serious concerns about the conduct of the election," she said, at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe Tuesday.
Speaking on state TV, Putin said Clinton had criticized the elections as "neither fair not free - even before receiving reports from international observers."
This had sent a signal to opposition figures, Putin said, who "with the support of the U.S. State Department" then began "active work."FULL STORY
Free-agent slugger Albert Pujols will join the Los Angeles Angels on a 10-year contract worth at least $250 million, according to reports Thursday morning.
Both Yahoo! Sports and ESPN reported that Pujols, who has spent his entire 11-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals, had agreed to the deal. Both organizations cited anonymous sources in reporting the deal.
Pujols has a lifetime batting average of .328 with 445 home runs and 1,329 RBI in his 11 seasons with the Cardinals.
The 31-year-old first baseman hit .299 with 37 home runs and 99 RBI last season as the Cardinals won the World Series.
The deal would be the second or third richest in major league history, falling behind Alex Rodriguez's deals with the New York Yankees and possibly the Rodriguez's earlier deal with the Texas Rangers, according to the Yahoo! report.
Three things to follow Thursday:
Fast and Furious hearing: U.S. Attorney General Eric HolderÂ faces what is expected to be a stormy congressional hearingÂ on a flawed gun sting operation known as Fast and Furious.
Holder on Thursday is due to testify in front of a House panel investigating possible wrongdoing in the operation, which was run by theÂ Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The progam, whichÂ began in 2009, allowed illegally purchased firearms to be taken from gun stores in Arizona across the U.S.-Mexico border to drug cartels. The intent was to monitor the flow of weapons to their ultimate destination.
However, hundreds of weapons were lost or unaccounted for, and a storm of outrage erupted when two of the missing weapons were found at the site where Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed last December.
About 1,400 internal documents about the operation were delivered to three congressional committees last week. One Republican senator on Wednesday called onÂ Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer to resign, alleging that BreuerÂ had been dishonest with Congress about his knowledge of Operation Fast and Furious.
The 2012 presidential election may be 11 months away, but that doesn't mean CNN.com Live is resting on its laurels.Â We are your home for all the latest news from the campaign trail.
Today's programming highlights...
9:30 am ET - MF Global bankruptcy hearing - Former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine will discuss the collapse of his brokerage firm, MF Global, before the House Agriculture Committee.
Oregon State football player Fred Thompson collapsed and died Wednesday night while playing basketball at a campus gym, the school reported.
Thompson, a freshman from Richmond, California, was pronounced dead after being transported to Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis, the school said on its website.
The 6-foot-4, 317 pound defensive tackle died just four days short of his 20th birthday.
The university plans a press conference Thursday to discuss the case, according to the school's website.
Thursday morning, the website showed a picture of Thompson with the words "the thoughts and prayers of Beaver Nation are with Fred's family."
awyers for Zachary Tomaselli scheduled a Thursday news conference to announce their intention to file a civil suit against former Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine..
Tomaselli was thrust into the national spotlight this month as the third man to publicly allege that Fine molested him when he was 13.
Tomaselli has said they watched pornography together before Fine fondled him in a hotel room in Pittsburgh, where he'd gone to watch a Syracuse game in 2002.
Tomaselli will attend the news conference "and speak to his abuse," according to a statement from attorneys Jeff Anderson and Alan Perer released late Wednesday.
Authorities say they are investigating the allegations.
The developments came hours after a New York District attorney told reporters he had handed over "exculpatory" records on the team's travel and accommodations to Fine's attorneys. He also handed over information on Tomaselli's school attendance, but declined to say whether he found him credible.
Exculpatory material tends to either indicate the accuser was not telling the truth or is beneficial to the defense, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said.
Fine's attorneys, Donald Martin and Karl Sleight, said earlier Wednesday they looked forward to reviewing material from Fitzpatrick.FULL STORY
The Pakistani actress featured in a racy cover shot in the December edition of a men's magazine in India told CNN she posed topless but not completely naked.
Veena Malik appeared on the cover of the Indian edition of FHM wearing only one thing: a tattoo on her arm bearing the initials ISI, the acronym for Pakistan's infamous Inter-Services Intelligence agency - causing a stir in her conservative homeland.
Malik said FHM doctored the photographs to show her without clothes and has now revealed plans to sue the publication.
"I admit that I have done a bold shoot," she said, "but I was not nude. There is a big difference between topless and being nude.
"You will see various shoots here in the Bollywood industry where the actresses actually went topless but they were covered like the way I was."FULL STORY
The husband of an American woman, who has been missing for six weeks in Japan, said Thursday that she had threatened to kill herself the night she disappeared after the two argued.
Vince Abad, an airman at a major U.S. Air Force facility in Japan, said he and his wife, Kelli, had fought over the phone on the night of October 26 after he had gone to see their pastor, who had helped resolve disputes between them in the past.
When he returned home, his wife was gone and their two children were in bed.
"We'd had arguments before - it didn't feel too out of place," Abad, 30, said. He said he assumed she had gone to stay with a friend.
But when Kelli Abad, 27, didn't come back by the following morning, he became concerned and raised the alarm.
Two days later, the wife's car, a Toyota SUV, was found at Cape Zanpa on the island of Okinawa, about 10 miles from the base, with her cell phone and purse inside.
Also inside the car was a note, Abad said, that read, "Love my kids, love my hubby and parents. Bye."FULL STORY
The family of an Australian man, convicted of blasphemy by a Saudi Arabian court, wonders what it is he could have said that earned him a sentence of 500 lashes and a year in prison.
Mansor Almaribe's son said the pair only had a 90-second phone conversation since his arrest last month.
"He could not speak freely because authorities were around him but he said the charges are very stupid and 'They charged me for something I have not done," his son, Issam, said.
Almaribe was found guilty of blasphemy after he was arrested last month in Medina while on a pilgrimage, Australian officials said.
It's unclear what the 45-year-old Shia Muslim from Victoria state said or did to get arrested.
"I don't think my dad would even survive 50 lashes not 500," the son said. "He goes to the doctor every week for checks ups. He has knee injuries and back injuries from a car accident and he also has diabetes and high blood pressure."
The family spent weeks searching for the Iraqi born father of five after he went missing in early November while performing the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
"When we found out what happened, it was the worst thing I ever pictured in my life," Almaribe said. "My mother cried the whole night and my baby brother cried because he saw my mom crying. It was the worst night ever imaginable."