People have fallen for some crazy things but why do they do that? What makes us fall for scams that are obvious frauds? First, people make quick, irrational decisions sometimes and that can have consequences. We make these decisions because we don’t use our heads; instead we use our emotions, which can get the best of us sometimes. Two, we all want to be rich, we do not think rationally. We think that the bargain sounds like a great deal and that we can make a lot of money, so we automatically say yes right away. Lastly, we feel pressured from the person scamming us. They sound like they know their stuff and we don’t want to disappoint them. Basically, it’s in our nature to get scammed and people like to take advantage of that.
10. Nigerian Prince Scam
The Nigerian Prince Scam has been around as long as email has been available. This kind of scam involves an email from a prince in Nigeria and they want to give you money to hold for them until they can access it later. This means giving them your bank account information and they will transfer the money to you. People fall for this one pretty fast and lose a lot of money. This scam was named the Advance Fee Fraud or 419 Scam after the Nigerian Criminal Code that outlawed fraud in their country.
A woman from Sweet Home, Oregon fell for this scam and lost almost a half a million dollars. She sent these people money hoping for a big pay out. Janella Spears, a registered nurse and reverend started getting emails, the first one stated that she would get twenty million dollars from her grandfather, which the family had lost touch with years ago. All she had to do was send a hundred dollars and she would get her inheritance. This scam went on for over two years and each email and letter kept asking her for more money to get her inheritance. They even used President Bush and FBI Director Robert Mueller in the letters and email to gain her trust. She was even told by friends, family, and law enforcement to stop, that she was getting scammed but she still thought she was going to get a big payday so she kept going. The emails and letter had multiple spelling errors but she didn’t seem to notice. This is just one story of a victim of the Nigerian Prince Scam.
The list of things that you get scammed with on craigslist is pretty big. These are usually people that don’t know what “to good to be true” stands for and end up losing money or worst. The first scam that craigslist sees a lot of is renting or buying a house or apartment. Scammers post picture of a house that is maybe vacant or on the market on there and talk people into putting a down payment down on it. They say that they aren’t in the state or some other made up story to get you to give them money. Another one that really gets people is being given a fraudulent check, money order, or cashier’s check for a large ticket item, like a car. When you go to cash it, they tell you its fake or if they do cash it you will lose money from your account to cover it while the scammers are enjoying your ride. Counterfeit tickets are also a way for someone to scam you on Craigslist, whether airline, concert, or sporting event, they have become pros at making fake tickets and selling them to unknown purchasers. These are just some of the scams you can come across on that site. People still fall for these scams today and the site even has a disclaimer about what to look for in a scam on their site.
The renting scam seems to be the one that works the best because people are so trusting. In Tulsa, Oklahoma a widowed mother fell victim to this scam. Kimberly Mayfield found a house on craigslist and was shown the property and gave the “landlord” seven hundred and fifty dollars to move in. He then told her that his wife was in the hospital having a baby and that he would draw up a lease for her and he would bring it by. Mayfield moved into the house but shortly after that, all of her electronics were stolen and she tried to call the guy that rented her the property but her calls went unanswered. As it turns out, the guy that rented her the property didn’t own it and stole her money. She found out that the house was in foreclosure and that he had no rights to the property. This meant that she would be homeless and would have to move out before the sheriff’s sale of the property.
8. Get Rich Quick Schemes
The internet has made it easy for people to find these schemes pretty easily, a simple Google search of work at home businesses will give you millions of results of scams that are just waiting to take your money and leave you nothing. Most of these sites want you to pay a fee to work with them, which is a big red flag that it is a scam; you should never have to pay for a job. The most famous of these schemes is the pyramid scheme; this is when you pay money to own your own business by selling products from one of the websites that they provide you. The thing is, no one will buy from your site but they tell you if you get friends to sign up you will make money from their sales and get a bonus for your hard work. This is a waste of time and money and the only ones making money is the scam artist.
One group of people that fall for this scam the most are people that are looking to work from home. The jobs are advertised as stuffing envelopes, becoming a mystery shopper, and data entry. A woman from Aiken, South Carolina found out the hard way about this kind of scheme. Laura O’Neal, a mother of a two-year-old little girl, saw an ad for a job stuffing envelopes that paid her twelve dollars per envelope. She was happy to be making some extra money and being able to stay at home with her daughter. So she sent thirty seven dollars to the company for a starter kit so she could start her job but the kit never came and when she went to complain to the company, there was not contact information on the website. That’s when she sent a complaint to the Better Business Bureau and it was forwarded to the Loveland, Colorado police department, where the scheme had originated and where the scammer was living. The culprit, twenty-seven-year-old Matthew Whitley, was arrested for stealing money from multiple people and made about one hundred and twenty thousand dollars in a nine-month period off the scam. This is just one example of a pyramid scheme where the only person that makes money is the scammer.
What is phishing? Well, it is when you receive an email from a company that looks legit about a problem with your account or that someone stole you identity, and by clicking on the link to verify your information, you can avoid losing your identity or money to scammers. But the truth is that they just scammed you if you click on the link. This is where they start to steal your information. This can cause simple stuff like spam piling up in your account, or as severe as a virus being downloaded onto your computer that steals all of your information. Recently, celebrity nude photos were leaked and the FBI started investigating if the victims could have been victims of a phishing scam. They believe that an email sent from what they thought was Apple about their accounts might be the culprit, but they are still investigating it. Even famous people can fall victim to this scam.
This scheme happened to some UC Berkeley employees: several of the employees received an email about something being wrong with their accounts, so they clicked on them and put in their campus information and it was stolen. The scammers used this information to change the direct deposit on their accounts to go to different ones and even changed some to receive a paper check. After the employees didn’t get paid, they went to the payroll office and that was when they found out about the email scam. Luckily, they were able to stop most of the payments before the scammers could get a hold of the funds, but this made the school upgrade their security so this couldn’t happen again. That is how they get you, they tell you something is wrong in an email and you click on the link and they send you to a site that looks legit but it isn’t.
6. Senior Fraud
Seniors fall victim to scams all the time, probably because they are trusting and don’t know how to spot a scam. This leaves them vulnerable to losing money to scammers. Some of the recent scams that have plagued their community are health care scams. This kind of scam calls for information for verification and then they are victim to identity theft. Another one is Prescription Drug Company Online, which sells their medication at a lower price than their insurance. Let’s face it; prescription drugs can be really expensive. The thing is that the drugs that they are sent are counterfeit and puts users in danger if they take them.
Since most seniors don’t use the internet, phone scams seem to be the most popular scam to reach them. Phone scams usually have them give money to a person in need posing as one of their relatives and just like that, the money is gone. They also use phones in telemarketing and lottery scams, like saying they won something but need to pay a fee to release it and they believe the caller and send money. One elderly couple fell victim to one of these scams, they lost seventy two hundred dollars to a con man that claimed to be one of their grandsons that had been in an accident and needed money. After giving the man the money, a few days later the elderly man called his son to check up on his grandson but found out that he was okay and home; not in the Dominican Republic, like the man said on the phone. This left the man feeling betrayed and out all that money. But this happens to more elderly people than you would think because they are so trusting.
5. Tourist Scams
Traveling to a new country can be fun but locals have devised schemes to dupe you out of your money because they think you don’t know any better. That is why you should always be prepared when you are going on a trip abroad. When you go somewhere that you are unfamiliar with you usually use public transportation to get around, like a cab. Cab drivers can spot tourists and they will sometimes charge you more by taking a longer route to your destination. They are also known to “accidentally” leave a piece of your luggage in the trunk and before you realize it’s gone it’s too late. When you are at a shop or store and the person ringing you up seems to be on their phone while doing it, they might be stealing your credit card information by taking a picture of your card. Another thing to look for is a local that asks for help or is a little too helpful; they could be picking your pocket while you are distracted.
In Europe, some taxi drivers will tell the tourists that their hotels are being renovated and take them to a more expensive hotel. This kind of scam is being investigated by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau as booking fraud and lost millions of tourist money last year. Travel writer Eva Holland a seasoned traveling veteran fell to one of these scams. While visiting Istanbul, she was lost and had to take a cab back to where she knew where she was but after giving the lira that she had just got transferred over from American currency, the driver gave her back discontinued notes that were worthless. The cab driver had been waiting for a tourist to take advantage of and she was his target.
4. Modeling Scams
Modeling scams have been around for a while and they prey on young kids that want to be rich and famous. They offer all kinds of work but just want money upfront to get them a job and to make their dreams come true. Most modeling scams happen when you are asked to pay upfront fees, which don’t lead to a job. These can be registration fees, photos, schools or conventions. This is how 99% of people are scammed, the other 1% is when they start to work but don’t get paid or get paid late. They have even been known to keep the money from their clients and not pay them, which is stealing. There are some signs to look for to avoid this scam. If the person is pressuring you to do something that you are not comfortable doing, it’s because they want something from you and it’s not to get you work as a model. They try to sign you up for a monthly fee to find you work, which is a scam because the agency should be trying to find you a job, so they can get paid. The best way to avoid this scam is to research the company and make sure they check out before you start giving them money.
But this is not the worst of the modeling scams; recently Brittney Cason was contacted to work at the Sochi Olympic games this year. A man contacted her about the job and everything that the man told her seemed legit and checked out but what she didn’t know is this is how some scammers get women to do something, they offer them fame and sometimes they take it. Luckily, she didn’t fall for this scam and instead of flying to Sochi she ended up talking to the FBI and lawyers about the man that tried to sell her and her friend to human traffickers. Most survivors of human trafficking tell about the same story, that they were hired to do a modeling job and end up being sold as sex slaves to the highest bidders. This is the most extreme of the modeling scams out there.
3. Wire Transfer Scam
This scam comes in many forms; one is wiring money to someone that needs it that you just met or being sent an actual check that you must cash. The latter then requires you to wire money back to them allowing you to keep a portion of it. People still fall for this scam but there are some ways you can avoid these scams. The first thing you should do is to never wire money to someone that you don’t know, you might believe their story but sending them money will just be a loss for you. If the person wanting the money is pressuring you to wire money then they are probably scamming you. Never let anyone deposit anything into your account and then ask you to wire them the money back. This scam has been disguised as a job as secret shopper and can come in many forms. Never give your bank account to anyone in a call, email, or text message; this gives them access to your account and money so they can transfer it to their own.
Two women from east Texas fell victim to a wire transfer scam within a week of each other. One named “Pam” got a phone call that she had won the Mega Millions sweepstakes and a Mercedes Benz and since she enters sweepstakes all the time, she didn’t think anything of it when she got the call. Then, the caller told her that she had to wire $390 and she was going to, but knew something wasn’t right about it. The other woman, “Jane,” did wire money to a woman that was selling a Jeep on craigslist. She wired almost $4000 to the woman but never saw the Jeep and the woman later told her that she moved to Montana and that she had it in her possession. Both the women lost money because of this scam and because this kind of scam is hard to trace, they probably won’t ever see that money again.
2. Money Investment Scams
These kind of scams come in all kinds of forms, like a Ponzi Scheme were someone convinces the investor that they will have a very high return on their money but end up with nothing because is was a lie or the company never existed. This is also one of the scams that plague seniors. They talk them out of their money because they promise to double what they have but we all know that it’s too good to be true. A promissory note is used to people as a short-term debt solution by independent insurance agents or companies promising a high return but they will eventually see nothing. Stockbrokers have been known to participate in fraud by charging them fees and doing unauthorized trades. Unlicensed people selling insurance that they don’t know anything about and lying to the consumer about the return on their investment. So basically, never invest your money with someone that you don’t know anything about or trust. This could save you a lot of money in the long run.
Bernie Madoff is one of the most infamous scammers to do this to people; he scammed his investors out of almost sixty five billion dollars and will be spending the rest of his life in prison. Since his conviction, Irving Picard, a trustee appointed to liquidate Madoff’s estate, has been able to recover almost ten billion dollars to give to the investors that Madoff stole from but sadly most investors will be losing about half of the money that they invested with him. The victims that are eligible for receiving money from the settlements will only be getting about fifty four cents for every dollar they invested.
1. Religious Scams
One of the lowest things a scammer can use to scam people is the church; a place of sanctuary and worship being used to take people money. Some might say that the church already does that but we aren’t talking about those people. We are talking about people that take money away from the church using various scams. The first is the Affinity Church Scam, this is when a person contacts someone from a church and tells him or her about his or her beliefs, which are the same as the person and convinces them to donate to a false charity and then they disappear.
Some people even use a sob story to manipulate the churchgoers to give them money. This can be faking being sick or something tragic has happened to the person, anything to get money. Another scam is one where the church is offered free or low cost equipment, like new computers from an organization. They do this by either making them pay upfront for the equipment and being told that they will be reimbursed but they end up with nothing but lost money. Some people even go door to door to “collect” for the church, which is illegal. Religious cults are a whole other scam to go into which I will not.