Top 10 Ways Scammers Take Your Money

by Ike Obudulu Last updated on August 17th, 2018,

Everyone is always on the lookout for a good deal at a great price. However, scam artists know this and will try to take advantage of it as much as they can. Protect yourself in more layers than one. Get yourself informed, do your research and be constantly vigilant. Here are the top ten ways scammers take your money.

 1 Phishing Emails And Phony Web Pages

This is the most widespread internet and email scam today. It is the modern day “sting” con game. “Phishing” is where digital thieves lure you into divulging your password info through convincing emails and web pages. These phishing emails and web pages resemble legitimate credit authorities like Citibank, eBay, or PayPal. They frighten or entice you into visiting a phony web page and entering your ID and password. Commonly, the guise is an urgent need to “confirm your identity”. They will even offer you a story of how your account has been attacked by hackers to lure you into entering your confidential information.

The email message will require you to click on a link. But instead of leading you to the real login https: site, the link will secretly redirect you to a fake website. You then innocently enter your ID and password. This information is intercepted by the scammers, who later access your account and fleece you for several hundred dollars.

This phishing con , like all cons, depends on people believing the legitimacy of their emails and web pages. Because it was born out of hacking techniques, “fishing” is stylistically spelled “phishing” by hackers.

Tip: the beginning of the link address should have https://. Phishing fakes will just have http:// (no “s”). If still in doubt, make a phone call to the financial institution to verify if the email is legit. In the meantime, if an email seems suspicious to you, do not trust it. Being skeptical could save you hundreds of lost dollars.

Types Of E-mail Phishing Scams

There are many types of e-mail scams on the internet these days. Some are obvious, while others are harder to spot. The culprits are hiding behind computer screens, with different names, or posing as representatives of large companies.

How do they “phish” my information? It’s easy. They can get information from your social media accounts – which is why it’s great to limit information you show on your Facebook page. Make your email address, home address and contact numbers private. They can create a website page, which looks just like your trusted companies’ (even with their logo!), saying you can get big discounts or promos if you provide your email address and your credit card numbers and pin code or security code for the so-called verification process. Think twice.

Scammers love to pull on heartstrings, reference sensitive topics, or cause panic from immediate financial threat. Regardless of the story or scenario, think critically about what is being asked of you. Remember, it’s not wise to share personal information via e-mail or telephone. No legitimate company will ask for personal information by such means, so don’t provide it!

Types of E-Mail Phishing Scams
Description
Fake Lottery Winner Scam
You’ve won a prize, but must pay an initial fee.
Company Representative Scam
The company needs your help and bank account for cashing customer checks. You’ll receive a 10% commission for your help.
Dead Foreigner Scam
A rich foreigner has died without an heir. If you claim relation, you’ll get part of the inheritance.
Dying Widow Scam
A rich, dying widow has no heirs and wants to give her money to you after she passes.
Loan Scam
A rich foreigner wants to loan you money at a good interest rate, but first you need to make a deposit in their bank account.
ATM Card Scam
There is a bank account waiting for you to withdraw millions of dollars. First, you must provide your banking information.
Job Scam
You’ve just been hired to work at a high paying, foreign job. Before you can start, you need to send money for immigration papers to a lawyer.
Fake Charity Scam
A charity or ministry is in dire need of your help. Send money fast.
Immigration Help Scam
A person wanting to immigrate to your country needs your help. Maybe they want to marry you and need your information for documentation. Maybe they need money for travel.
Chain Letter Scam
If you choose to participate, your bank account will soon be filled with money. Share with friends and family.
Subpoena Scam
You have been summoned to court. Click the following link to confirm your identification.

The list goes on and on. You get the idea. Some scams are clever, while others are obvious. In all cases, the person needs your help, your money, or your information to complete the process. I suggest you don’t give it to them.

2 The Nigerian Prince 419 Scam

Most of you have received an email from a member of a Nigerian family with wealth. It is a desperate cry for help in getting a very large sum of money out of the country. A common variation is a woman in Africa who claimed that her husband had died, and that she wanted to leave millions of dollars of his estate to a good church.

In every variation, the scammer is promising obscenely large payments for small unskilled tasks. This scam, like most scams, is too good to be true. Yet people still fall for this money transfer con game. They will use your emotions and willingness to help against you. They will promise you a large cut of their business or family fortune. All you are asked to do is cover the endless “legal” and other “fees” that must be paid to the people that can release the scammer’s money.

3 Lottery Scams

A close cousin of the Nigerian Prince 419 scam and an evolution of the money laundering scam, the lottery scam comes in a form of email informing you that you won huge amount money that you can claim by paying small fees. If you aren’t purchasing lottery tickets, you may not be fooled by this. If you are, then again, you have to confirm with the agency or outlet you purchased the lottery ticket from.

Most of us dream of hitting it big, quitting our jobs and retiring while still young enough to enjoy the fine things in life. Chances are you will receive at least one intriguing email from someone saying that you did indeed win a huge amount of money. The visions of a dream home, fabulous vacation, or other expensive goodies you could now afford with ease, could make you forget that you have never ever entered this lottery in the first place.

This scam will usually come in the form of a conventional email message. It will inform you that you won millions of dollars and congratulate you repeatedly. The catch: before you can collect your “winnings”, you must pay the “processing” fee of several thousands of dollars.

Stop! The moment the bad guys cash your money order, you lose. Once you realize you have been suckered into paying $3000 to a con man, they are long gone with your money. Do not fall for this lottery scam

Foreign Lottery Scams: Very Clever New Twists

Foreign lottery scams have been circulating online and offline for years, but they are mushrooming now — and there are a couple of new, insidious twists to the old gimmicks. The original foreign lottery scams simply proclaimed that you are a major winner in a foreign lottery (that you didn’t enter, or at least you don’t remember entering).

However, in order to claim your prize winnings — often millions of dollars and always cash — you must first remit a ‘contest fee’ to cover processing and taxes. Needless to say, anyone who submitted the fee never saw that cash — or the supposed windfall — again.

What’s more, unsuspecting victims may have given out banking or other personal information in the bargain.

If you want to be sure you’re not the next victim of a foreign lottery scam, here are five tips:

1. First of all, playing any kind of cross-border lottery system is a violation of Federal law, and law enforcement officials ARE paying attention. IOW, it’s illegal. Don’t do it!

2. You can’t win a prize in a lottery if you didn’t buy a lottery ticket.

3. Real lotteries don’t ask you to pay a fee. If you have to write a check to win a lottery prize, it’s a scam. IOW, never, ever send any money for ‘processing fees,’ or share any other financial information, in order to claim a prize.

4. Never fill out any prize forms or ‘claims’ either through snail mail or online — you may end up on scammers’ ‘sucker’ lists as a result, which means you’ll just get more solicitations.

5. Don’t believe — or pay for — any ‘secret systems’ that will help you win lotteries. If someone really had a foolproof secret system to win lotteries, why would they sell it to you?

Find out also if there are government agencies near you where you can send scam reports. By reporting such online scams, other people will become aware of these and will less likely become victims.

4 Advanced Fees Paid For A Guaranteed Loan Or Credit Card

If you are thinking about applying for a “pre-approved” loan or a credit card that charges an up-front fee, ask yourself: “why would a bank do that?” These scams are obvious to people who take time to scrutinize the offer.

Remember: reputable credit card companies do charge an annual fee but it is applied to the balance of the card, never at the sign-up. Furthermore, if you legitimately clear your credit balance each month, a legitimate bank will often wave the annual fee.

As for these incredible, pre-approved loans for a half-a-million dollar homes: use your common sense. These people do not know you or your credit situation, yet they are willing to offer massive credit limits.

Sadly, a percentage of all the recipients of their “amazing” offer will take the bait and pay the up-front fee. If only one in every thousand people fall for this scam, the scammers still win several hundred dollars. Alas, far too many victims, pressured by financial problems, willingly step into this con man’s trap.

5 Items For Sale Overpayment Scam

This one involves an item you might have listed for sale such as a car, truck or some other expensive item. The scammer finds your ad and sends you an email offering to pay much more than your asking price. The reason for overpayment is supposedly related to the international fees to ship the car overseas. In return, you are to send him the car and the cash for the difference.

The money order you receive looks real so you deposit it into your account. In a couple of days (or the time it takes to clear) your bank informs you the money order was fake and demands you pay that amount back immediately.

In most documented versions of this money order scam, the money order was indeed an authentic document, but it was never authorized by the bank it was stolen from. In the case of cashier’s checks, it is usually a convincing forgery. You have now lost the car, the cash you sent with the car, and you owe a hefty sum of money to your bank to cover for the bad money order or the fake cashier’s check.

6 Employment Search Overpayment Scam

You have posted your resume, with at least some personal data accessible by potential employers, on a legitimate employment site. You receive a job offer to become a “financial representative” of an overseas company you have never even heard of before.

The reason they want to hire you is that this company has problems accepting money from US customers and they need you to handle those payments. You will be paid 5 to 15 percent commission per transaction.

If you apply, you will provide the scammer with your personal data, such as bank account information, so you can “get paid”. Instead, you will experience some, or all, of the following: identity theft, money stolen from your account, or may receive fake checks or money orders for payments which you deposit into your account but must send 85 – 95 percent of that to your “employer”.
Soon you will owe much money to your bank!

7 Disaster Relief Scams

What do 9-11, Tsunami and Katrina have in common? These are all disasters, tragic events where people die, lose their loved ones, or everything they have. In times like these, good people pull together to help the survivors in any way they can, including online donations. Scammers set up fake charity websites and steal the money donated to the victims of disasters.
If your request for donation came via email, there is a chance of it being a phishing attempt. Do not click on the link in the email and volunteer your bank account or credit card information.
Your best bet is to contact the recognized charitable organization directly by phone or their website.

8 “Make Money Fast” Chain Emails

Tough times usually call for desperate measures. But you have to remember that we are now in the Internet age, so you should never believe offers that are too good to be true. Yes, there are a lot of ways to make money online, but you have to work hard to earn that money. Among online scams, this one seems to be an effective approach as it promises to address people’s need for money.

Usually, criminals will lure their target into filling out forms, fooling them that they can’t go on to the next step until they give out a set of information. The best thing to avoid being victim to such is to do your research. Ask some people who have been doing online jobs about the credibility of the site and the authenticity of the offer. It’s so easy to spot a legit site. Just go to their about us page to know more about the company—its profile, mission vision, and other information. The site should be able to explain well how you’ll earn from them. If it seems that the site or the clients promising you an online job can’t give you credible information about the company or themselves, that should be a scam alert for you.

In a classic pyramid scheme, you get an email with a list of names, you are asked to send 5 dollars (or so) by mail to the person whose name is at the top of the list, add your own name to the bottom, and forward the updated list to a number of other people.

The author of this scam letter painstakingly explains that, if more and more people join this chain, when it’s your turn to receive the money, you might even become a millionaire!

Bear in mind that, most times, the list of names is manipulated to keep the top name (the creator of the scam, or his friends) on top, permanently.

As with the previously circulating snail-mail version of this chain, the email edition is just as illegal. Should you choose to participate, you risk being charged with fraud – definitely not something you want on your record, or resume.

9 “Turn Your Computer Into A Money-making Machine!”

Although not a full blown scam, this scheme works as follows: You send someone money for instructions on where to go and what to download and install on your computer to turn it into a money-making machine… for spammers.

At sign-up, you get a unique ID and you have to give them your PayPal account information for the “big money” deposits you’ll “soon” be receiving. The program that you are supposed to run, sometimes 24/7, opens multiple ad windows, repeatedly, thus generating per-click revenue for spammers.

In other scenario, your ID is limited to a certain number of page clicks per day. In order to make any money whatsoever from this scheme, you are pretty much forced to scam the spammers by hiding your real IP address with Internet proxy services such as “findnot”, so you can make more page clicks. I won’t even go into the discussion about what this program will do to your computer’s performance… it is a true tragedy if you get conned into this scam.

10 Travel Scams

A travel scam is a predatory act that takes advantage of the fact that you’re in a completely unfamiliar place, with no other recourse but to trust the unfamiliar people around you and rely on the innate goodness of others — only to be woefully disappointed. Add to that the giddy excitement of being in the destination of your dreams! Some enterprising (read: devious) individuals can easily see the scamming opportunity these conditions offer.

Don’t despair: travel is still very much a worthwhile endeavor and even the worst travel scams can be valuable learning experiences for you. Yes, it’s not always rainbows and sunshine. Though being victimized by a scam happens to even the most seasoned travelers, a lot of these can be outsmarted through managing expectations and proper research! Begin yours by looking through this list of some of the worst travel scams out there.

Travel Scam #1: You Won A Cruise

These scams are most active during the summer months. You receive an email with the offer to get amazingly low fares to some exotic destination but you must book it today or the offer expires that evening. If you call, you’ll find out the travel is free but the hotel rates are highly overpriced.

Some can offer you rock-bottom prices but hide certain high fees until you “sign on the dotted line”. Others, in order to give you the “free” something, will make you sit through a timeshare pitch at the destination. Still others can just take your money and deliver nothing.

Also, getting your refund, should you decide to cancel, is usually a lost cause, often called a nightmare or mission-impossible.

Your best strategy is to book your trip in person, through a reputable travel agency or proven legitimate online service like Travelocity or Expedia.

Travel Scam #2: The Broken Taxi Meter

After a long flight, there’s nothing better than to crash into your hotel bed and take a well-deserved rest. But then, your cab driver tells you that their meter is broken and quotes a ridiculous price. No matter how tired you are and how badly you want to get to your destination, don’t fall for this scam! Always use official taxi services and do your research to have an idea how much the rate should be and how long the trip should be; a driver may take unnecessarily long routes so he can charge higher. Ask the driver to turn on the meter first before you ride. If he refuses, get out of there!

Travel Scam #3: The Overbooked Hotel

Yet another scam perpetuated by cab drivers. Arriving at the hotel, the driver will get down first, on the pretense of talking to hotel staff or getting your luggage into the hotel, and then immediately return to tell you that the hotel is overbooked. Sometimes, they say it’s closed, or discourage you from checking in and say they know of a better one. Don’t be a victim of this scam: call your hotel upon landing or even before your trip to inform them of your arrival, or ask if they can check you in at your time of arrival. If your driver insists on scamming you for commission, stand your ground.

Travel Scam #4: The Closed Tourist Attraction

This scam involves a local or a tout approaching you to say the tourist attraction you’re visiting is closed for some kind of holiday, ceremony, lunch break, or other similar excuses. Then the scammer would offer to bring you to another attraction or shop, where you’ll discover that you’ll have to pay a huge amount or to buy certain items. Avoid this by checking with tourist information centers or online regarding opening hours. Check the attraction or shop yourself if they are open.

Travel Scam #5: The Surprise Photo Or Souvenir

It’s no wonder this scam is quite common. The tactic works well for understandable reasons: photos are a must when traveling, anything free is irresistible, and the element of surprise can’t be underestimated. A local might offer to take your photo, ostensibly out of good will, and then afterwards charge you for it. (If you’re really unlucky, you might turn your back and later find that your precious camera or phone is now nowhere to be found.) In another version of this scam, they have their own photo-taking equipment, take a photo of you without you knowing about it, and then pressure you into buying their photo, all freshly printed out for you. Some offer (or force onto) you souvenirs like bracelets or good luck charms, and then once you take it, ask for a fee. They might be pushy, but just ignore them! Keep your wits about you and refuse anything being offered to you.

Travel Scam #6: The Distraction Tactic

Lots of klutzes everywhere, but in touristy areas, they seem especially rampant. Except they’re really not simply clumsy locals or tourists: they’re expert pickpockets out to do some scamming. They will spill some water, ketchup, or other items onto your clothing, seemingly by accident. While helping you clean up, he or an accomplice will be busy taking your wallet out from under your nose. If this scam happens to you, just refuse their offer to help and keep walking until you can find a restroom or a safe place where you can clean yourself up.

Travel Scam #7: The Instant Date

This scam is typically used to victimize solo male travelers. A lovely woman (or a gaggle of them!) suddenly take an interest in you, do some nonstop flirting, and generally give you a good time at a bar or a club. Then when you’ve had your fill of dancing and booze, your bill arrives — and it’s several hundred dollars more than you expected. Meanwhile, your instant date has disappeared into thin air. It can be hard to tell sometimes if the person is genuinely interested or just out to scam you, but if they’re excessively flirtatious or aggressive, be wary. If you’re the kind of person who’s not normally being flirted with in public places, it won’t hurt to be suspicious. And keep your valuables close to you at all times!

Travel Scam #8: The Amazing Gem Or Carpet Deal

If you like shopping or luxury items, beware of this scam. When entering a cluster of shops (or being led by an unusually magnanimous cab driver), you might get approached by an enthusiastic shopkeeper or salesperson offering you a deal for a beautiful gem, watch, piece of jewelry or traditional carpet that’s so absurdly good, it’s impossible to pass up. They might say that it’s worth several more than what they’re selling it for, or that you can sell it back home for a huge profit. They even have legit-looking certificates to prove its authenticity! Until you find out that what you got is essentially worthless and fake. It might be tempting, but your scam radar should ping if the offer seems too good to be true. Only go to legitimate, reputable shops if you really want to take a luxury item home.

Travel Scam #9: The Fake Tickets

Some scammers posing as members of a travel agency will offer to sell you bus, train or tourist attraction tickets for a discount, or otherwise say you can avoid long lines by buying tickets from him for a higher price. Cab drivers looking to scam tourists can be accomplices to this as well, offering to bring you to a “travel agent friend” or a fake agency. No matter how enticing the idea of skipping a line or snagging a deal is, err on the side of caution and just stick it out on the line to the official ticketing office. If possible, buy your tickets online on the official website.

Defense Against Travel Scams

Whether you are behind the curveball and trying to squeeze in some last minute summer vacations or completely on top of it and already planning for fall and winter trips, everyone is always on the lookout for a good deal at a great price. However, scam artists know this and will try to take advantage of it as much as they can.

If you are like me, you are constantly getting calls and emails from people telling you that you are the “lucky winner” of an all-expense paid for vacation. Although the offer is tempting, don’t fall for it! How often do you hear of people actually getting their entire trip paid for by a random stranger? Not that often, because it is yet another scam with expensive strings attached. So before you book that discounted hotel room or flight reservation, be sure to keep these travel tips from our friends at the Federal Trade Commission in mind:

  • Just say no to the robocalls. If you answer your phone to another automated message, just hang up and ignore it. Most robocalls are illegal. If you get one of these unwanted calls, report it to FTC.
  • Be vigilant to unexpected emails and text messages. Similar to the automated calls, many scam artists will send you fake deals through both email and text. Remember, if the offer is too good to be true, it probably is. Ignore and delete the messages.
  • Research a company before booking with them. If you do decide to use an agency that offers cheaper deals, be sure to do your research. Look up reviews and ratings to see if other customers were satisfied with the services that they received.
  • Know the cancellation policy. Before booking, take time to ask about the company’s refund policies for flight reservations, car rentals, and hotel bookings. Get these policies in writing.
  • Pay with credit card. If you have gone through all of these steps and feel good about booking with the company, use your credit card to pay. This will give you more protection than paying with cash, check, or a debit card. If you end up not getting what you paid for, this will enable you to dispute the charges with your credit card company.

Author

Ike Obudulu

Ike Obudulu

Versatile Certified Fraud Examiner, Chartered Accountant, Certified Internal Auditor with an MBA in Finance And Investments who has both worked for and consulted with some of the world's largest companies on main street and wall street in over 20 countries, Ike brings his extensive reporting and investigations experience to bear on his role as Chief Editor.
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2 comments

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