Schemes, scams, and flimflams
Scams to separate people from their money have probably been with us for thousands of years. And with the Internet, you don’t even have to leave your house to lose your shirt! In this issue of The Vault, we talk about how to keep from being tricked out of your hard-earned cash.
How much would you pay for the Brooklyn Bridge? Scroll down to learn all about a con man who sold it to unsuspecting tourists–many times!
Top 5 Scams
You get a great deal on a DVD player on an auction site. You pay the bill, but either you get something else than you ordered or nothing at all.
This scam is big business in Nigeria and is named after the part of the Nigerian criminal code dealing with fraud. You get an e-mail from a powerful person in a foreign nation asking you to help them get their money out of a country facing political upheaval. They send you a check. You deposit it in your account and send them the balance by wire, keeping a “fee” for yourself. By the time the check is discovered to be fake, you’re on the hook for the money you wired to the scammer.
You receive an e-mail that looks like it’s from your bank, asking you to provide your account information by e-mail or on a Web site to fix a problem with your account. The real problem is that the request is fake–and the people behind it are thieves waiting to raid your savings.
“Make big money working at home!”
To start an exciting career working at home (stuffing envelopes or doing medical billing, for example), you are asked to “invest” hundreds or thousands of dollars in a “starter kit.” You find out too late that the kit is worthless.
Fraudulent multi-level marketing
Your friend tells you that you can get a great discount on cool products and maybe even make lots of money by becoming a “distributor.” It’s someone you trust, so you sign up. You are pressured to sign up other “distributors,” who pay fees to you, while you pay fees to your friend…ultimately only benefiting the people who started the scheme. This is a “Ponzi scheme”–for more on that, see this month’s “Ask John Paul” column, below.