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From online phishing scams to credit card fraud, it’s easy to be tricked by savvy scammers who make a living preying on unsuspecting victims.
You may think you know what scammer tactics look like, but there are some that are so devious and cunning that even the most careful person could fall for them.
In this article, we uncover 10 of the sneakiest scams out there and offer strategies for avoiding being taken advantage of.
Armed with knowledge, you won’t be fooled again!
#1. Digital Blackmail
Being hacked can be a real issue. This is especially true in the digital age, where malware like ransomware will lock and delete your files unless you send a specific amount in cryptocurrency to the malicious party.
However, not all threats have any meat to them. Some scammers will claim they have personal files or even photos and recordings of you that they will send to everyone in your contact list unless you send them money.
Chances are that these threats are empty, but that doesn’t stop everyone from refusing to fall for this common scam!
#2. Subscription Programs
If you engage anywhere with the entrepreneurial space, you’re inevitably going to get ads where people are trying to sell you stuff so that you can turn around and sell stuff.
While there are great teachers out there, many people have discovered that these courses and consulting products that often cost thousands of dollars only cover the bare minimum.
You’re not getting anything more than you could research on the web on your own for free.
However, because people are often desperate to make a little extra money without putting in a ton of effort, they’re willing to spend money despite the fair amount of warnings floating around on the web.
While these are less prominent, people will still fall for these scams.
#3. Miracle Diets
The commercials are all over the place. Take this pill or drink this liquid and you’ll lose 15 pounds in 5 days.
No matter how many times people are warned about this scam, they still fall for it.
If you need to lose a lot of weight in a few days, one person has a solution for you. “I lost 20 pounds in 10 days. The diet is called a very aggressive stomach flu. You can’t keep anything down and you crap your brains out.”
#4. Overdue Utility Bills
The more official something sounds, the easier for certain vulnerable groups to fall for the scam.
As such, scammers have begun to say things like people owe them money in utility bills.
The funny part? Some try to make it more official by saying that they need to pay directly in cash.
But this may not always work. Other scammers will ask for the money in gift cards, and people will pay it!
While MLMs sometimes give you a product in return for the money you spend, they have the reputation they do because the products are often overpriced, don’t deliver the actual effects they said they would, or are just downright dangerous due to their ingredient list.
One person referenced a specific type of MLM. “There are two scams involving essential oils, first is the MLM, where you recruit people to sell overpriced crap to other people. The other is the idea that essential oils are a replacement for health care, people suggesting treating cancer and all sorts with oils instead of medicine.”
#6. Bailing Someone Out of Jail
Hearing that a loved one is currently in jail can be terrifying, and the natural response is to look for ways to bail them out.
Unfortunately, this is a tactic that some scammers will employ to get certain groups to send money to make tens of thousands of dollars quickly and easily.
One person talked about their own experience with this. “As a teller manager, I have had a few elderly people who actually believe their grandkids are in jail and need to take out 20k out of their accounts in cash, in order to bail them out. I tell them they are falling for a scam, and to call their grandkids in front of me. Of course, the kid then answers. Their hearts are in the right place, but they need to think before they take large amounts like that, but also if they gave the scammers their personal addresses.”
#7. Car Extended Warranties
I’m not sure when this scam started, but it is all over the place.
The majority of spam calls people get these days is about buying an extended warranty.
What is sad is there are some reputable companies out there offering warranties, but no one trusts them.
It also doesn’t help that car dealers do a hard sell on this product either.
#8. Cultivating Social Media Engagement With Reposts
Not all scams are necessarily malicious.
Do you remember the days when there would be various social media posts asking you to repost for a certain cause or telling you that social media would do something terrible if you didn’t repost something?
This was a common scam that others would use to increase their social media engagement.
It wasn’t an evil scam but something people would fall for regardless.
#9. Calls and Emails From the IRS
If you’ve been filing your taxes for a while, you know that the IRS only communicates through official mail.
However, some people know that the IRS can be scary, and calls from scammers can be equally so.
This is why, even though it makes no sense, some people will pay out money to scammers pretending to be from the IRS without giving it much thought as to why they never received an official letter about the matter at hand.
#10. Giving Money to Evangelists
No matter where you stand on religion, most would agree that the tax-free money going into the pockets of TV preachers is often ridiculous.
People are often scammed out of their funds because they believe that giving money to these individuals will bring great fortune to them over time.
Unfortunately, the money rarely goes to the causes that are important to people, and they become disillusioned when those funds don’t make their way back to them.
One person summarized it perfectly: “I can live with giving money to a small church who does good things with it and where you are part of the community, but giving to a megachurch is silly. There are plenty of people for that who give out of obligation.”
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This thread inspired this article.
I have over 15 years experience in the financial services industry and 20 years investing in the stock market. I have both my undergrad and graduate degrees in Finance, and am FINRA Series 65 licensed and have a Certificate in Financial Planning.
Visit my About Me page to learn more about me and why I am your trusted personal finance expert.