Funny scams or not, these tricks can teach us all a lesson: Internet Scambusters #451
They may be hard to believe, but the outrageous and funny scams we report on this week have a serious message for all of us.
They show some crooks at their inventive best, while others just come over as plain crazy.
But they all teach us there's no limit to the lengths scammers will go to to fool their victims and, unfortunately, sometimes no limit to the gullibility of victims.
Let's get started...
A Dozen Outrageous, Daring and Funny Scams
Here at Scambusters, we spend most of our time issuing dire warnings about swindlers, but every so often we encounter some outrageous and funny scams that just don't fit the mold of the topics we cover.
Even if it's a funny scam, that's not to say it doesn't have a serious message -- if only to highlight the risk of being taken in.
Of course, we don't discard the outrageous or funny scams we come across in our research, we just put them in a separate digital pile.
And we thought it might be time to dust some of them off and share with our subscribers.
Posing as someone you're not is one of the oldest con tricks in the book. Sometimes they're convincing, sometimes not:
- A New Yorker claiming to be veteran popster Paul Simon entered Simon's bank and presented a forged check for $4,300. Problem -- the rock star is 68 and 5ft 3in tall, the impostor was 54 and 6ft 1in tall.Obviously not "Born at the Right Time" (look it up!).
- Get out of jail -- but not for free. A conman convinced officials at a Mississippi jail that he was an agent with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. They let him speak with prisoners; he told the crooks he could help get them released -- for a hefty fee.The wily jailbirds, though, were not as easily fooled as the prison authorities and reported him.
- In Staffordshire, England, a woman posed as the twin daughters of poet TS Elliot, among many other aliases, to pull off a series of frauds.Trouble was, the poet never had any daughters and, as some of her victims noticed, the "twins" were never seen together.
It's not a funny scam when you lose a lot of money, but you can't help but shake your head when you witness the cheek of some crooks and the gullibility of their victims:
- In 2010, a truck driver claimed to be a go-between in the supposed $400m sale of London's famous Ritz Hotel by its secretive owners.He found no shortage of potential buyers, including someone who put up $1.5m as a deposit.
- A Missouri couple took in $2m of investments after claiming they had access to a breakthrough invention -- a generator the size of a shoebox that could power an entire city.The state issued a cease and desist order against them and one of the pair subsequently filed for bankruptcy.
- Homeless with a laptop, a 50-year-old California man decided to aim high with his scam by enrolling on an elite dating site for millionaires only.Claiming to be a renowned music producer, he hooked some high class victims including a 29-year-old singer, a swimsuit model and at least a dozen others, who collectively contributed $100,000 to his "investment" scheme, which turned out to be the craps tables in Atlantic City.
We've covered investment scams in some detail in the past. Check out these earlier issues.
The Nerve of It!
Sometimes you just can't believe how often scammers will try to pull off the same trick or the simple bare-faced cheek of some of their exploits:
- A Michigan woman hit on motherhood as a fundraising idea. She told friends she was pregnant and organized a lucrative baby shower. Later, after she supposedly had the child, she claimed it was sick and that she needed money for treatment. Again, victims gave her hundreds of dollars. No one apparently asked to see the child.
- A Mississippi crook bought and returned numerous top-line vacuum cleaners from several Walmart stores. In between visits, he carefully removed the motors, which he then sold online. But the store chain weren't suckers -- they identified him from security recordings.
- Then there was the recent case in which an alleged con artist recruited a private "special forces reserve" of Asian immigrants by telling them membership of his "army" would guarantee permanent residence in the US. They had to pay heavily for membership and "training" and even went "on parade" for special occasions.
- Calling her the "Queen of the slip-and-fall," Fox Business News reports on a 72-year-old woman who took 49 floor-dives in grocery and liquor stores and picked up half a million dollars in compensation before she was stopped.
Magic Money Scams
Scams that promise recipients cash are two-a-penny but here's an interesting and unusual pair that add a tinge of humor to these sad situations:
- Security company Sophos reports an interesting twist on the Nigerian "you've got money" scam. Victims receive an email message that begins, "We are writing to know if it's true that you are dead."The scammer claims someone else has been trying to collect a huge amount of money the recipient is really entitled to by claiming that they're dead. If the person can prove they're actually still alive, they can collect. Of course, we know what happens next.
- And a variation on the "black money" scam in which a crook claims you can use a chemical to convert a dirty wad of paper into hard cash: In Siberia, the trick is now called "Cash in a bucket" after a group of scammers convinced victims they had a stack of half-finished Euro notes that would transform into the real thing when left overnight in a bucket, with the addition of a mysterious chemical.Of course, victims had to pay for the "blanks" -- in one case $100,000 -- but the only color that appeared was red on the faces of the victims.
Although many of our stories this week seem to be funny scams, let's never forget that there's always a serious side to this crooked business and learn from the unfortunate mistakes of others.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!