Online scams are everywhere. I probably get one or two each month, and to be quite honest, I like to play along with the scammers so that I can understand the scam and write about it to warn others. As long as playing along doesn’t entail me giving away pertinent information that could hurt me, that is.
It’s funny, because there seems to be a set pattern of the same old scams but with a fresh new angle each time. Once you read through a few of these, you will be able to identify one when you see it and cut through the jargon and promises.
Let’s take a look at three current ones on the market.
Watch Out for These 3 Scams
- Craigslist Shipping Company Scam: One time I made a large listing on Craigslist. The item I wanted to sell was my beater car, and I was asking $500. What happened next was quite interesting and a big lesson in online scams. A woman named Mary Hudson contacted us from New Hampshire. She wanted to purchase the vehicle, and would have her shipping company pick it up from us. She even offered to give us $900 instead of $500 (red flag!), and we were to pay her shipping company $400 out of the amount. We knew this was a scam, but pretended to play along. A day or so later, I was sent a fraudulent email from PayPal stating that there was a temporary hold on the $900 from Mary Hudson. Then I was sent a new email from Mary’s shipping company instructing me to go to my nearest Western Union and send $400 to a particular address for shipping costs. It was explained to me that after I sent this money, the $500 would be released from PayPal. What a scam!
- Vehicle Wrap Western Union Scam: Did you know that there are legitimate companies out there that will pay you to wrap your vehicle and commute like you normally would? My husband and I had signed onto a company’s database, and so when I received an email a few months ago asking if we’d like to take part in a campaign for Kronik Energy. The pay we were offered was $300 per week, for a minimum term of one month, and a maximum term of three months. Of course we were interested in this! The only problem was that it was a scam. The basic premise was that I would be sent a check for $2,450, of which $300 was mine to keep. Then I needed to send $2,150 via Western Union to the graphic artist person. Since checks take several days to clear in a bank account, so long as I quickly went to Western Union to fulfill my part of being duped, then the scammers would make off with a hefty sum of money. Fortunately for us, this overpayment scheme was quite clear from the beginning.
- Foreclosure Rescue Scam: There are legitimate programs out there to modify mortgages both through the federal government and through private lenders. And then there are the scammers who are out to take advantage of any program where money is involved. In foreclosure rescue scams, some common things you will hear and see are people asking you to pay them instead of your mortgage lender for settlements, people asking that you sign over your deed to them personally, and people asking for a fee to save your home. Here is a loan modification scam complaint form  in case you think you’ve come across this situation, or have been a victim of it.
Lessons Learned from Playing Along
I’ve learned a few things from playing along with these scams and researching others. For one, you should listen to your gut instinct. There is probably a reason that it is nagging at you when it does, and in each of the scams that I encountered my gut was the first red flag that told me the deal was too good to be true. Secondly, if someone is offering to overpay you and then asks you to send money to X place, then run like the wind. This particular scam continues to resurface over and over again only wearing a new set of clothes each time. And finally, if there are lots of spelling and grammatical errors in an email, and the name of the person emailing you either changes spelling or sounds made up, then you need to reassess the situation. True, scammers usually use boiler plate language that has been pre-written and used by others. However, in every scam situation I’ve seen, the spelling, grammar, and names have been pretty hideous.