6 Outrageous Scams Too Many People Fall For
Scammers have long careers in part due to shame. After all, most victims won't even admit they got conned. Maybe this is why some of the most successful scams out there are also some of the weirdest. Would you want to admit you'd fallen for any of these?
"We Saw You Masturbating!" Scams Are On The Rise
Picture this: You innocently rub one out to your fave clown rodeo robot porn. A few days later, you get a email that reveals that someone has "hacked" your webcam, and now has footage of you masturbating, as well as evidence of exactly what you were looking at while doing it. But they promise to not to send the footage to your friends, family, and employer, provided you wire them some bitcoins. So you send the "hacker" the money straight away, as it's better than everyone finding out that you get off to the Dildo Clown 5000.
But you really shouldn't have panicked. The email you received was but one of many, all sent on the not-so-distant hope that someone might be in the exact position as you. We don't have to explain our scientific reasoning for how we know this, but a ton of people are jerking it at any given moment. So of course sometimes scammers are going to get the right target. The extortionists have nothing on you except the knowledge that you may have jerked off recently, and you may not want your mom to get the URL of the video. Yet this scam works ... a lot.
Just look at one scammer's bitcoin initiative, which raised $17,000 in only a couple of days. This is why sextortion emails are on the rise, and have gotten more sophisticated, stealing passwords in order to provide "proof" that they're capable of "hacking" you. In the past year, people have lost a jaw-dropping $83 million from email extortion, and the majority of complaints reported were sextortion-related. This is a rise of 242% in only one year.
So next time, you might want to delete that email as soon as you get it. Or better yet, announce your fetishes to the public so that they can never be weaponized against you.
Psychics Insist Cash Makes Their Powers Work Better
It's no secret that people love psychics. The future is kind of terrifying, and there are times where it would have been kind of cool to have had a head's up about an upcoming plane crash or breakup or diarrhea-inducing curry. But even true believers can probably agree on one thing when it comes to fortune tellers: Magic is just magic, and probably cannot be bribed with cash or gifts.
Yet in Maryland, a psychic conned $341,000 out of people by telling them she needed an unreasonable amount of money and/or designer handbags in order for her mojo to work. According to her process, customers needed to put cash under their mattresses so that the bills could absorb "energy from their bodies.'' Then the psychic would have to take the "offerings" so she could put them on an altar to "banish evil spirits."
Even worse, at least 1.4 million Americans fell for "Maria Duval." This psychic con lasted for 20 years and scammed Americans out of more money than the infamous Ponzi scheme. Victims were sent letters allegedly written by Duval, a psychic whom they had never met. These letters included personal details (actually pulled from company-provided "suckers lists"), and promised victims luck, health, and fortune in exchange for cash. "That's right, the spirit world also has capitalism!"
The became a part of the longest-running mail fraud case in history, appealing to thousands of vulnerable people, hitting over a dozen countries, and robbing Canadian and American people of over $200 million. I guess the moral is that if a magician is more interested in your wallet than your future, maybe they don't have a Hogwarts degree after all.
See An Ad For An Adorable Puppy? It's Probably A Scam
Incredibly, experts say that about 80% of online sponsored advertisements about pets (mostly puppies) are fake. The scam starts when people are lured to sketchy websites by clicking on ads featuring cute fluffy pups. Victims are then tempted to purchase the dogs by lower-than-average prices and the general marketability of cuteness. But things go south when victims are encouraged to make non-refundable deposits to "reserve" the animal and cover things like travel costs, insurance fees, and other things way more expensive than anything you'd ever actually spend on yourself. In 59% of these cases, no dog has ever turned up. The least they could do is mail you a DVD of Marley & Me.
And this scam is more common than you'd think. A Federal Trade Commission report found that 37,000 complaints of online purchase fraud involved pets, while the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker found that fake pet reports made up 12.5% of all online purchase fraud complaints in total. Considering that less than 10% of these kind of fraud victims actually file reports, experts say this is likely a much bigger problem than people assume it is.
The good news is that warning signs are easy to spot once you know what to look for. Most reputable breeders and rescue shelters don't accept payment in advance. They also require that you visit the shelter and the dog before your application is even considered, to make sure you're not a cruel millionaire looking to turn it into a coat.
Related: Adopting A Puppy In Quarantine
CEOs Were Tricked Out Of Millions With A Silicone Mask
It seems like a lot of time, effort, and skill should be required to scam high-ranking company officials out of tons of money. They're the ones who do the scamming, dammit! If you could just put on a mask and ask them for insane amounts of cash, everyone with a Halloween costume would be lining up at Bill Gates' house. It shouldn't be that easy, unless you're living in a cartoon.
But in one case, it was exactly that easy. Originating in France and lasting for about two years, multiple people impersonated France's defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, and asked wealthy victims for ransom money in order to buy freedom for kidnapped journalists in the Middle East. Not everyone was fooled, but just by calling up CEOs and heads of governments and literally asking for the money, scammers were able to rip off an estimated 80 million Euros, or about 90 million American dollars.
Face-to-face meetings on Skype didn't even deter them. In these conversations, impersonators would simply wear a silicone replica of Le Drian's face and put up some French flags and stuff in the background to make their surroundings look more official. It seems like one of those cases where the plan was so masterfully stupid that nobody saw it coming.
Fake Celebrity Endorsements Rip Off Millions
With literally billions of products on the shelves, there really is only one rational way to shop: See what Oprah recommends and go buy that. According to scientific studies, the human brain actually recognizes celebrities similarly to the way it recognizes real people in our everyday lives. And sure, celebrities are rich, beautiful, and ignore your Twitter DMs, but they're also great at appealing to consumers, because we feel like we know them. Scammers are happy to take advantage of this.
Millions of dollars are lost to celebrity impersonation scams every year, wherein con artists promote products and companies by pretending they're endorsed by celebrities. The FTC recently had to help consumers get back $6 million lost to Dr. Oz impostors, while the BBB published a study which revealed that dozens of celebrities (including Oprah, Chrissy Tiegen, and Ellen DeGeneres) were being impersonated to sell fake "free trials" for service subscriptions.
Patrick Dempsey had to make an official announcement that no, he wasn't sending people all those strange requests to "support his charity." One dude even pretended to be George Clooney for years, scamming people with his "clothing line" despite looking neither silver nor foxy.
Fake "Hire A Hitman" Scams Catch Way Too Many People
In 2016, Minnesota man Stephen Allwine murdered his wife. While that's already terrible, it was a bit more complicated than your standard murder. Why? Because he didn't originally want to commit the murder himself. He had paid a hitman to do it ... but the guy never carried out the hit.
That's right, although people like Allwine will comb the sinister dark web for hitmen, sometimes they end up getting ripped off for thousands of bitcoins instead. And those edgy assassins-for-hire? They're just pulling people's legs about that whole murder thing. This, it turns out, is not uncommon.
There was a whole website based around it. The Besa Mafia was a network that purported to offer assassination services, but in fact they just scammed their murderous customers. That's a pretty specific target audience -- people evil enough to want others dead, precious enough to not want blood on their hands, and bad enough at research that they might shell out thousands to pay the wrong people to do the deed for them.
Allwine's murder, as well as some hard work from self-described "cybercrime and niche topic internet researcher" Chris Monteiro, led authorities to the website. And though there were definitely trolls frequenting it, a lot of the customers were apparently legit. The site is no longer active, but there's evidence that suggests that people are still awkwardly looking in the wrong places to have their hits carried out.
It's impossible to say exactly how common the scam continues to be, but "victims" aren't exactly calling up the BBB to file official complaints. And if they are, it's unlikely that they're going to get that much sympathy.
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