Don't Be Fooled by 2014's Most Common New Scams
Scams will never go away. From medieval England to modern day America, people will always try to find ways to get money the easy way. These scammers are still relying on methods that have worked for centuries, but there are updated scams that you should always be on the lookout for. So, acquaint yourself with these current scams and cons (some will be new, while others will sound very familiar). (See also: 8 Vile Craigslist Scams to Watch Out For)
Vishing (AKA, The "No Hang Up" Scam)
Leading the charge in 2014 is a dastardly scam that is relatively new, but very effective if you don't have your guard up. The scammer will call pretending to be someone from the police department, or your bank, or credit card issuer. They will inform you that your card has been compromised in some way, and advise you to call the bank in question. This preys on the belief that you should always call your bank or financial institution, and not the other way around. The clever part about this scam is that the original caller stays on the line with you, in a three-way conversation, and hears everything you tell your bank. The best way to avoid this is to simply hang up the phone and start a new call. If you have been compromised, you will soon find out. If you haven't, you'll know someone was trying to con you.
The "One Ring" Cell Phone Scam
This is a very simple scam, and those are usually the most effective. The crooks simply call your number once and hang up. You will check your cell phone to see that you have a missed call, and curiosity may just get the better of you. But when you call, the number will be from an area code that is not from the US (although it looks like it). Instead, it will be to a place like the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, or Grenada. It may even be to an adult sex line. Before you realize what's going on, you've been charged $19.95 to connect, and $9 per minute. A piece of software like Truecaller can help you, but if in doubt don't ever call a dubious number back. They'll call you again if they really need to get hold of you.
Sticky ATM Keypads
Once again, ATMs are being targeted by thieves. In the past, skimming devices were successful. Then crooks would place small blockages in the card slot that would make it appear that your card had been swallowed by the machine. Now, we have sticky keypads, and they really are sticky. The scammers apply an adhesive to buttons like ENTER, CANCEL or CLEAR. When you press one of these buttons, the keypad sticks, and you are unable to complete the transaction. When you pop inside the bank to report the problem, the thief lying in wait simply unsticks the key with a screwdriver and completes your transaction for you. If you can, always use an ATM inside a trusted bank or building. They are much more difficult to tamper with, and you have staff at hand to help out.
By now, you have probably heard the term "catfish." It describes someone who is online claiming to be looking for love, but using a fake identity and photos. Now, this has turned into "catphishing," and these people are not really looking for love at all… they want money. The catphishers will use legitimate dating sites to start the conversation, but will quickly want to talk or chat outside of the dating site — because they don't want to be tracked through it. After leading you on with photos and compliments, they will suddenly find themselves in a desperate situation that needs money to fix, and quickly. Never, ever fall for these online dating scams. If they refuse to talk over Skype or meet, be very wary.
The "Ads On Your Car" Scam
There are legitimate businesses out there that will pay you to put advertising on your car. There are also scammers looking to make a quick buck from unsuspecting people looking to make a little extra money.
The scam starts with an advert placed on a local website, perhaps Craigslist, offering you up to $600 per week to put adverts for name brands (Coca-Cola, Heineken, etc) on your car. That should be your first clue; legitimate companies don't pay anywhere near that amount. Then, when you apply for more information, you are sent an upfront payment for even more than the amount they owe you. The idea being you cash the check, keep part of the money, and send the rest to a "designer" working on the project. Of course, this is just a variation on the common "advance fee" scam. Don't fall for it, and do your research.
The Free Vacation Scam
With people still on tight budgets, vacations are turning into staycations, and the idea of escaping to a sunny foreign destination seems like a pipe dream. Then, these free vacations come along — "Congratulations, you've won a four-day vacation in Jamaica!" This usually comes in the form of a letter or piece of junk mail, but many people fall for it.
Sadly, there's little chance of ever escaping to a relaxing vacation.
First, you'll be asked to join a travel club. This can cost $300. Then when you go to book the holiday, you will be greeted with tons of black out dates, regulations, and additional fees. Before you know it, you've spent a small fortune on a "free" vacation, and if you do manage to escape, it will be to a very sub-par vacation that cost a lot less than all the fees you paid.
It's tricky to use the word scam with this one, as it is legal. But that doesn't make it something anyone should be participating in. Penny auctions seem like a way to get a high-cost item at an insanely low price — Apple laptops for $60, HDTVs for $100. But, the actual chance of getting one of these items for that price is very slim indeed. For a start, although the price of the item may only be $60, people may have spent 10 times that amount bidding on it. That's because it can cost 60 cents to place a bid for one cent. You may well place 100 bids, or $60, and get absolutely nothing for your money. Here's a statement from a Yahoo! writer who tried a penny auction site:
I bought $60 in bids and got in on an iPad auction. I bid occasionally, trying to time it when the counter neared zero, but I quickly blew 40 bucks in bids. Someone always jumped in at the last second, usually someone using the automated bid setting. So I signed up for automated bids myself, and I was amazed. My $20-worth of remaining bids flew out in 24 seconds. And I didn't win. My 60 bucks was goners! In fact, I watched the most aggressive bidder make 30 bids a minute for 2 more hours until the auction ended. 3600 bids, at a minimum 55 cents a bid. That's $1980 for a device that costs retail $499, and that guy didn't even win!
Bottom line: If you want to do an auction, use eBay.com, or another legitimate auction site. The penny auctions are designed to prey on your desire to get an amazing deal. Don't fall for it.
Have you seen any of these scams or others in the wild? Please share in comments!