Five quick and simple scams that could happen to you today

Photo: Jepoirrier

Any long-time readers of Wise Bread know that I like to keep up-to-date on hustles, scams and con jobs. They change all the time, and new ones are invented daily. A US version of the UK show The Real Hustle has been trying out some very simple but effective cons on the American public, and they’re getting away with some serious money. Watch, learn and stay alert. One of these could catch you out the next time you leave the office or home, even if it’s just to grab some quick cash from an ATM or a small bite to eat.

The ATM Hustle
Here, two ways to grab your cash at an ATM are outlined, and in both methods you never even know you’ve been the victim of a scam. The second version is more prevalent and has many variations as it requires no technology. Street teams work areas in busy cities, I was victim to a version of the second one about ten years ago in London. When using an ATM, keep your wits about you and if anything looks or feels suspicious, walk away.

The Laptop Switch-Off
Right now I’m on the hunt for a used laptop for my wife, so this one really caught my attention. If you’re a fan of Craigslist, you may be tempted by a used laptop at a great price. In this case, a $1000 Macbook for $500. But listen to that voice in your head, and realize that deals too good to be true usually are. When you buy a laptop, keep your eye on the machine at all times, test it thoroughly and most important, don’t hand over your cash until the actual laptop is in your possession.

The Café Manager Scam
This one is all about questioning authority, or in this case, never questioning it. In most cases, we believe what we are seeing and hearing because we have no reason not to. When a guy in a suit approaches you in a café or restaurant and says he is the manager, why wouldn’t you believe him? Big mistake. It just goes to show how far confidence can get you (hence, con man). At a restaurant table, there should be no reason at all to hand your credit card before the start of a meal, even if you’re ordering drinks. And if you want to open a tab with a card, do it at the bar. 

The Bag Snatch
So simple and yet so effective. All it takes is a small distraction, just a conversation or someone asking the time, and your valuables are gone. Never put your bag down in a busy place, or if you do, keep one foot on the handle or strap.

The Distract & Conquer Con
Here, the con artists take advantage of the Good Samaritan syndrome. BY posing as tourists and asking for help, they’re able to get close to people and walk away with some very nice valuables. Again, keep these items on you, there’s no need to have a cell-phone laying out on the table when jacket pocket will do the job just as well.

You can find many more examples of hustles and con jobs at, under The Real Hustle. Stay safe and aware folks.

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Guest's picture

First of all it is not a "ATM machine" as they state over and over again in the video. It is an ATM or an AT machine. ATM machine is like calling it an automated teller machine machine.

And second it is not "PIN number"!! It is a PIN or a PI number.

Producers = FAIL

Guest's picture

No, you have to say "ATM achine" and "PIN umber"!!

Paul Michael's picture

I get your point, but as long as you take away the information, that's the most important thing. By the way, wouldn't that be AN ATM machine? ;-)

Guest's picture

These films are very effective. In fact, they make my skin crawl!

I am so often out in public places -- lately, airports -- with 2 little kids in tow. I am *very* distracted and usually carrying too much junk. I have a hard enough time just hanging on to our stuff... not leaving a trail of sippy cups and mittens behind... I can only think of how easy it would be for someone to "relieve" me of my posessions. Going through airport security, when you have to put everything on the belt and then leave it to go through the metal detector, is an especially vulerable time. I have "lost" things going through security -- including my passport -- and I will never know for sure if it was lost or stolen. TSA was *no help* and didn't even take seriously the potential theft of a passport, which you would think would be a security issue!

Guest's picture

i actually work for the bank and people have called in about if their information has been stolen when using a non affliated atm machine that doesn't go with their bank card. if you noticed in the videos, it is only the atm machines that you swipe because they can put the camera/card readers. i tell most people to try to use atm machines that are not swipped slots, but sucks your card in. unless, thieves have found a way to to copy the card information when the card gets sucked in to the atm machines itself.

Guest's picture

Did you watch the video? The machine was in fact one that "sucks" the card in, NOT a swipe reader. So you might want to revise the advice you give your customers.

Guest's picture

You can tell people not to do this, but if they need cash and the only machine around is a swipe, they're going to use it. If they make a hassle to find a "suck in" machine (and I haven't even seen many of these around at all), then they're just being paranoid.

Also, I'd imagine that the card reader works just by having the card go through it, so it probably wouldn't be difficult at all to place a reader at the opening of a "suck in" slot, as long as the card passes through it.

I just always sort of cup my hand over the numbers when I'm entering my PIN, because you never know who could be watching you from behind.

Paul Michael's picture

Automated Teller Machine achine, and Personal Identification Number umber.

Yep, makes sense.

Guest's picture

that's the most important thing.

Guest's picture

I always say ATM machine but now I feel like a idiot for saying it, a proper idiot

Guest's picture
Steve in W MA

A PI number is always equal to 3.14.