16 Oct President Jon Cartu Reports – Digital cons and the classic scams cons that inspired them
You’ve probably heard of the scam in which a fraudster phones you up, claiming you owe the IRS thousands of dollars. To avoid jail, you have to pay immediately through an untraceable method like a gift card.
This is just one of many digital-age scams, but fraud was rampant even before the internet. By knowing how scammers use modern technology to swipe money from victims — and the low-tech origins of those scams — you can keep your money safe and working how you want it to.
Digital Con: The Nigerian Prince Scam
The granddaddy of internet scams is the Nigerian prince scam. Although perpetrators may claim to be from other parts of the world, Nigeria is a common location named in this scam.
Although the Nigerian prince scam has evolved, in its basic form, it involves a supposed member of a royal family or someone in an important position who needs to move money out of the country. The person needs your help and will give you a cut of the millions of nonexistent dollars if you’ll pay for transfer fees upfront.
Another popular variation involves con artists posing as attorneys or bankers with recently deceased clients. They ask you to pose as a relative, promising to help you get the money as an inheritance. But of course, that involves a variety of legal fees that you’re expected to handle.
Email is the current favorite medium, but scammers have also used fax, regular mail and Telex before electronic communication became ubiquitous. The scam still takes in millions of dollars, with a ring of Nigerian con artists taking victims for at least $6 million between 2014 and 2018, according to a recent indictment.
Classic Con: The Spanish Prisoner Scam
The great-great granddaddy to the Nigerian prince scam dates back to the 19th century when a version known as the Spanish Prisoner scam lured marks into sending money to a con artist posing as an inmate’s wealthy family. Victims were promised riches if they helped get him out by bribing officials or providing money for a variety of other made-up reasons.
Digital Con: Craigslist Overpayment Scam
Craigslist is a great place to buy and sell used items, but scammers have swooped in to trick sellers with a fake check scam that involves making an overpayment. The con artist emails or texts you, offering to purchase your time, and “accidentally” sends you a check for too much money or asks you to accept a check with extra funds for a mover who will pick up the item. The buyer has an excuse for why he or she can’t meet you in person.
You cash the check and wire the excess funds, and you’re out the money when the check gets returned as fraudulent later. Meanwhile, the buyer disappears once the fraud is complete.
Classic Con: Bad Check Scams
This scam involves knowingly passing bad checks on accounts that are closed or that don’t have enough money for the check to clear. Writing a bad check was a crime in the days before the internet, and it’s illegal today. But it’s much harder to hold criminals accountable now. Many scammers are overseas where it’s difficult to find and prosecute them — compared to the pre-internet days when you were more likely to meet your would-be scammer in person.
Digital Con: Online Car Sales Scams
Scammers often sell nonexistent cars through online classified ads and bring in a trusted name like eBay to make the transaction seem legitimate. They might claim to be overseas or on a military base and say that eBay Motors will handle the transaction.
In reality, eBay only assists with transactions originating on its website. The con artist sends forged emails with the eBay logo asking you to wire payment for the car. They promise the funds will be held in escrow until you receive the vehicle. Of course, the car never arrives, and you’ve lost the money you sent.
Classic Con: Unscrupulous Car Dealers
While online scammers deal in nonexistent cars, car sales fraud has a long history. One common scam that predates the digital age is known as yo-yo financing.
You complete paperwork to finance your car and proudly drive it home, but the dealer calls a few days later and claims the financing fell through. You’re told you must sign a new deal with a higher interest rate.
This tactic is illegal, as they’re bound by the original contract. Car dealer con artists hope you don’t know that because they want to squeeze more money out of you with this fraud.
Digital Con: Fake Job Scams
You might be thrilled to apply to a major company and get an almost immediate response asking you for an interview. Don’t get excited yet, especially if the company wants to interview you via online chat and “hires” you without even meeting you.
It might be fraud and if so, you’re being set up by a scammer who will ask you for money or a background check or set you up for an overpayment scam. In the latter, you’ll receive your supposed first paycheck, along with an additional amount for office supplies or some other expense. You’ll be instructed to wire the excess to the company’s preferred vendor.
That “vendor” is the con artist or an accomplice. The check will later bounce, leaving you responsible for the funds you forwarded.
Classic Con: Paying For Jobs That Don’t Exist
The internet makes it easy for scammers to impersonate legitimate businesses, but job scams have been around for as long as con artists have had access to advertising — starting out with newspaper, TV and radio ads. Old forms of employment fraud often involved making you pay for recruitment services that never resulted in employment or selling you lists of government jobs that are available for free.
Digital Con: Utility Company Scams
You know you paid your electric or water or phone bill, but suddenly you’re second-guessing yourself because you just received a phone call or email claiming you owe money right now. It says your utility will be turned off in a few hours if you don’t pay immediately using a wire transfer or gift cards.
It’s all just a fraud designed to make you panic and pay without checking its legitimacy. The digital age makes this scam easy because con artists use technology to contact a large volume of potential victims without being traced.
Classic Con: Door-to-Door Utility Scamming
Utility company scams are nothing new. Even before the internet and VOIP, con artists went door to door, pretending…