In the old days, snake oil scams were incredibly prevalent–and successful. Anyone with charm and a way with words could waltz into a small town and swindle the entire population by promising eternal youth, extreme happiness, or riches beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.
You would think that with all the information available on the Internet nowadays these scams would be impossible to pull off. Unfortunately, thousands of people still fall for similar “too good to be true” schemes every day. Scammers prey on innocent people who put their trust in anyone seeming to be offering assistance all the time. As you browse the World Wide Web, be on the lookout for:
Disaster relief scams
This is perhaps the most despicable method people use to swindle others out of their hard-earned cash. Whenever a natural disaster or terrorist attack occurs, the vast majority of the population is more than willing to open their hearts and their wallets to help those in need–and scammers know this. When Hurricane Katrina hit the United States, hundreds of people saw their fellow countryman’s suffering as an opportunity to profit. At a time in which people are most vulnerable, some scumbags only see dollar signs.
Collector’s items scams
Most people who collect specific items as a hobby do so with no ulterior motive in mind. Those who have amassed a collection of baseball cards or supposedly rare silver dollars throughout their lives aren’t looking to profit; for the most part, they want to share their collection with their children and pass down something that represents them. Of course, it would be nice if they were able to sell some of their collection if absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, when the time comes to cash in on their investment, many collectors are heartbroken to discover that their memorabilia is virtually worthless. And, of course, by the time they figure this out, the person who sold them the useless junk is long gone, and the poor collector is left with nothing.
You’ve probably seen commercials for auction sites that offer iPads and Xbox consoles for a fraction of the retail price and wondered how they do it. Hopefully you stopped at this stage, realizing that if something is too good to be true, it probably is. But if you didn’t stop yourself and opened a $50 bid on a new $1,000 Macbook, you likely immediately regretted your decision. These sites often charge a monthly subscription fee to use their services–whether you use them or not. Not only that, but some of them also take the money you bid on an item regardless of whether or not you actually won the auction. Now you see how they can afford to “give away” these expensive items for a tenth of the price, right?
Free trial scams
I like to live by the old saying, “If it’s free, it’s for me!” I think a lot of people do. But you have to use discretion while living by this motto, especially when browsing the Internet. A lot of sites offer free trials for their services or products for one month, but they require your credit card information “just for verification.” What they really use your information for is to charge your card the minute your free trial period runs out and the paid monthly subscription kicks in. And–you guessed it–these subscriptions aren’t cheap. And they aren’t refundable, either. These companies bank on people forgetting to cancel their subscription within the first month. Then they count on you being too busy to deal with the hassle of complaining, so you chalk up the $49.99 fee as a loss and move on with your life. While it might not seem like making fifty bucks from a once-off customer might not seem like a lot, think about it. If only 1% of the population of America falls for the scam, the “company” will make about $150 million for doing absolutely nothing!
Work from home scams
When you see the phrase “work from home,” you most likely imagine lounging on your couch with your iPad in your hand, the TV on in the background, and a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine) next to you while you breeze through your day. While working from home is certainly possible (ahem), it’s not like you won’t be working. But that’s exactly what many “work from home” scams promise–the ability to click around on your computer for an hour a day and spend the rest of your afternoon watching soap opera reruns while the dividends roll in. They’ll promise to give you “the secret” to making residual cash with minimal effort–but only if you pay an upfront, non-refundable fee. Of course, the “secret” usually involves some type of Ponzi scheme that requires you to either admit you’ve been swindled, or become a swindler yourself. Take it from me, there are much better ways to make a living working from home.
Featured photo credit: A Fool and His Money / David Goehring via farm4.staticflickr.com