There seem to be as many digital scams out there as there are stars in the galaxy. Nowadays, people have to really watch out for them, and those individuals who are not super tech savvy while also being incredibly trusting have the highest chances of parting with their hard earned money.
But scams themselves are not new. In fact, they were all too prevalent even before the rise of the computer and telephone. Because those scams worked so well in the past, fraudsters decided to revamp them into scams that we know today.
So, if you’ve ever wondered where some of these prevalent digital-age cons were coming from, we’ve got you covered. Let’s look into the history of some of these and, hopefully, learn how to avoid them in the future!
Digital Con: The Nigerian Prince Scam
The Nigerian prince scam has become somewhat of a joke in recent years. In this scenario, you’d receive an email from a supposed member of a royal family. The location from which this person is from varies, but Nigeria seems to be the most common.
You’ll be informed that this royal family member wants to transfer some money outside of the country, usually in the ballpark of millions of dollars, and you’re the lucky person that gets to help and share the fortune! All you’d have to do is help with the transfer fees- of course, if you do, you’ll never hear from this Nigerian prince ever again.
A couple of decades ago, these scammers even used to use fax or Telex. Nowadays, the scam has been reinvented, so instead of a prince or princess, you could be contacted by a “lawyer” or “attorney” that needs you to pose as a relative of someone who has recently passed away in order to get the inheritance money.
Classic Con: The Spanish Prisoner Scam
This all started sometime in the 19th century, so the scam isn’t anything new.
Back then, people were contacted by a supposedly rich Spanish family who needed help getting their son out of prison, hence the “Spanish
Prisoner” name. They would ask people to help bribe officials in order to get their son out of prison, promising riches in return.
But no matter which way you cut it, it’s still a con artist scam that is meant to part you with your money in return for a sizable reward!
Digital Con: Craigslist Overpayment Scam
It seems like ever since people have been buying and selling stuff on the internet, scammers have been trying to figure out ways to take advantage of them.
One such place was Craigslist, where this scam is still prevalent to this day. The scammer would contact you to buy your services or items but would “accidentally” send you a check for too much money. Then, they would naturally ask for you to wire back the excess funds.
If you do this, you’ll eventually find out that the check was fraudulent, but by then you will have already sent them the extra cash, leaving you without your precious dollars AND without a legitimate buyer.
Classic Con: Bad Check Scams
But bad checks aren’t anything new! In fact, writing a bad check was a crime even before Craigslist, or even the internet existed. Passing bad checks on accounts that don’t have enough money or that are closed has been going on for a while now.
Back in those days, these scammers were overseas too, so finding them and prosecuting them was nearly impossible. Nowadays, scammers don’t really show their faces either, but some of them still do, so at least there’s some hope for justice to be served!
Digital Con: Online Car Sales Scams
Selling cars online isn’t anything new, and if you’re looking for a new vehicle you may fall into a false sense of security with some of these scammers! Oftentimes, the “sellers” say they’re overseas or in a military base, so they can’t meet up in person but assure you that eBay
Motors will handle the transaction. That name alone makes people feel secure, but that’s exactly what the scammer wants!
You’ll get a legitimate-looking email, complete with the eBay logo, and will be asked to wire the money for the car. Once you do, you’ll patiently wait for your car, thinking that the money will be held in escrow.
Of course, the car was never going to arrive, and you’re down a couple thousands of dollars.
Classic Con: Unscrupulous Car Dealers
Before scammers learned how to falsify emails from eBay, they did something called yo-yo financing. These unscrupulous car dealers know that what they’re doing is illegal, they just hope that potential buyers don’t.
This is how this particularly nasty scam works: you complete all the paperwork to finance your brand new car and even drive it home. All seems well, until you get a phone call a couple of days later. Oops, it’s the car dealer, AKA the con artist, saying that the financing fell through.
Then, they’ll ask you to come back and sign a new deal and, surprise surprise, the interest rate is higher.
As we said, this is totally illegal, but this is how car sales fraud used to be done in the past. Some people still attempt it today, so if someone tries this with you, make sure to contact the authorities!
Digital Con: Fake Job Scams
What’s worse than getting hit by a fake job scam when you’re actively looking for a new job!? You may have applied for a major company, or so you’d think. The truth is that someone is posing as a hiring manager for that well known company and is hoping to scam you with an overpayment scam.
It used to be that you needed to avoid the people that would only interview you online, but the coronavirus has changed that, so it’s better to watch out for an interview process that is a little too fast to be true.
The scammer will “hire” you and send you a supposed first paycheck in addition to some extra money for office supplies. You’ll then be asked to wire back the excess money, usually to their preferred vendor, who could be an accomplice to this scam. Of course, you’ll late find out that the check they sent you bounced.
Classic Con: Paying For Jobs That Don’t Exist
We should all be careful nowadays for these sorts of scams, especially since COVID-19 has made online interviews more prevalent.
However, keep in mind that this is not a new scam, not by a long shot. A couple of years back these con artists had access to newspaper, TV, and radio ads, making their job offers seem real.
It was more common back in the day to pay for recruitment services, though. What’s worse is that people who fell for these were offered lists of government jobs that were available for free, so they were essentially paying for nothing.
Digital Con: Utility Company Scams
Sometimes, even though we’ve paid our utility bills, we may still second guess ourselves if we get additional mail stating that we haven’t.
That’s exactly what these scammers are banking on, especially since they use programs that allow them to contact high volumes of people without getting tracked.
The email they send you will look legitimate, and they’ll state that a service you haven’t paid for will be turned off in a matter of hours if you won’t pay immediately. To make things more “convenient”, they’ll ask you to do a wire transfer or even use gift cards.
Classic Con: Door-to-Door Utility Scamming
Nowadays, scammers have the luxury of contacting hundreds if not thousands of people via email. But before emails were invented, these scammers had to employ the door-to-door method.
They showed up and pretended to represent a legitimate company, then asked for a current utility bill in order to ensure that the customer was getting the best available rate. With that information in hand they would then switch people to different providers. Of course, these providers would charge much higher rates!
Digital Con: Computer Tech Support Scam
These scammers target those people who are less tech savvy. They typically call households and claim they work for Microsoft, stating that they discovered a problem on your PC. By convincing you, they’ll try to gain access to your computer, where they’ll show you various screens that show “proof” of the problem you’re having, for example a virus or something similar.
If you’re not super tech savvy, then these screens will look quite frightening. What they’ll offer next are overpriced software remedies, but more often than not there scammers will install malware on your PC. Worst case scenario, they’ll flat out steal your bank login or other financial details without you even knowing.
In some cases, you may not even be directly contacted by the scammer. Instead, they’ll get you to contact them by showing you a fake virus warning popup on your computer screen. Because they often look like real Windows warnings, you’ll probably want to call the provided number, which is how they get you to trust them- after all, they didn’t contact you, you contacted them!
Classic Con: Unscrupulous Computer Repair Shops
Unscrupulous computer repair shops are still around today, but less so than they were a few years back. That’s why it’s still important to do ample research before picking a repair shop.
These scammers would often replace faulty computer parts with inferior products while charging higher prices. They’ll also lie about the extent of the needed repair, meaning you’ll pay for stuff you don’t even need. As for software, they’ll have you pay full price for it when in reality, all they’ve done is install unlicensed software.
Digital Con: Online Apartment Rental Scams
Looking for apartments online has become a new norm, which is why scammers have jumped at the opportunity to find victims though online apartment rental scams. This has become an even bigger issue due to the pandemic as people had to search for apartments or homes while also social distancing.
The scammers will attract you with a gorgeous apartment at below-market costs and ask you to wire first and last month’s rent. Because they actually have nothing to do with the property, they’ll seemingly disappear off the face of the earth, leaving you without money and without your dream apartment.
This is especially dangerous if you also give up your previous apartment, so you might not even have a place to stay if you’re not careful.
Classic Con: In-Person Apartment Rental Cons
Sadly, such scams don’t even need the internet to accomplish what they set out to do. Back in the day, criminals used newspaper ads to advertise properties. They’d show prospective renters vacant lots, inviting people to view them when they knew they’d be less suspicious around the neighborhood.
Then, they’d obviously collect rent and a security deposit before disappearing.
Of course, these sort of scams run deep, and scammers need to know which lots to show people in order for them to not get traced back to themselves. Scary stuff!
Digital Con: Romance Scams
Sadly, romance scams are still really prevalent nowadays. These typically work over dating sites or apps. It’s been reported that in 2018 $143 million have been lost due to these scams, so watch out!
These scammers often pose as widows and widowers to pull your heart strings, and they work really hard to make you truly believe that they’re in love with you. In some cases, they even pose as doctors working on charitable missions, or as military personnel- anything to make you trust them and see them as these perfect human beings worthy of your love!
Eventually, they’ll ask victims for money for all sorts of reasons, such as bumping into some trouble while overseas. In a lot of these scams, they claim to need the money for medical reasons. Others often ask victims to send them money for plane tickets so that they can come and meet them in person.
Classic Con: Sham Marriages for Immigration
Dating apps have made it easier for scammers to look for potential victims, but let’s remember that these types of cons aren’t new. In fact, before scammers tried to get money from victims, they used these tactics in order to get around immigration laws.
The scammer would pretend to be madly in love with a U.S. citizen in order to get married. The next step? Qualifying for U.S. residency.
You might be surprised to hear that a lot of U.S. citizens were actually in on the scam and would often get paid for their efforts.
While this thing still happens regularly, nowadays romance scams are centered more and more around money.
Digital Con: The Blessing Loom/Airplane Game Facebook Scheme
Ponzi schemes aren’t new, but Facebook has definitely made them more prevalent, considering how easy it is to reach potential victims and share information with even friends and family.
Known as either the Airplane Game or the Blessing Loom, scammers will try and get people at the bottom of the pyramid scheme to send money to the people above. These victims normally do in the hopes that one day they too can reach the top. In some cases, they sacrifice an absurd amount of money with the promise of one day having it all paid back.
What’s worse, if they ever question why they aren’t making strides, they’re often told that they aren’t working hard enough in convincing others to join.
Classic Con: Offline Version of the Blessing Loom/Airplane Game
Again, the Facebook scam is just an old scam in new clothes. This isn’t anything new. In fact, this used to work just as well though postal mail- albeit maybe a little bit slower. Payments were also made in cash, as opposed to payment apps.
Digital Con: Online Crowdfunding Scams
Websites like GoFundMe are great places to help people in need. There, you’ll find many good causes you could help out with some money. Sadly, a lot of scammers have caught wind of this.
They post fake stories about medical needs, or having to rebuild their house after a fire, or other traumatizing events. Because of this, it’s incredibly difficult to find real campaigns, so it’s a good idea to hold on to your money until you’re absolutely sure you’re not actually lining a scammer’s pocket.
Classic Con: Fake Charity Solicitors
How many of you remember fake charity solicitors? These scammers used to manly walk around time asking for donations. If you’re from New York, you may remember seeing people who impersonate Buddhist monks, asking for donations.
Of course, these types of scams haven’t disappeared, but the online versions are far more prevalent nowadays. In a wild twist of events, we seem to be more likely to fall for the in-person scam nowadays, mainly because a lot of us have been taught to never trust everything we read on the internet. That’s why we’re more likely to give people money in person. Strange, huh?
Digital Con: Lottery Scams
You’d be surprised by the number of people that fall for online lottery scams. Nefarious individuals will inform you you’ve just won the lottery, even if you don’t remember ever purchasing a ticket. They’ll lure you in with enormous cash prizes or luxury vacations.
Nowadays, they’ll even say that you’ve been automatically entered into a lottery after purchasing goods or services but they can’t tell you what these are since they don’t have that information, so they’ll likely list stuff that most people use, giving you a false sense of hope.
Others even use the names of legitimate foreign lotteries so that if you look them up online, you’ll find real websites.
Of course, in order to get the money you’ll be required to pay a miscellaneous fee or two.
Classic Con: Lottery Claim Scams
But before all of this, scammers needed only to convince you that they had a winning lottery ticket that they couldn’t cash in because they were in the country illegally. In order to get the money, they’ll need your help, obviously. And that help comes in the form of some money… obviously!
This type of scam used to target senior citizens who wanted to help someone out. Of course, the scammers would also promise to share the prize with them, but all of that would require them to pay up first.
Have you ever heard of these online scams before? Have you ever fallen for one yourself? What do you think about the classic cons?
Leave us a comment down below- we’d love to read your thoughts!