There are a lot of scams out there that unfortunately people fall victim to. We will review some of them and tell you what they are and what to look out for so you do not become a scam or fraud victim.
Scams of Shame
All scams are heartless as well as the people who run them. These crooks do not care about their victims. There are many cases of scams that are beyond belief.
One case, was a Rhode Island lawyer whose victims included terminally ill people. Posing as a philanthropist, he gained the confidence of his victims by giving them money in exchange for their personal financial details and knowledge of their health history. Then he purchased annuities that paid death benefits and a type of investment bond in their names, cashing in when his victims passed. The fraud took place over several years and netted $46 million for the lawyer and his investors, many of whom didn’t know how they were earning their money.
People who were ill were also the unwitting targets in a Florida medicare scam that ripped off the health insurance program to the amount of around $200 million. 40 people were put in jail after being convicted of offenses where patients suffering from dementia and other serious illnesses were exploited for the fraud. Prosecutors said hundreds of patients were so sick that they couldn’t have benefited from these services offered by a chain of therapeutic clinics.
Some scams you really just shake your head at for the nerve of these crooks. Here are a few more:
In the state of Georgia, well-meaning law enforcement officials set up a hotline against scams, only to have it taken by crooks. When the victims phoned in their complaints, thinking they were speaking to police, scam arists told them they could get their money back if they handed over personal details, which were in turn used for fraud.
A New York state tax compliance employee wrote $3.6 million of bogus checks to the IRS and then claimed the money back as overpayments. Once she was arrested, she began a new scam, filing bogus returns and then branched out more into passing fake checks at a local bank.
An Arizona man who had his personal computer hijacked by fake support techs tried to write a negative review of the company for the Better Business Bureau. The crooks were able to hijack his review too and turn it into a positive, glowing review!
In the state of Kentucky, a seemingly wheelchair-bound, speech-slurring panhandler who admitted in 2013 earning $100,000 a year from begging, was discovered a year later still practicing his phony act and still pulling in the donations.
The sneakiest of them all goes to a Georgia man. The con artist used the online classified ad site Craigslist to offer cars that were genuinely for sale on a used car lot. He actually had the nerve to meet people who responded to the ads at the car lot. He went under the noses of the car dealership’s employees and took deposits from several people and had produced phony bills of sale.
At times, even the best experts who you’d think would know better will fall victim to scams. No one is immune to them but there are way to protect yourself.
We’ve seen it many times before and this year three people were indicted for allegedly fooling art experts into paying $80 million for “masterpieces” that were actually created by a 75-year old Chinese man in a New York garage. A leading art gallery sold 40 of the paintings which were painted on canvasses stained with tea bags for $63 million. The gallery said it didn’t realize they were fakes and had them inspected by conservation experts.
A forgery of a very different type came up when investigators visited a Philadelphia auto-body shop. They discovered a variety of animal parts and other props that are used by crooks for fraudulent insurance claims. These crooks would create fake crash aftermath scenes using dead carcasses from deer, dogs and even geese. They created movie like sets with chunks of concrete, pieces of glass and plants.
In California, a known wine collector was put in jail for 10 years after the end of an eight year crime spree of manufacturing fake vintage wine. These were supposedly famous and rare bottles all made from the comfort of his kitchen. He pulled in between $8 million and $20 million at auction from experienced collectors and connoisseurs, including a couple of famous businessmen, before his scam was uncovered. He told the court: “Wine became my life and I lost myself in it.”
A Couple of Doozies
We wrap up this year’s big book of outrageous scams with con artists whose behavior almost defies belief. In Southern California, the alleged operators of a massive cell phone cramming scheme were stopped by the Federal Trade Commission after raking in an estimated $150 million! The group was said to have tricked people into signing up for $10 monthly text services of jokes and celebrity news.
Last but not least, in India, a fake traveling ticket inspector was arrested after he was found to have tricked a 14-year old girl into marrying him. The details of his trick were not reported but a local paper said that after his arrest there were 62 women who claimed to be married to him! To no ones surprise, he was said to have changed his name numerous times during his 10 year marriage spree. He stole money and jewelry from many of his victims, and apparently had also fathered many children.
There are many more outrageous scams in our files that we don’t have room for this week, but we hope that by us bringing them forward that some of them you’ll be just that more skeptical when you encounter smooth talking con artists.
Alert of the Week
Watch out for a very convincing phishing email pretending to be from the online retailer Amazon. The subject line, which is also repeated at the top of the message, beneath a genuine-looking Amazon logo, says: “Check Amazon online account for wrong billing.”It also says: “A section of our billing servers has been randomly allocating unrequested orders to customers hosted on the affected billing servers.” Then it claims it’s compulsory to check your account online and “conveniently” provides a supposed link to Amazon, which, in all reality, takes you to a fake sign in page. Don’t click it. If you have any questions or worries about your Amazon account, go to Amazon.com and sign on from there. If you are skeptical, always type in the site in your browser rather than clicking on a link.
Time to conclude for today — have a great week!