25 Most Popular Scams You Should Watch Out For

Posted by , Updated on April 22, 2014

From high profile office buildings to shady street corners scammers are everywhere. Although we may be tempted to think that we’re smart enough to avoid their underhanded scheming, everyday thousands of people are conned out of their money and countless lives are ruined. In order to help keep you from becoming another statistic we’ve compiled this list of the 25 most popular scams you should watch out for.

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Nigerian (419) Scam

Nigeria 419 Scam

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Chances are you’ve heard about this one. Although named after Nigeria, the emails can come from Sierra Leone, the Ivory Coast, or almost any other country. Typically they consist of some high ranking or influential individual soliciting assistance in something to the effect of transferring money abroad. Usually they promise a significant portion of their wealth in return for your help. Unfortunately all the transaction costs and fees that you end up paying for are phony and it’s time to write of your losses.


Work At Home Scam

home office

Be your own boss, work from home, make thousands of dollars a week. How often have you seen this advertised? Probably almost daily and while the perpetrators will try to sell you a starter kit containing “everything you need” you’ll usually just end up with a letter telling you to scam your friends and family the same way they scammed you.


Weight Loss Scam


Not much different from the work at home scam, this one usually involves a promise from someone claiming that they can help you lose weight and sometimes even slow the aging process by means of either a pill or some silly patch. Don’t swallow this one though…your bank account will regret it.


Salted Gold Mines

Salted Gold Mines

Although this one is a bit outdated, its underlying principles are still very much alive today. Hundreds of years ago mine owners out west would plant several gold nuggets in an otherwise worthless mine in order to make them look good to potential buyers.


900 Phone Number Scam

900 phone number scam

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If you ever get an email or telephone call informing you that you have won some sort of lottery or sweepstakes and all you need to do is call a 1-900 toll number to claim the prize…don’t do it. Every second that you spend on the line listening to the extended pre-recorded message is just more money trickling out of your bank account and into theirs.


Trojan Malware In Androids


A sort of high tech version of the previous scam, this one specifically targets Google’s Android operating system. Essentially a trojan is inadvertently installed on the phone which then begins immediately sending messages to those often abused 900 numbers.


Money Order Overpayment Scam

Money Order Overpayment Scam

For those of you trying to get rid of your old sofa on ebay, a word of caution – beware of money orders. Prospective buyers will offer to pay with one that is worth more than the price you are asking for and after the alleged money order “clears” they will ask you to transfer the difference back to them. unfortunately for you though, the money order was a fake and guess who’s responsible?


Ponzi Scheme

Ponzi Scheme

Probably the most famous swindler in history, Charles Ponzi convinced thousands of people to give him their money with the promise of ridiculously high returns. In something known as a pyramid scheme he paid off the initial investors with the money he got from later investors. His model has been used by by con artists like Bernie Madoff ever since.


Ebay Sellers Not Shipping


Just because you paid for something on ebay doesn’t mean you’re going to receive something through ebay. There are a number of unscrupulous sellers on the site that will just take your money and run. Read the reviews first and if they don’t have any, contact them directly.




This broad term applies to any attempt by a scammer to obtain usernames, passwords, or credit card numbers by masquerading as a legitimate source. Just remember, if you get an email from your bank asking you to verify your account details…ignore it! Legitimate companies will never ask you for this information via email.


Disaster Scam


Unfortunately, disasters are often prime opportunities for scammers attempting to profit from your goodwill. Although there are many variations, one of the most deceptive is when the nefariously minded individual hacks your email account and sends out a message to all of your contacts telling them that you are stranded and need help getting home.


Contractor Scam


If your house is falling apart, be careful who you hire. Many times con men prancing around disguised as contractors will leave your house a bigger mess than they found it. Once again, do your homework beforehand.


Resume Sites


For most of us our time is just as valuable as our money, so when you go onto jobs search sites that try to upsell you with their “premium” search options rather than just connecting you with the employers it can be a real drag. Moreover, paying for any of these is like paying for instructions on how to tie your shoes, so just go to a reputable site like monster or careerbuilder instead.


Craigslist Apartments

New York City

You can find almost anything on Craiglist these days, including scams. The apartment listings, especially in places like Manhattan and LA are actually full of fraudulent ads. So if anyone is asking for money before you see the apartment…steer clear.


Fake Antivirus Software


Accounting for about 15 percent of maliciously inclined software, these programs trick people into downloading them by popping up a screen on the user’s computer saying they have a virus. Of course, there is also a link to a program that will “fix” the problem. And by fix we mean steal all of your identity information.


Car Scams

car buying scam

One of the quickest ways to get scammed is to do business with the people claiming they will buy your used car for up to %150 of its market value. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true…it probably is. And that check in your hand? Bouncy as a basketball.


Racing Scams

horse racing scam

For those of you who like to spend time at the downs, be careful. It’s a hotbed for scammers claiming that they can beat the odds and just like anywhere else, make sure to keep an eye out for anyone boasting about their extensive track record.


U.S. Lottery


Every year thousands of people get duped by callers telling them they won a large sum of money in the US lottery and they have to pay their taxes on it with some sleezy callers even bullying older people by telling them they’ll go to jail if they don’t. Remember people…there is no US lottery, it goes by states.


Phony Psychics

phony psychics

The only prediction these fraudulent phonies ever got right is that people will open their wallets to hear what they want to hear. The worst part is that many times these solicitations will be made via email, particularly targeting the elderly, with messages claiming the recipient could fall ill, or worse, if they don’t respond.


Mail Order Brides

mail order bride

A fairly popular scam these days, pictures of Eastern European or Asian women are circulated until a lonely bachelor somewhere gets smitten enough to be willing to send money for airtickets, family, and other expenses. Usually the scam continues until either they realize they’ve been had or their bank account flatlines.


Boiler Rooms

boiler room

It usually starts with a phone call from a persuasive salesman attempting to convince you to invest in various commodities or shares. Unfortunately, however, they don’t actually exist and because boiler rooms are often linked to organized crime families, chances are you won’t be seeing that money again.


Land Bankers

land bankers

By making empty promises concerning the land they are selling, land bankers manage to convince buyers that their plots will soon appreciate in value tremendously. The truth is, however, that these cheap plots are usually located in agricultural zones that will never see that sort of development. So before you dish out the big bucks on potential future real estate…do your homework.


Ostrich Farms

ostrich farm

It sounds crazy, but its true. Often touted by con artists as the “food of the future”, these businessmen will go around offering people to invest as part-owner of either an ostrich, emu, or some other exotic animal. In reality, however, the money never goes to purchasing any ostriches but rather has a tendency of ending up in offshore bank accounts. Better luck next time.


Hotel Room Scam

hotel room scam

You may have read the signs in hotel lobbies recently warning you about scammers calling in the middle of the night. Usually they will impersonate the front desk and very apologetically ask for your credit card number because their computer crashed. Their hope is that because your are probably a bit sleepy you won’t realize that the number isn’t from the hotel.


Sucker Lists/Recovery Rooms


The latest trend in scammology, con artists will buy lists of “suckers” who have been successfully scammed in the past. Why? These people, usually the elderly, are actually far more likely to fall for it again. In the most sinister twist of this story, the scammers will actually set up recovery rooms, or agencies that will help them recoup their losses for a small fee…and you know the rest of the story.

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