From massive frauds to phony fingers — latest outrageous scams: Internet Scambusters #576
It’s time to dip into the Scambusters outrageous scams file, which is always bulging with incredible stories.
They include gigantic investment and counterfeiting frauds, cruel con tricks using children, and crazy rip-off schemes that include eating razor blades!
We have all the details on these and more in this week’s special issue.
And now for the main feature…
Unbelievable! Take a Peek at our Outrageous Scams File
Here at Scambusters, scores of con-trick stories, every one of them a tale of woe, pass across our desk every week, but every so often the scale or the audacity of a con trick qualifies it for our outrageous scams file.
Think, for example, of one of the biggest scams of all time, the $50 billion Ponzi scheme perpetrated by Bernard Madoff.
That may be at the extreme of the spectrum but in the past few years alone there have been plenty more shocking scams.
A couple of years back we devoted a special issue, A Dozen Outrageous, Daring and Funny Scams, to some of the more mind-boggling stories from our collection.
That issue had a somewhat humorous twist but many others are tinged with tragedy, despair or sheer disbelief.
Here’s a new selection from our outrageous scams file:
The Big Money Scams
- Multi-million card theft: In what is said to be the biggest hacking and data breach scheme in US history, more than 160 million credit card numbers have been stolen and 800,000 bank accounts hacked by a single gang — resulting in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars. Police describe it as a “cutting edge” crime and have subsequently arrested five people.
- Big-time pump and dump: US investors are thought to have lost $140 million in an international scheme to sell billions of worthless stocks. After victims had been stung, the alleged scammers then offered to help them get their money back, charging a hefty upfront fee but, of course, doing nothing.
- In a massive international conspiracy uncovered in 2013, counterfeit goods which, if they were genuine, would have been worth $300 million, allegedly have been smuggled by a single gang into the US from China.
- Taxing times: A group of five people in Britain were convicted of inventing an entire movie so they could avoid paying a tax bill and claim refunds, together worth more than $7 million.It’s claimed that when they realized the tax authorities were onto them, the group hastily produced a real low-budget movie, recruiting a scriptwriter and a couple of B-movie actors.
- In Ohio, a man was accused of fraud after collecting an estimated $100 million for veterans. After going on the lam, he was tracked down and allegedly found with a suitcase containing almost $1 million.
- Come fly with me: Remember the true story of Frank Abagnale Jr., the impostor and con artist who was the subject of the movie Catch Me If You Can?Echoing one scene in which Abagnale posed as an airline pilot, a young Italian recently donned a pilot’s uniform and hitched a flight from Munich to Turin — with a seat inside the cockpit of a commercial flight.Fortunately, the two real pilots on board didn’t offer him the chance to take the controls.
- Real heartbreaker: A rich business executive thought he was booking rock band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for his wedding when he handed over $165,000 as a 50% deposit to a man claiming to be the star’s booking agent.But the band actually knew nothing about the man or the booking. The alleged scammer was eventually tracked down and offered to make repayments in installments.
- Free ride: In England, a drunken couple in need of a free ride home told a helpful driver their three-year-old had disappeared on a beach where they were vacationing and that the police had advised them to get back home as quickly as possible.Police launched a massive hunt but didn’t find anyone. Not only was there no missing child, there was no child at all. The couple didn’t have one.
- Cancer claim: A New Jersey mother was alleged to have told her young son he had advanced-stage cancer and would soon die. She also told family and friends, raising thousands of dollars in donations.The boy did not have cancer at all and his mother was subsequently charged with endangering the welfare of a child.
- Sharp taste: You may have heard stories of scammers planting objects in food so they could claim compensation. But a couple in Utah took the scam to a whole new level when they allegedly placed razor blade fragments inside a donut and ate them!They filed a police report but their story aroused the officers’ suspicions and they were charged with filing a false report — despite the evidence of X-rays, which showed blade particles in their stomachs.
- Jail cell enterprise: From behind the bars of an Idaho jail, a convict with time on his hands pulled off a remarkable financial fraud by getting his name onto lists for class action lawsuits and bankruptcy creditors.He allegedly forged legal documents, earning himself a slice of many multi-million-dollar settlements. Prison authorities claim he made at least $64,000 and police charged him with mail fraud.
- Phony fingers: In Brazil, a group of hospital workers made silicone replicas of their fingers so their colleagues could check them in for work, using a fingerprint recorder, when they didn’t show up.
- The $2 million money wash: An Australian poured $2 million into a sham investment scheme which claimed to be able to convert blank paper into currency using a chemical process. It’s an old trick but this was a record haul for the crooks.
We’re not suggesting that these are the worst examples of scams. Indeed if you’ve been unfortunate enough to fall victim to a con trick you probably feel every bit as outraged as the victims of some of the scams we’ve listed.
But these reports do show just how far crooks can stretch their ingenuity, how much risk they’re prepared to take in perpetrating their outrageous scams, and how little regard they have for the feelings of others.
Time to close today, but we’ll be back next week with another issue. See you then!