10 new scams that might be heading your way
There's a strong international flavor to this week's clutch of scams. But many of them will ring a bell with people in just about any country, including the US. Even if you haven't come across them previously, be warned: they could soon be on their way to your locale.
In the past few days we've uncovered 10 new scams from around the world, including three variations of job scams where, one way or another, people lose their money, their possessions or their identity -- or all three -- in return for non-existent work.
There are also a couple of cunning new tricks to look out for and one that's currently spreading like wildfire - a cheeky spam email that suggests someone has an incriminating video of you!
1. Genuine debt -- phony creditors
The scam: In South Africa, the country's Banking Risk Information Centre warns of a spate of "pay up" demands to people who owe money. Somehow scammers have acquired precise details of their victims' debts or even of invoices they've recently been sent.
The scammers pass themselves off as the creditors by writing to the victims on genuine-looking letterheads. The letters say they -- the creditors -- have changed their bank and that payments must now be paid to a different account, detailed in the letter. The victims don't discover it's phony until the real creditor contacts them.
The solution: Don't accept notifications of changed payment requirements on face value. Contact your creditors for confirmation.
2. Fast talk, fast work -- no wallet
The scam: In Cheshire, England, smartly dressed scammers working in pairs, are bilking shoppers out of thousands. One watches a person using an ATM, memorizing the PIN numbers, then the other starts talking to the victim, usually an elderly woman, distracting her while her purse is open.
The first guy "lifts" the victim's wallet, goes back to the cash machine, and draws out more money. Sometimes the wallet is returned without the victim knowing. Other times it's kept and the victim's identity and credit cards are stolen
The solution: Always be on your guard at ATMs. Politely avoid any attempt to start a conversation.
3. Job scam #1: The spa sting
The scam: Two aspiring models in Manila, Philippines, are charmed by a woman who meets them in a mall and offers them modeling work. She accompanies them to a spa, where she says they need a beauty makeover so they can start work straightaway. While the victims are taking a shower, she steals their purses, cell phones, jewelry and other valuable, then coolly walks out of the spa.
The solution: First mistake -- this is TGTBT (Too Good To Be True) isn't it? Second mistake -- never leave your possessions unattended and don't trust someone you don't know to take care of them.
You can find more on modeling scams here.
4. Job scam #2: The easy touch
The scam: It's one of the oldest scams in the book. In Saudi Arabia a man texts his female victims, offering them hard-to-find jobs. They deposit money in a bank account and he issues a "receipt" they're supposed to present when they turn up for work. The jobs of course don't exist.
The solution: Only use an established reputable agent, with verifiable credentials to find you work. Even then, perhaps unless you're in the entertainment business, most of them don't charge. They make their money from commissions from employers.
5. Job scam #3: Cashing in on dreams
The scam: Back to England, where every young man dreams of becoming a soccer star. Phony soccer club talent scouts send emails to their young victims, offering them club trials or try-outs for a fee supposedly to cover insurance and travel expenses.
The scammers use details from a publicly available list of genuine agents. Of course, the offer is a lie but parents are only to ready to believe in their sons' good fortunes and wire off the money.
The solution: When you want something really badly, it's easy to fall for something like this. Take the agent's name and check out the offer with the clubs involved or the sport's governing body. Or check the agent's contact details independently.
6. Sob story scam at the gas pump
The scam: Let's stay in England for one more. A kind motorist falls for a plausible money-for-fuel scam. He's filling up his own car at a gas station when a young women points to her own car by another gas pump. She says thieves stole the purse of her mother, who is in the car, and asks for enough money to get a tank of gas. He takes pity, gives her the cash and she goes off to fill up. But all she does is put the pump nozzle in the car. She draws no fuel.
Once her victim has gone, she repeats the scam on one driver after another. Eventually, someone at the gas station figures out what she is doing and chases her away.
The solution: Sad to say, but the only way to avoid this scam is to politely say you're unable to help when someone asks for money like this. Or, agree to accompany her into the store to pay after she puts some gas in her tank.
7. Red Cross Romania aid alert
The scam: It starts anywhere but purports to end in Tecuci, Romania: a phony Red Cross email plea for $100 donations to help people in this troubled town that no one's actually heard of! Victims are asked to use a PayPal account.
The solution: The Red Cross does not raise money this way. Never send money in response to an email plea. Always check it out with the genuine source. (Read more about charity scams here.)
8. It's bare cheek!
The scam: Have you received one of these yet? A spam email that says you've been caught naked on video! The latest outbreak is in New Zealand but it's been landing in inboxes throughout the US, too. Of course, you're intrigued, shocked and perhaps just a little worried. You've heard so much these days about hidden cameras, you're thinking maybe, just maybe, it's true.
The solution: Of course it isn't true. But if you click on the link that's supposed to take you to the video, you're really downloading malicious software. Don't click on links in emails.
9. As Popeye said: That ain't my Olive
The scam: "Extra virgin olive oil" being sold across Europe and the US turns out to be sunflower oil with chlorophyll added. Scores of people have been arrested in Italy and several oil refining plants impounded. The scam follows hard on the heels of similar cons involving bogus wines and mozzarella cheese
The solution: This is a hard one to detect -- but knowing about it and buying from reputable suppliers and retailers will minimize your chances of being scammed.
10. Adoption kids who don't exist
The scam: Targeting desperate people is one of the scammers' favorite tricks. They're easy victims. In a recent incident in Santa Barbara, CA, would-be adoptive parents have been tricked into paying huge deposits for Russian children they want adopt. The money supposedly ensures the child's picture is removed from a website, so no one else can adopt them.
The website is bogus. More than 60 people are said to have been bilked out of up to $11,000 each. The scammer has been identified but, so far, not caught.
The solution: Only work with official adoption agencies - no matter how desperate you feel.
Many of this week's scams show just how clever and plausible the con artists can be. Sometimes they seem almost impossible to spot, But Scambusters readers have the distinct advantage of being forewarned. You know what to look out for!