Worst scams list underlines the greed and cruelty of con artists: Internet Scambusters #678
It's no fun reviewing our collection of some of the worst scams of the year.
The scale of these crimes and the cost in terms of both finance and emotions is breathtakingly sad.
But as we approach a new year, they serve as a timely warning to us all that scammers don't care about the suffering they cause -- so it's up to each one of us to look out for ourselves and those near and dear to us.
Let's get started...
15 For '15 — Worst Scams of the Year
Among the hundreds of news reports that cross our desks every year, there's always a batch that we nominate as the worst scams of the year.
They're usually stories involving tens of millions of dollars' worth of frauds, or tales of barefaced cheek or almost unbelievable behavior in tragic circumstances.
Each one of them also carries an important message or lesson for us all about the risks of scams we face every day and the awful consequences that can happen when things go wrong.
In no particular order, here's our countdown of 15 of the most outrageous scams of 2015.
1. Sweetheart Scam #1. Of the thousands of stories of "lonely hearts" tricked into giving money to phony online dates, one of the biggest losers sold her apartment and paid out more than $1.5 million to her "lover" who, she said, was still stuck in Africa.
Appearing on the Dr. Phil TV show, she said she still believed the guy was genuine and would come good eventually. So far, he hasn't.
2. Sweetheart Scam #2. This one wins the award for cheek. An alleged Nigerian dating scammer used a photo of Montana's Attorney General as his profile photo.
He allegedly duped several women including one who gave him $100,000.
3. More Cheek. A dozen members of a single family were indicted on charges of deceiving lenders to obtain more than $20 million over the course of 10 years.
At the same time, they were alleged to be collecting food stamps after claiming to have no money
4. Lottery Loser. It's so awful that people are still falling victim to the lottery scam where they're told they must pay fees in order to collect their (non-existent) winnings.
Among the biggest losers this year was an 87-year-old Pennsylvania woman who was conned out of $800,000 by scammers in Jamaica.
5. Elaborate Con Trick. For sheer complexity, the scam perpetrated by an Oregon woman to swindle a fortune from an aging heir takes the cake.
Somehow, the woman managed to convince her victim that he was married to her daughter and, subsequently, the father of the daughter's child.
In a complex web of deception, the pair were said to have forced the victim to sell his farm and set up joint bank accounts from which they took millions.
The swindler, who also claimed to be a psychic, was jailed for eight years. She obviously didn't see that coming.
6. Phony Bank. We've come across reports of all manner of crooks posing as banks online, but never a scam that actually involved a real building.
It happened in China. Scammers built a fake bank, complete with ATMs and a genuine-looking, fully staffed banking hall.
The lure to customer was the promise of a huge return -- interest of 2% per week -- and the suckers rolled in, depositing more than $30 million before the operators were arrested and the bank was shut down.
7. Charity Takeaway #1. One of the common issues we encounter here at Scambusters are reports of organizations that appear to operate just inside the law, while they make a fortune at the expense of people who don't realize what they're up to.
Some telemarketing fundraisers rank among these organizations and in a report that only emerged this year, five of these companies were said to have collected $89 million from people who thought they were donating to charities.
One firm was said to have made $43 million in one year alone, and had thousands of employees on its payroll.
The firms stay legit by making small donations to the charities they work for but donors usually have no idea how little finds its way to these worthy causes.
8. Charity Takeaway #2. Meanwhile, in May this year, the Federal Trade Commission and law enforcement authorities from all 50 states accused four cancer charities of defrauding donors of more than $187 million.
9. Roman Ruins. According to reports from Rome, four men tried to dupe a German businessman into buying several buildings in Rome, including the American embassy!
They allegedly tricked the businessman into paying out around $2 million before being rumbled.
10. The Fall Guy. Another common scam we've been writing about in recent years is the fraudulent insurance claim.
Scammers get up to all sorts of tricks trying to fake accidents from which they can claim compensations.
Here's an interesting video from England. Is it a scam? You decide.
Finally, here are a few one-liners that, when it comes to outrageous behavior, take your breath away.
11. Mega Marriage. A New York woman married 10 different men over 11 years without getting divorced from several of them.
12. Billionaires. Three men stole over a billion email addresses from eight email service providers, for use in spamming.
13. Multiple Personality. A 72-year-old con artist in Los Angeles allegedly lived under 74 different names -- one of the biggest ever cases of alleged identity theft.
14. Get Out of Jail Free. A British con artist got himself out of jail by sending a fake email to the prison authorities saying he'd been granted bail.
15. No Dough. A Pittsburgh man sent his 9-year-old daughter out to collect money for Girl Scout Cookies. She brought home lots of money but he never delivered the dough.
Believe us when we say these are just the tip of an iceberg when it comes to the worst scams of the year!
Alert of the week
It's true that online retailing giant Amazon has a service it calls Amazon Student.
But it's also true that tens of thousands of students have received bogus invitations to sign up for the service.
It turns out to be a phishing scam for victims' Amazon sign-on details.
If you're a student and you want to join the genuine service, ignore those messages.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!