Getting scammed and losing your money is one of the worst feelings in the world. First of all, there’s the financial loss. Then there’s the shame of having been tricked. And finally, there’s the lingering distrust for other people.
However, some scammers’ attempts to bamboozle their victims are so ridiculous, see-through, or just downright weird, they’re making the internet laugh. And people can’t help but shame these scammers on the r/Scams subreddit. With a community of over 237k people, the online group acts both as a way to educate internet users on how to recognize scams, as well as to provide entertainment. It’s a public service and educational fun rolled into one neat package.
Check out the posts from r/Scams below, upvote the ones that made you laugh (even though scams are never funny, the way scammers act can be hilarious), and be sure to visit their group for all of their latest posts when you’re done. One of the subreddit moderators was kind enough to have an in-depth chat with Fashion Life about their community, how it helps spread awareness about identifying potential scams, and what the most recent popular scams are right now. "Once you fall for a scam there is usually not much that can be done, but if you take a short amount of time now to learn more about scams you can save yourself money and hassle in the future. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Read on for the full interview.
The moderator told Fashion Life that the reason why the subreddit was started (and why it's still popular to this very day) is to identify scams and help people avoid them. At first, it was a companion sub for r/freebies, but grew into its own thing. "I think we might be the only general-purpose scam sub. There are other subs of course, but all of them I've seen seem to have a tighter focus on a certain kind. So one thing we stand out for is being the primary place on Reddit to find what you're looking for and to get help learning about or dealing with a scam," they said.
"Our goal is to both help people avoid falling for scams in the first place, and also to help people recover after they have been scammed, but in many cases, once you have been scammed your money is simply gone, which is why it is so important that there is a place on Reddit you can go to receive quick, reliable advice about potential scams," the moderator told Fashion Life.
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They explained that knowledge can hurt scammers and how the community is there to support anyone and everyone who's been hurt financially: "The more people who are scam aware, the fewer income streams scammers will have. You're never going to stop a scammer from being a scammer, but you can help people avoid becoming victims by educating them. Every time someone asks about a fake check scam before they go through with it, we are helping them save thousands of dollars. Victims fall for the underage girl scam and think their life is ruined, some even indicate that they are suicidal when they ask us for advice, and we are able to quickly assure them that everything is fine and we can show them many examples of previous posts in our community."
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The moderator was also kind enough to warn us of the most common recent scams. "Fake check scams are very common right now, and if you fall for one, you will lose thousands of dollars and have no realistic chance of getting your money back. A few other recent scams of note include: fake Bitcoin giveaways on Discord, romance scammers impersonating Asian girls who trick victims into signing up for fake investment sites, cartel scammers who threaten to kill you and send you gory pictures, sugar scammers, sextortion scams, the blackmail email scam, and recovery/double-dip scammers who target previous scam victims. We definitely see some new techniques, but most are just dressed-up versions of old scams such as the advance-fee scam that has been around for hundreds of years."
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Google, according to the mod, is our biggest weapon when it comes to fighting scammers who prey on the weak. We can use it to identify if we're talking to someone trying to con us. However, that means we have to use Google effectively.
"If you have been contacted by someone and you're suspicious, searching for unique sounding phrases they use will show if the script has been used publicly before. However, searching for unique identifiers like usernames, email addresses, or phone numbers is not useful, as they change so often and can give you a false sense of security. For example, the 2020 Twitter hack was not a very convincing scam, but people looked at the usernames and saw they were the real accounts so they fell for the scam. The most important thing is to look at the situation itself."
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The continued: "For websites, I always check the online presence by Googling the domain name in quotes, and I check the WHOIS info to see when the domain was registered, how long it is registered for, and where it is hosted. Normal sites have an online presence consistent with their size, while scam sites usually have no online presence at all. Scam sites can be quite slick, but WHOIS data doesn't lie and can tell you that the site was registered recently for one year and is hosted by NameCheap. Scammers frequently re-use templates, so Googling unique phrases works to evaluate websites as well. If a website offers an address, Google the address and check it out on Google Maps, scammers often use random residential addresses, office buildings without suite numbers, or completely fake addresses."
“Online, offline, email, or postal. If you know of or encounter a scam, this is the place to let people know about it. If you have any questions, you can post here and have your question answered by people who are knowledgeable about all types of scams. If you have fallen for a scam, you can post your experience here to warn others,” the moderators of r/Scams explain on their subreddit what the group is all about.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, the ‘Scams’ subreddit, founded way back in 2009, doesn’t allow any “spam or solicitation” in their group (we’d have been shocked if they did). They also don’t allow any posts with personal information in them and ask their members to be civil.
What’s more, despite being against scammers, the subreddit mods point out that they don’t encourage anyone to “scam the scammers” or to conduct “witch hunts” against them. In other words, they don’t back vigilante justice, so if you want to go all Batman on the people who scammed your grandma out of her retirement fund, you’ll have to do it alone. (That was a joke: contact the police immediately.)
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The war against scammers is a never-ending one, unfortunately. Our ammunition against being hoodwinked, swindled, and outmaneuvered like we’re fighting against Napoleon himself, is knowledge, awareness, and healthy skepticism.
Knowing about the major types of scams means we’re forewarned. Being always aware when talking to strangers (or anyone pretending to be a family member) helps keep us calm and cool. Finally, being skeptical when an alleged loved one suddenly asks for financial help helps protect our wallets. Like “Mad-Eye” Moody roared in the Harry Potter books, “Constant vigilance!”
However, scammers aren’t powerless either. They might be shifty and use slimy tactics, but some of them are real Slytherins: they’re cunning, creative, and will go to any lengths to further their ambitions. What this means is that there are always new scams being tried out on unsuspecting victims. And that won’t change in the future unless we get some overbearing and invasive police AI to protect us from them.
What’s more, while some scammers rely on sending out mass messages to the public and pulling the wool over the eyes of just a handful of people, others are professionals. Using their charisma, good looks, and patience, they play the long game. Gaining your trust bit by bit, they eventually cheat you out of your hard-earned cash and you might not even realize it!
By the time you come to your wits, it might be far too late to do anything. Sawyer from Lost is a good example of a conman with patience. He’s an anti-hero, an audience favorite bad-boy, but he’s a scammer at heart (though that heart is a heart of gold, I’ll admit).
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According to the Federal Trade Commission, scammers also often pretend to be from an organization that you know or from the government. In other words, they’re appealing to your beliefs about authority figures to legitimize their tactics to weasel your cash out of your pocket and into theirs. They might even pose as a charity or a utility company. Be wary. They can also change how their caller ID and numbers look on your phone, so don’t be quick to trust your elf eyes, Legolas.
“They might say you’re in trouble with the government. Or you owe money. Or someone in your family had an emergency. Or that there’s a virus on your computer. Some scammers say there’s a problem with one of your accounts and that you need to verify some information. Others will lie and say you won money in a lottery or sweepstakes but have to pay a fee to get it,” the FTC warns.
The way most scams work is by introducing a ticking clock: if you don’t act now, something horrible will happen or you might miss out on a prize. Under pressure, you start relying more on your emotions, not thinking about the gaps in their stories. Other scammers threaten you, trying to make you feel afraid and powerless.
What’s more, scammers tell you to pay in specific ways which is an indication that what’s going on is all a trick. For example, they might ask for a money transfer through a specific company or for you to buy a bunch of gift cards. This makes it harder for them to be traced.
This is why it’s vital that you protect your personal and financial information. In this day and age, privacy is an increasingly more difficult resource to come by and lots of our info is already online. However, we shouldn’t give out our details left and right. Don’t make it easy for the bamboozlers.
Meanwhile, if you get suspicious emails that look semi-official, don’t open any links inside of them, don’t reply to them, and don’t download any files. If your gut’s telling you to stay away, don’t open Pandora’s box. This applies to everyone, even though most of us believe we’d never fall for a trick like that.
Have you ever fallen prey to a scammer before, dear Readers? What’s the most obvious scam you’ve ever encountered in real life? Share your thoughts and experiences below and remember… “Constant vigilance!”