Scams, Scams, Everywhere a Scam

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Life is often filled with surprises, and unfortunately, not all of them are nice. One of the nastiest surprises of all is when someone is hit by a scammer who has one purpose in life- to take someone else's money or information in the hopes of making money without giving anything in return except lies and heartache.

Today's scams seem to be multiplying like rabbits. Every time I turn around, I am hearing about another scam with another disillusioned victim or two or maybe even more. Since so many different types of scams exist, it is hard to know anymore, when to trust that an offer is legitimate and just as hard to know when not to trust that the offer is indeed genuine.

South Florida, in particular, seems to have been hard hit with a number of different scams lately. Each time, unsuspecting victims fall prey to the pitch, which just happens to be good enough to sound plausible. In fact, no area of the country is immune from the scammers thanks to the availability of the Internet and the convenience of cell phones.

While scammers generally like to target the elderly, sickly, or lonely, they are not adverse to targeting just about anyone. It's important to know what kind of scams are out there and how to protect yourself from inadvertently turning your money over to a thief.

Phony Sweepstakes Cell Phone Scams

There have been cases like the one in Broward County where the victim continues to hold onto the belief that the sweepstakes scam really is legitimate. The victim, in this case a elderly woman, is convinced that some return on the investment (the money given to the criminals) is going to materialize. She wants to continue to pay the scammers exorbitant "fees" so that she can collect her "non-existent" winnings from a lottery. The only way to prevent the woman from giving up all of her cash to the scammers was to have her declared incapacitated, so her bank accounts could be frozen. You can watch the news story here

"Toy Story 3" Online Scam

Another type of scam occurs online reeling in unsuspecting children and adults alike with the promise of cool video streaming scenes from current movies. The latest one is "Toy Story 3." Let's admit it, we all use search engines to find whatever tidbits of info we can on our favorites, the latest media clips, or the newest events. So, how are we supposed to know that one of our clicks might just take us to a bogus website linking us to "adult content," getting us to provide "personal data" through surveys, or convincing us to fork over some cool hard cash for the promise of desirable media clips, news, or games?

Some of these websites even force-install a variety of spyware, adware, or viruses onto the computers of those who make the easy mistake of trusting the site to be legitimate. Before the victims know it, someone else has remote control of their computer and access to their personal data.

Facebook Scam

Facebook- a place where friends can meet and the unsuspecting can get scammed. Similar to its predecessor, "Never Gonna Drink Coca-Cola Again," the latest Facebook Scam, "OMG Mother Went to Jail," tricks users into completing a survey that asks for personal information in order to access the image. While this might seem like an innocent-enough venture, the scammers make money since you completed the survey and now, someone else has access to at least some of your personal information.


Even South Florida's rental market is not immune to the likes of scammers. Recently, homeowners have been targeted in a scam that offers cheap leases to potential renters looking to downsize their monthly expenses. This scam targets struggling homeowners looking for help paying down their mortgage by renting out their properties.

This craigslist scam offering cheap leases to potential renters asks for an insanely inexpensive rental fee. A promise to send the keys is proffered as long as the money is sent first. Does it look like a legitimate offer? Of course it does to the point that even suspicious minds begin to overlook the fact that the price is ridiculous, but given that the economy is bad and the pictures of the rental homes include photos with the "real" owner's name and information, it is easy enough to believe that the rental offer is indeed legitimate. 

Protecting Yourself from Scammers

Scams are especially difficult for those individuals with a deep sense of honesty and a strong code of ethics. It is difficult to believe that people can be that devious, so lazy, and totally unscrupulous that taking someone else's hard-earned money almost seems like a "right" to them.

Whenever the economy is down, crime goes up. Whether online or off, tech savvy criminals continue to create new and innovative scams designed to trick us and prompt us to respond.  Sadly, we all need to develop some real-life skills designed to help us see the world without the "rose-colored glasses." First, remember that if a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Second, do some research online and see if you can find any recent information on the sweepstakes, website, video, or rental opportunity that you are interested in. In general, exercise caution while remembering that the world, sadly enough, is full of people looking to take advantage of anyone they can.

To learn more about the latest scams/hoaxes see a few earlier blogs.

Remember...the best defense is a good offense.  Be prepared and think fraud!  If not now, when?
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