Swindling scammers, beware. This time, the good guys are winning! These people detail how they got caught online con-artists and plotted their sweet revenge. Content has been edited for clarity.
“Please Don’t Call The Police”
“A while back, I began online bidding for a camera. The bidding was scheduled to end at four in the morning. I placed a bid of two hundred and seventy bucks and went to sleep. The next morning, I found out I was outbid by seven bucks. The camera was sold to the other person, and I quickly forgot about the issue.
About a week later, I received an email from the seller detailing how the bid winner hadn’t contacted them about the camera.
The seller explained, ‘Since you are the second highest bidder, I will sell you the camera if you are still interested.’
I was willing to purchase it, but I was curious about the transaction terms. The seller asked me for my phone number and called me to chat.
On the phone, the seller said, ‘I need to sell this camera to buy Christmas presents for my children. You can trust me. I just need you to transfer the money directly into my bank account.’
The seller seemed fairly convincing. I was almost positive she was a legitimate seller in need and not a scam artist. I transferred the money to her account, and she sent me a tracking identification number for the package. I kept waiting for the package in the mail, but it never arrived. I attempted to call her, but she wouldn’t pick up the phone. Plus, I sent her numerous messages and emails but didn’t get a reply on her side. Once I was certain I had been tricked, I tried to find a way to get my money back.
I had her cell phone number, email, name, account number, and city name. I used this information to trace her on the internet. After a little effort, I succeeded in finding her address, husband’s name, children’s name, and granddaughter’s names and addresses. In addition, I found her social media account information.
After acquiring a reasonable amount of her information, I drafted an emotional email in which I stated, ‘What will your family think once they learn you are a thief? How will you face your neighborhood once people find out about what you have done?’
I added the names of her daughters and granddaughters in the email to make it seem like I had more information about them. I also told her I would report her to the fraud department and tell everyone I knew about what happened.
To my surprise, I received a message back from her an hour later.
She told me, ‘I’ll give your money back. Please don’t go to the police or the fraud department.’
About fifteen minutes later, I received all of my money back into my account.
The whole process of buying the camera and getting my money back took more than two weeks. It taught me a valuable lesson to not trust anyone online.”
“A Little Something Started Pinging In The Back Of My Brain”
“A couple of years ago, I needed to earn some cash. I decided to try and sell a couple of items online. They were two very different items; a specialized road bicycle, and a Fender jazz bass guitar.
The next day, I received email inquiries for both items. First, I read the email regarding the bicycle. It sounded legit, so I replied to the sender. Then I read the email about the guitar. Again, it looked legit, and I replied back.
However, there was a little something that started pinging in the back of my brain after reading the second email.
In my spare time, I read a lot. I always have. Aside from reading books, I also read a lot on Internet discussion boards, and I’ve subscribed to a number of email discussion groups over the last twenty years. Because of this, I am quite accustomed to different people having different writing styles, particularly when writing informally in ‘conversational’ situations. It occurred to me, after replying to the second email, that both emails sounded almost like they had been written by the same person. Even though each message was from a different address, they sounded remarkably similar.
Both ‘buyers’ offered to come by my place in two or three days and pay me in cash. Each buyer cheerfully agreed to pay the cash amount I was asking for without making a lower offer. I also noticed each email was ‘overwritten.’ Essentially, they went on far longer than they needed to for a simple inquiry. Each email went on talking about how genuinely interested they were in my items, then used rather long-winded explanations about what time they got off work and the errands they needed to run after. After the errands, each email claimed they would arrive at my house at seven in the evening.
Additionally, both emails arrived in my inbox within minutes of each other.
Something pinged in the back of my mind saying, ‘These emails were written using a template.’
Had I not been selling two different items at the same time, I never would have known what was happening. However, I had replied to the initial emails, so I waited to see what happened. Sure enough, the buyers got back to me within a day and confirmed my suspicions.
I suppose it didn’t occur to the scammer I remembered their name from the original emails because they gave me a new name the second time around. Both ‘buyers’ were extremely apologetic because they weren’t able to come by on the originally stated date and time. One had been sent out of town for business, and the other needed to go out of town to pick up his son at the airport. Finally, each buyer gave me a new date for coming by my place, and subtly slipped in ‘cashier’s check,’ as the method of payment.
My suspicions were confirmed, and I stopped communicating with them. Needless to say, nobody showed up at my apartment, and they did not send any follow-up emails to ask why I hadn’t replied.”
“A Few Friends Tried Telling Him About The Scam”
“I had a naive friend named ‘Bill.’ I have known Bill since I was in fourth grade, and I always considered him a good friend. However, he wasn’t very bright.
Bill was in his mid-forties, and he was hurting for money after his divorce. He worked various minimum wage jobs to make ends meet and saved a little money to be able to buy a used car. Not to mention, he was lonely without a wife.
He met an attractive woman in her early twenties online. I wasn’t clear if they ever had met in person, but I don’t think they did. She created a realistic-looking social media profile in the same city as Bill and began chatting him up. They swapped lovey-dovey public messages, and everyone knew they were considered an item. The woman even added some of our mutual friends on social media, except for me.
About a month into their relationship, she told Bill about an upcoming trip she had to take for her family’s business.
Her first stop on the business trip was in Singapore. While there, the woman claimed she was riding in a taxi and an accident happened. She asked Bill to send her money because the taxi driver’s lawyer said she had to pay his hospital bills. Bill wired the woman all of the money he had and even started asking friends to loan him money. A few friends actually did give him money.
A few friends tried to tell Bill the woman was scamming him.
He became upset, and insisted, ‘She isn’t scamming me. This is true love, and we will be together once she returns from her business trip.’
A week after the ‘accident,’ the woman was continuing her business trip in London. While in London, she claimed her mother passed away. Again, it was an unexpected expense Bill needed to wire her money for. He wired all of the money he saved from his recent paycheck and asked his friends for money once more.
I told Bill, ‘You know, this situation is a bit suspicious. I sincerely hope she is a legitimate person and her bad luck changes soon. If she was a real businesswoman, she should be able to work things out without asking her boyfriend for cash.’
After I told him this, he deleted me from social media.
Eventually, the woman gave up trying to wring more cash out of Bill. He ended the relationship totally broke once he figured it out, and scrambled to reconcile with the friends who doubted him.”
“I Went Into A Total Panic”
“Housing in San Francisco is tough. When I first decided to move to the city I was excited and scared. I didn’t know where to look or who to turn to when I first began looking for an apartment. I joined social media groups, set reminders on multiple search websites, and even skimmed through internet selling boards.
After about three weeks of searching and slowly working myself into a panic, I finally found a beautiful studio apartment in the middle of San Francisco. The pictures online made it seem so exciting, and the rent was cheap for an apartment right in the city.
I sent the apartment landlord an email, and he responded within a day. He explained how the apartment was available and ready to move into within the next week.
The landlord claimed he worked with a leasing company headquartered in Los Angeles, but he also had offices in San Francisco and New York. He was listed there on the leasing company website along with twenty other employees.
I thought I had found the perfect place to live. My lease on my current apartment was ending in the next week, so everything was coming together perfectly.
On the surface, the website looked legit. So I thought it had to be real, right?
I asked the landlord, ‘What are my next steps?’
He sent me a form with all of the information he needed from me.
Thankfully, the form wasn’t asking for any important information. If it did, I would have been ruined financially. He told me he needed my name and information to lock the place down. Being the naive teenager I was, I thought nothing of it. Until I asked him for a tour of the place before sending him the money he wanted.
The guy was telling me I had to send him money by the next day, or else he was going to give the apartment to someone else.
I thought to myself, ‘What the heck, this guy cannot be serious.’
He went on to say, ‘Yeah, there is someone living in that apartment now, and they don’t leave until next week. I can’t show the apartment until they leave, but I have more offers lined up. If you don’t take this now, I’m giving it to someone else.’
I went into a total panic. By this time, I had spent three days trying to secure this place, and my apartment building lease was ending in four days. The entire situation was stupid. Something didn’t seem right, and I had a terrible gut feeling.
I decided to do a little research on the leasing website. After some digging, I found out the website was registered in Nigeria. I also found out the website had just been created a week prior. Funnily enough, the actual apartment company that owned the place was renting it for three thousand bucks per month, which was way more than the fake price.
I’m so glad I figured it out before I got caught up in the scam.”
“Hundreds Of People Fell Victim To The Scam”
“This scam happened to my mother, and it affected our family in a major way.
Around three years ago, my mother received this weird phone call around one in the morning. She answered, and the man on the phone was claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service. My mom worked the early swing shift, so she answered thinking it was one of her co-workers. I mean, who else called someone this early in the morning?
The guy on the other end of the call was incredibly persistent. He requested her to pay all of her taxes back immediately or face jail time. To make matters worse, she could only pay with pre-paid cards from the pharmacy.
My mother was more than willing to corporate and avoid a prison sentence, so she went to the local pharmacy to purchase the cards. The only thing was, the store was closed. The man remained on the phone with her for the next seven hours to keep her afraid and unassuming. When the store opened, she fulfilled her end of the bargain and bought several one-thousand buck cards and gave the gentleman the card numbers.
Seeing he was able to swindle the asking amount out of her, he asked her for more while she was commuting home. Reluctantly, she purchased more cards from the pharmacy down the block from our home.
For whatever reason, I was off from work on this day. When she finally arrived home, I could sense the distress written across her face. I asked what was going on, and she told me to wait until she was off the phone. Something told me to stick around to hear the conversation, and after a few seconds, I realized what was going on.
I immediately took the phone from her and ended the call. Now panicked, I asked her to give me the whole story, all while the guy was calling her again. This guy, or the team of crooks, managed to spoof the IRS hotline number so her called identification read, ‘Internal Revenue Service,’ each time he called.
I did a quick Internet search and came across hundreds of others who fell victim to the scam. I also came across a warning from the IRS, telling people to watch out for scams like this. The warning listed our situation verbatim.
We immediately canceled the money cards and were able to reclaim all of the money some months later. The whole ordeal likely started with my mom entering her information into some tax relief website.
I’m just glad I was home to stop the situation from escalating.”
Enemies And Email Scams
“I have encountered several scammers over the internet, and I eventually learned the best way to identify and handle them.
One time, I got an email from ‘Chase,’ telling me they suspected several fraudulent credit card charges. I’d had these before, and they were legit. The email listed several false charges. I hovered over the link and discovered it wasn’t Chase.
Another time, I received an email from Amazon claiming they were dropping me off as a customer unless I contacted them immediately. This email made me laugh, as I spend several thousand bucks there each year. I highly doubted they would drop me, so I ignored the message.
I once got an email from Bank of America stating I needed to confirm my account number. The message included a form asking for my Social Security number, bank login identification, password, and my mother’s maiden name. I also ignored this email.
Lastly, I got a message from my ‘grandma,’ on Facebook. Considering my grandmother is deceased, I decided to play along. Of course, the scammer finally asked me for money.
I explained to the scammer, ‘Of course! I will drive over to her house right away and give you some money.’
The scammer replied, ‘You better not come over. I’m sick, and it would be better if you sent me the money.’
I laughed and responded, ‘I don’t think you can wire money to someone buried six feet underground.’
Usually not replying to scammers is the best course of action, but it is fun to push their buttons from time to time.”
Phony Phone Calls
“Yesterday, I got a call from the same number about five times. I did not pick up the call, as the number was unknown and I was busy at the time. Later in the afternoon when I got some free time, I got the same phone call again. This time, I decided to pick up the phone. If anything, I wanted to irritate the guy trying to scam me.
The man on the phone explained, ‘Hi, I am calling from the Federal Government Grant. You have been selected to receive nine-thousand bucks. You have two options to receive your reward. You can either give me your card information or go to Western Union and pick up the cash.’
I messed with this guy for a good ten minutes. I wanted to waste as much of his time as possible, so I could avoid him calling some other person and having them fall for the scam.
I asked the man, ‘Can you give me a physical address? I would like to pick the money up directly from you.’
He replied, ‘No, I can’t give you my address.’
I inquired, ‘Can I pick up the money tomorrow? It is snowing at my house, and I cannot leave right now.’
He explained, ‘No, you have to pick up the money today.’
I asked him to hold on for a moment, put him on mute, and started laughing with my wife for a few minutes.
He said, ‘Hello? Are you still on the phone? Is anyone there, hello?’ then hung up.
I wasted his time and hopefully saved at least one other person from this scam.
A few months later, I received a call from the same scam. The lady calling said the same exact story.
I told the woman, ‘I have already claimed my cash from you guys, are you willing to pay me again?’
She was surprised to hear such a question, and replied, ‘Sorry, I don’t understand.’
I repeated the same thing, and she hung up on me!
The moral of the story is, don’t fall for these ridiculous scammers.”
The Wary Watch Buyer
“I managed to dodge two watch scammers.
About eight years ago, I was scourging the Internet for a particular model from a specific brand in second hand.
Eventually, I came across a website offering extremely good prices for second-hand watches. Before going any further, I looked up their business address and found out it was pointing to an empty field in the middle of the woods.
The second website I found didn’t have a too-good-to-be-true price, so I dropped them an email to inquire about payment and delivery options. Within ten minutes, I received a phone call from a woman claiming she lived in the same region.
She told me, ‘We could just meet in person. I am scheduled to travel through a nearby airport within a week.’
Their website was claiming to be a member of the local watchmaker’s association, so I wrote an inquiry to confirm their membership even though the situation was already sketchy.
Unsurprisingly, I received a response from the association saying they had asked the site to remove the reference to them.
Afterward, I found a store in Chicago that was selling the watch model I was looking for at a decent price. They checked positive on the local chamber of commerce site, and their location was real. We agreed on payment and delivery, and it was one of my nicest purchases.
Always do your homework.”
“The Bike Arrived In Complete Disarray”
“One time, I bought a motorcycle off of the internet. The seller claimed to be from a dealership in Miami Dade, Florida. The photos looked great, the description was believable, and the price seemed like a good deal.
I paid for the bike and paid the extra three hundred bucks to have it shipped to me in Virginia.
When the bike arrived, it was in complete disarray. Essentially, it was in a totaled state. The photos I looked at before were fake, and they were taken at just the right angle to make the bike look perfect. I had the bike inspected at a local shop, and it was anything but perfect.
I hate unethical and dishonest people. I have a nasty stubborn streak when someone attempts to take advantage of me or someone I know.
Apparently, the guy who sold me the bike ‘worked’ for the dealership, but wasn’t authorized to sell it on behalf of the dealership.
However, both the seller and the dealership were trying to argue with me, and I wasn’t having it.
I spent over six months fighting with them, calling the online marketplace, and communicating with the police department. Anyone and everyone I could call and complain to, I did.
Everyone I knew told me to let it go and mark it up as a thirty-five hundred buck loss. The police couldn’t formally do anything, and the Department of Motor Vehicles couldn’t do anything, either.
Six months later, I had a check for the full purchase price back. The seller had to pay to ship the bike back down to the shop. The owner of the shop had enough of dealing with the constant harassment caused by one of his employees.
It served them right. I was glad the situation eventually was worked out.”
“I Gave The Scammer An Earful”
“A while back, I was trying to sell my phone over the internet. I got an email from someone who wanted to purchase the phone, and they were willing to pay for it through a popular money transfer application. The deal was, that I wasn’t going to ship the phone until I got paid.
I knew scammers were rampant when trying to sell items online, but I knew online money transfer was a legit option. As I was waiting for the person to pay me, I received an email from them with a link to their money transfer application. All I had to do was log in to my account, click ‘submit,’ and the transaction would be complete.
I was a software engineer, so I could tell whether the link was a phishing attempt or legit. The link provided seemed legitimate, but I decided to click it to double-check. Lo and behold, I was logged into my account with the correct balance being shown. All I needed to do was click submit, and everything else was done by the buyer.
Just before I clicked, I decided to thoroughly examine the page because it looked a little strange. Upon further investigation, I found I was going to actually pay him, instead of him paying me for the phone! What a piece of work!
I gave the scammer quite an earful afterward”