4 Shocking Scams (That People Actually Fell For)

Updated on April 16, 2020
Astrid McClymont profile image

Astrid graduated with a Bsc Hons in Criminology and Psychological Studies in 2017 and currently works as a professional ghostwriter.

1. Larcenist at Tiffany's

Of all the organizations in the diamond industry, you'd think Tiffany's would have the greatest ability to spot a fake diamond when they saw one. But this wasn't the case in 1871 when two miners pulled off one of the greatest scams of all time. In an attempt to make some quick cash, and a lot of it, they passed off fake diamonds as real ones and sold them onto Tiffany's.

What makes their story so unique is that they didn't just turn up and sell some old rocks with a good story and the gift of the gab, they actually took experts from Tiffany's on a four-day-long expedition to a secret location. It was at this location that the two men had previously planted the fake diamonds only to then miraculously discover them once the experts arrived. Their amazing acting skills and well-thought-out scam earned them a fortune. The diamonds were bought for $600,000. In the year 2019, that would be an estimated $8 million!

2. Madoff With the Money

You can't talk about scams without mentioning Bernie Madoff, quite possibly one of the greatest con artists that ever lived. His career started in 1960 when he established his firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, using $5000 he had saved from working as a lifeguard. It was a humble beginning for the young man from Queens, NY, but soon, Madoff would find his career skyrocketing.

By 1991, he was chairman of the NASDAQ and included a plethora of high profile friends in his orbit from Steven Spielberg to the owner of the New York Mets, Fred Wilpon. However, 20 years later, Madoff would see himself lose all of this.

In 2008, he confessed to swindling over 9000 investors out of $65 billion through an elaborate Ponzi scheme, also known as a pyramid scheme. In essence, a pyramid scheme is where a paying investor recruits two other investors with returns being given to initial investors with the money of later ones. Currently, this kind of scheme is illegal in many countries.

What is so interesting about Madoff and his multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme is that he had no need to do it. Most pyramid schemers are poorly educated con men, whereas Madoff holds a BA in political science and was a thriving, established member of the financial elite.

After his confession, Madoff was sentenced to 150 years and currently makes $40 a month doing manual labor in prison.

3. Craigslist Rental Scam

Craigslist is a fantastic site where you can buy anything from a coffee table to vintage clothes, to a (legitimate) massage and just about everything in between. But as can be expected with the internet, things are often not as they seem. There are countless scams on Craigslist. In fact, the website even has a section dedicated to ensuring users don't fall victim to them. However, one of the most common is the renting scam.

This is where an individual will see an advert for a rental property and hand over cash only to discover the property either doesn't exist or isn't owned by the Craigslister. An example of this is the case of a woman in Oklahoma who saw a house for rent and arranged a viewing. After being shown around and agreeing it was perfect for her and her family, she handed over $750 and moved in.

However, when she got home one day, she discovered all her electronics were stolen. And numerous attempts to contact her landlord only resulted in her being ignored. But that isn't the worst of it. It was soon revealed that not only was the property not for rent, but it wasn't even owned by the landlord. In fact, it had been laying empty as it had recently been foreclosed and the 'landlord' had seized the opportunity to make a quick and highly illegal buck.

4. Modelling Scams

If a modelling agency asks for money up front, they are not a modelling agency. They are a scam and you should walk away. Yet, this is what many fake modelling agency scammers do. They lure impressionable young girls with the promise of fame and fortune, ask them for a fee to get their career started, then run away with the money. However, this is sadly one of the most innocent scams the world of modelling sees.

Scams amongst the modelling community have often taken a darker turn, and they have made victims out of seasoned professionals as well as young, inexperienced girls. For example, NFL cheerleader Britany Cason was approached by a talent scout looking for models to present the Sochi Olympics in 2014. She was subjected to a four-month audition process before finally being accepted.

At no point during these four months did she think anything was suspicious. In fact, she had conducted thorough research on the talent scout and the company and everything appeared legitimate. It was only when she was asked to recruit a second model for the job did she start to think something was peculiar, especially when this second model didn't have to go through any of the tough audition process she did.

With her suspicion piqued, Cason contacted the FBI, and not only did she realize her suspicions were not unfounded, she also discovered the talent scout didn't even exist. Shockingly, although Cason was just one step away from getting on a plane to Russia, it was revealed she was most likely to fall victim to a human trafficking ring. In fact, many victims of human trafficking who have been rescued have told authorities of being lured into their situation with the promise of a modelling job.

As shocking as it is, these scams are just the tip of the iceberg. Every day, thousands of people fall victim to fraudsters because of their trusting nature or because the con-artist is just that convincing. In fact, a recent survey conducted by romancescam.com revealed that 69% of romance scam victims were seduced into handing over their cash by the scammer's charm. Meanwhile, the other 31% were lured in by enticing photographs.

So what can you do to stay safe? There are many ways to ensure your financial and physical safety but the most effective tips include:

  • Don‘t believe everything you see or read.
  • If it's too good to be true, it most likely is.
  • Never send money to someone you don't know. Ever.
  • Always be cautious of people you've met online.
  • Don't share personal information over the internet.
  • Be aware of how much you share on social media.
  • Don't feel pressured by anyone online, especially if they are asking for money.


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