Scammer calls. Does anyone actually fall for them?

While I can usually delude myself into thinking I’m reasonably intelligent, I nearly fell for the “Amazon” scam a couple of years ago — and might have done so had the website been better designed. Where the scammer screwed up was by putting requests for information that Amazon would have had on file (ship-to address, home phone, &c) on the “login” screen. I presume it was an attempt to collect as much information as possible before the penny dropped, but in my case it raised a huge red flag.

Two upshots are that I routinely hover over the sender to see if the address appears reasonable (although that’s no longer a guarantee), and I never, ever click on a link in an email. If it seems to refer to the senders website, I go there directly; if not, tough.

Good work!

I was investigating a Wire service business, a MSB, and I noticed a lot of wires to Canada from a elderly lady. I got permission to stretch my authority, and went to interview the nice 80+ yo lady, in upscale retirement home.

She had been taken in by a Lottery Scam call, and had already sent them 10’s of thousands of $.

I explained to her the scam, stopped her from sending another couple thou of MO (she was wiring $ and mailing MO), and had her call her son.

Her son was enraged but then I asked him how often he called or visited his Mother, and he called her once a week, and visited maybe not quite as often. I told him that the scammers would call and chat with his Mother for two hours or more a day. They became her “friends” and one of the high points of her day in the Home.

I then went back and chided the Wire service business and the place where she bought her MO.

Several years ago, I was at the post office, and an elderly man who looked like the stereotype of an old retired farmer, overalls and all, came in, and started pulling bundles of $100 bills out of his pockets. I didn’t stick around, but in the time I was there, the lady at the counter said she had to get the postmaster. I wonder if it was because they needed to intervene in some way, or because he just plain old brought more than $10,000 in cash into the post office to be wired, or something like that.

Regarding the Jim Browning “mistake”…I think he just let his guard down a little. Looking at the messages the scammers sent him reveals several grammatical and punctuation errors. Hindsight is always wonderful, but those flaws didn’t raise red flags at the time; they should have.

Yeah, it’s super easy for people to look at a thing like this and still conclude they would never have fallen for it. When Jim sowed the message in the video, my reaction was ‘false sense of urgency and finality =scam’

But that’s hindsight, personal biases and stuff like that on my part. It’s exactly like saying ‘well, I would obviously have steered the Titanic around the iceberg! How stupid to crash right into it. Only an idiot thinks you’re supposed to crash into icebergs’

Thanks for pointing me to that video, but I actually managed to find it while browsing YouTube normally despite never having watched his channel before - probably because I’ve watched Mangetout’s channel a bit and this video from Jim was probably making waves among his regular viewers.

So indeed, it looks like he was just trying to hijack someone else’s channel, and the whole “deleting the channel” portion was just to get him to hand over credentials that would allow him to ask youtube for control of the channel. I expect that this kind of scam can make you some decent money in the short term, but without being able to continue making content I would expect the old channel would slowly die off, although I don’t know how long it would take.

Minor nitpick about that Titanic comment: There was speculation that had the Titanic’s officers hit the iceberg dead on only the bow of the ship would have been damaged and enough compartments would have remained unflooded to keep the ship afloat. Instead they attempted to steer around it, scraping the ship along the iceberg. The iceberg buckled the plates ALONG one side of the ship - afterwards too many compartments were open to the sea.

Back to the topic - it is surprising how even with one’s guard up, a call that screams EMERGENCY, EMERGENCY can get the adrenaline going and the natural response “I have to fix this NOW.”

Nitpick accepted. Point being anyone can listen to a story about a catastrophic mistake and point out the catastrophic mistake that is the main feature of the story.

In fact, I think your nitpick beautifully illustrates the point. If you’re right, it turns out I didn’t know how to deal with icebergs, only that the story contains a bad outcome that is related to one of them.

OR, once they crashed, they could have flooded the aft bilges OR moved all the passengers to the rear of the ship. Either one could have (I forget, lifted the hole out of the water? Lifted the baffles above the water line?) stopped the flooding enough for rescue to come.

But yes, that’s all hindsight as well.

For your education and entertainment, I would like to refer you to a classic movie with George C. Scott and Michael Sarazin, The Flim-Flam Man. It shows how many (pre-internet) scams work and how people can fall for them.

One of the victims is played by Slim Pickens, with “a belt full of money and a belly full of beer.”

I was in line at the Geek Squad at Best Buy last week (to have a phone battery replaced for you nosy people). The older (like 70-ish) lady in front of me brought in her laptop to have it checked for bad things because she got a call from “Microsoft” that her laptop yaddayaddayadda, and yes, she did click on the link. From what I overheard (o.k., eavesdropping) she stopped short of giving her credit card because she had to leave the house. So yes, people still fall for these scams.

Wow, we just got that same call WHILE I WAS READING THIS THREAD!

They really DO know everything!


Interesting that younger people are often victims of the “buy gift card” variants of the scams - this is not what I would have expected.

The elderly are frequent targets, as noted. My in-laws - who are not generally stupid about stuff - have tried to fall for scams on several occasions. I think it’s a combination of a certain credulousness and willingness to believe that most people are honest, and the new techniques are not familiar to that generation so they don’t get suspicious as easily. And in some cases, the victims could really, really use the promised money. so hope can override common sense.

What is the purpose of things like gift cards to Sephora and the like? I assume the scammers resell them at a discount or something - but can’t they still be terminated? Does anyone actually BUY such gift cards on the resale market?

My understanding is the gift cards are redeemed almost instantly ( fellow conspirators standing by with an online cart full of merch just waiting for that gift card number). Then those items are either returned, or more likely sold on Ebay or the like. Even if they offer a discount, it’s still all profit.

If you or someone you know is the victim of a gift card scam, you can try to contact the company to be refunded but it’s a long shot if it will work. The biggest problem is that it requires coordination between the card issuer and the retailer that sold the card, not always a quick process. And if the card has already been redeemed, your out of luck.

Literally 99%+ of the time when someone has come back to our stores after realizing they were scammed, the card has already been redeemed. Sometimes it is only within 15 minutes of the purchase. But it often takes more than 15 minutes for the card administrator to even start looking at the issue. We are literally calling the same number that is on the back of the card. We don’t have any back-door access to the processor.

A not insignificant number of people file a complaint against us (or try to) with the police for “participating in the scam”. They think that if the handed us the cash and they didn’t use the card we should refund the money.

Sometimes the (small town) cops try to pressure the store employees into doing just that. They will stand there at the service desk and keep saying “There must be something you can do!” again and again. We’ve actually called the senior center director or manager to explain the issue to the victim and the cops.

I’ve frequently heard that many young people get ripped off. I think they get less attention because they are more technologically savvy, they have less money to rip off, and because they have more years to rebuild their finances.

I wish I had the link. I read a sad story about an older (but still working age) man who was ripped off by the Canadian QuadrigaCX cryptocurrency disaster, losing his life savings. He then frantically tried to rebuild by getting into cryptocurrency elsewhere, where he got ripped off. He lost his life savings twice. Despite his age he seemed like he knew his way around a computer. Many fraud victims essentially cooperate with the fraudsters because they think they will make money; they’re wilfully blind.

I also want to know why people can still buy thousands of dollars in gift cards at stores. There should be a strict policy, “no more than $X hundred in gift cards, period.”

I got a call ‘from my phone company’, on a bad line, with a foreign accent, saying that I was about to be disconnected for non payment. It’s a frequent form of scam here, but I know it’s a scam, and I know I’d paid my phone bills.

Then I got to work, and realized that

  • We have a business service using that provider.
  • I’d given my personal phone number as the alternate contact for that service
  • The business credit card used for some of those services had expired.

Hot dam! Calls from my provider sound exactly like scam calls. Scam calls sound exactly like calls from my provider.

Before I moved out of my parents home, I used to watch RomCom’s and think “Real life isn’t like that. Nobody behaves that way.” Then I moved into a shared house, and learned that real lives are messy and stupid, like the way people behave in movies.

This story illustrates the potential profits that scammers can enjoy:

Hushpuppi - the Instagram influencer and international fraudster

By Helen Clifton & Princess Abumere
File on 4 & BBC Africa

Ramon Abbas - known to his 2.5 million Instagram followers as Hushpuppi - is considered by the FBI to be one of the world’s most high-profile fraudsters and faces a prison sentence of up to 20 years in the US after pleading guilty to money laundering.

The BBC has used newly available court documents to uncover the man behind cyber heists that have cost his victims millions, from his humble beginnings as a “Yahoo Boy” hustler in Nigeria to a so-called “Billionaire Gucci Master” living a life of luxury in Dubai before his arrest last year.

Abbas’s final big scam before his arrest in Dubai in June 2020 was straight-up identity theft, borrowed from the Yahoo Boy romance scams of his youth.

He assumed the identity of a New York banker to entrap his victim, a Qatari businessperson seeking a $15m loan to build a new school in the Gulf state.

Between December 2019 and February 2020, Abbas and a gang of alleged middlemen in Kenya, Nigeria and the US groomed and conned the victim out of more than a million dollars.

Modern technology allows them to make a huge number of robo calls without paying a room full of people to actually make cold calls. Only if a call is answered does a human enter the picture. This makes the process very cheap, so they still make money even if their success rate is far lower than what could be tolerated in an ordinary retail endeavor.