It is rare that a completely new type of scam or fraud emerges. Almost every fraud warning you encounter involves a slightly modified take on something that’s been around for years, decades, even centuries (the Nigerian Prince scam has roots dates from at least the early 1800s).
This makes scam prevention mostly about recognizing patterns and tendencies. Here are five things that people only seem to do when they’re trying to separate you from your money.
1. Ask you to pay to work for them
It’s the exact opposite of how jobs actually work—the employer should be the one giving money to the employee—yet countless job scams involve someone asking for money for the privilege of working for them.
2. Ask you to move off-platform
It never fails—list something for sale online, and the first response you get will be someone asking for your phone number so they can take the transaction away from the site you posted it through. They’re also taking you away from the seller protections offered by the company.
3. Approach strangers about cryptocurrency
Cryptocurrency is pure speculation. You buy it and hope the price goes up. (And, lately, in the summer of 2022, you then get disappointed.) There are no “put in x dollars, get 10x dollars back in 24 hours” investment systems. This makes that direct message you got about a guaranteed way to multiply your money nothing more than a pickpocketing attempt. The same applies to that “wrong number” text where they tell you how nice you are, then eventually bring up crypto.
4. Send you money, then ask you to send it back
This is one is a “classic,” if such a word can be used for a common grift, and scammers reuse it because it WORKS. The most well-known version is a fake cashier’s check and a request to wire the funds back, but they also use things like CashApp and Venmo, but it’s still the same “oops, I sent that to the wrong person” or “oops, I paid too much for that thing you’re selling, please send it back” scheme that leaves you out hundreds or thousands of dollars if you fall for it.
5. Tell you their life story for no good reason
You can shop online. You can buy things from private sellers online. But there really isn’t a huge need for discussion beyond what it is, how much, and how you’re going to get it. Anything beyond that is reason to doubt. When they start telling you their life story, or using complicated excuses to dictate the terms of the sale and why they can’t do it the normal way, it’s time to cut off all contact. They can’t talk on the phone because of throat surgery. You can’t see the apartment because they’re overseas on business. That car is so cheap because they need money fast because their aunt has the gout. They can’t afford PayPal fees, so how about Venmo? It doesn’t matter what the details are, these interactions will never work out in your favor.