Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What is a scam that everyone needs to be warned about? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread. Thank you to the team at Quora for making this happen!
I have to share with you guys my most important rule to keep away from scams: Treat with the highest suspicion ANY request that is initiated by someone else (either a person you don’t know, or someone whose identity you haven’t verified). Whenever you are approached by a stranger in any way, consider it a possible scam. If at any point the discussion involves money or personal belongings, you can be 99% sure that it is a scam.
Now for my little list:
1. The wedding ring
Just saw this one in Paris twice (by two different scammers) on the same sidewalk. You walk on the street, someone walks in your direction and when they are a couple of steps in front of you, they pick up something from the ground: a big shiny wedding ring. Suddenly, they’re sharing their discovery with you, and casually offering you the ring for a small amount of money, claiming they have no use for it. The way in which they ask for money can differ, but the outcome is that the victim is fooled to give them money in return for the ring.
Of course, the ring is not golden, but a very cheap imitation, worth a lot less than what the victim gives the scammer.
2. The accident call
This one is tricky, because it takes advantage of the strongest of our emotions: the love for our family.
The fraudster places a call to a victim, and impersonates a lawyer, claiming that a close relative of the victim was involved in a car accident where they ran over a child that is now in critical condition in a hospital. In order to avoid the thing being reported to the police, the family of the child/victim is willing to accept a hefty sum of money payable to the “lawyer” who will ensure the transaction and that no complaint will be made.
Such calls are usually made to older people, whose emotions are often easier to manipulate, and they end up giving their life savings to these fraudsters.
3. The win
We all know the spam e-mails claiming you have won a big amount of money, and we all learned to ignore them, and other similar online appearances. But these can happen in some other ways as well, for example via phone. You get a text message claiming that you won some contest held by a big and well-known company such as Coca-Cola, and that you should call a number to receive your prize. Obviously, in order to receive the prize, you have to pay in advance for its transport, or for something else. This scam is very easy to spot with the rule I wrote at the beginning of the post: you didn’t initiate this, you most likely didn’t participate in a contest. You will never win a contest without participating. The best thing is to contact the company yourself directly (using contact information from their official website, not the info provided to you by those who are offering you the prize).
4. The money to get back home
I’ve seen this one a lot in Bucharest. You’re approached by someone who tells you a story about how they are out of town, their wallet was stolen, and they need money for the train ride back home. This sounds quite plausible, until you are approached by the same person three times in a month, with the same story (yes, it happened, and no, I never gave money). This one is hard to verify, but it will most likely be a scam. Would you ask for money in a similar situation? Or would you rather try to contact a friend or a relative?
5. The map / newspapers
Almost fell victim to this one, but thankfully we reacted fast, without even realizing at the time that it was a scam. My boyfriend and I were in a pastry shop in Lisbon, sitting at a table right next to the entrance door. All of a sudden, we find two gypsy women all over our table, trying to show us something in some newspaper. We instantly shoved them away (it wasn’t easy), and a few seconds later the waiter showed up and got them out of there. Then we realized that both our phones were on the table. They were covering the table with the newspapers so that they could slip their hands under the newspapers and fetch our phones. The waiter confirmed that that was indeed the scam, and I later found various descriptions of this scam online as well. Sometimes they use a map and ask for directions while they’re picking up whatever valuables you have on the table. Ever since this incident, my phone is either be in my hand, or in my pocket.
6. The phone borrow
This is the only one I haven’t witnessed myself, but I still think people should know about it. It is pretty similar to #4 above, but in this case, the fraudster is asking to let them send a text message to their family from your phone. If you give them your phone, they will send a text message, but not to their family, to one of those numbers where you subscribe to a paid service. Then they delete the message, and you’re subscribed, you have no idea that you’re subscribed, to what you are subscribed, or how to unsubscribe. And, of course, the service costs a lot. The key rule to follow here is to never ever let your phone in the hands of a stranger. Offer to send the message yourself, if you think they might actually be honest.
PS: I recommend watching the movie. It’s one of the few very good Romanian movies, and it shows the incredible business that is begging.