Each week, the Identity Theft Resource Center works with a number of agencies to stay on top of the biggest threats to consumers’ personally identifiable information and financial security. The ITRC specifically works with Scam Detector to bring you information about the most prevalent or most potentially harmful scams that made news in the last week.
#1 – Bait and Switch Tablet Scam
Tablet computers are a great tool with a wide variety of uses, which means just about anybody could benefit from owning one. Since that’s the case, scammers have come up with very creative ways to lure you out of your money through the old “bait and switch” scam. A full explanation of how this scam has been reported by victims is included in the link, but basically you find a great deal on a tablet computer on a resale site, then the scammer shows up at your designated meeting place to actually sell you the tablet. Through some fancy maneuvers, he ends up talking you into handing over your payment in exchange for a sealed box that contains nothing more than a weighty piece of metal, tricking you into thinking the tablet is in there.
There’s no real way to know if you’re being scammed when you reach out to someone through an auction, resale, or used goods site. The person could be the picture of honesty and you could come away with a great deal, or you could be taken for a ride. The only way to guarantee customer satisfaction and a great buying experience is to purchase your high-end electronics from an authorized dealer.
#2 – Out of Money, Out of Gas
This is an old scam, but it’s making a comeback because it works so well. Basically, a well-dressed person holding an empty gas can approaches you at the pump and explains that he’s out of gas and that he left his wallet at home. Often, the scammer will even hand you a business card and offer to pay you back if you can loan him enough money for a few gallons of gas, just to get him on his way. Your attempts to give him a ride to his car afterward or to call someone for him will be met with really good excuses as to why he can’t do that.
This scam works because we’ve all been there. We’ve all had that moment where we pulled into the gas station on the very fumes left in our tanks, praying we make it all the way to the pump in time. The thought of being stranded on the side of the road—especially if we’re late for work, as this well-dressed man might indicate—is upsetting enough to make us fall for it.
Unfortunately, this scenario could be genuine; after all, that’s why it works so well. If you feel like the person might really just need a Good Samaritan at that moment, offer to put the gas in the gas can for him from your own nozzle that you’ve paid to activate. If you go with him to another pump, he may have installed a PIN skimmer in the credit card reader and be stealing your card’s information, so be sure to fill it from your initiated purchase.
#3 – Get Your Degree FAST
Online education is one of the truly great innovations to come from the digital age. Yes, it’s not only possible to get a quality education and a valuable degree through online coursework and programs, it’s becoming more and more common for learners of all ages and career fields to do so. Unfortunately, that means there are a lot of scams that have cropped up masquerading as online universities. These fraudulent programs are not accredited, they don’t provide you with any training or education, and you’re certainly not getting a viable diploma at the end. All you’re getting is the opportunity to lose a lot of money.
Remember that getting a degree is serious business and represents a significant investment of your time and your finances. Any website that offers you a fast degree—some of them even had the nerve to promise doctorate degrees in four to six weeks…why would people spend years earning their Ph.D.s if all they had to do was pay a website for the online course?—is out to rip you off.
For the rest of the top ten scams of the previous week, be sure to check out the Scam Detector website or the ITRC’s current threats section, then share the news with your friends and family members to help raise awareness of these threats.