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Crazy Scams that People Actually Fell For

Boy holding sign that reads: Family killed by ninjas. Need money for karate lessons.

People go on the Internet to interact, be entertained, get the news and to shop. No one goes online to get be fooled by crazy scams…but it still happens, all the time.

It’s not that the scammers are getting smarter or that we’re getting dumber. It’s because…

  • Scammers never stop working
  • New scammers crop up every day
  • New targets pop up every day
  • Scams work

Not only that, but while scammers are popping up with new scams daily, more people are continuing to make themselves susceptible for scams. This is because…

  • There are always people eager to make fast and easy money
  • People looking for work are fooled by employment scams
  • Lonely adults are still being wooed and scammed by romance scams
  • Younger folks are more trusting and less aware of scams.
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Here’s a look at some true scam stories that we’ve heard about that maybe you haven’t. There’s a lesson to be learned as you read these accounts:

The Nigerian Prince Who Went Into Space.

Nothing quite compares to the timelessness of the Nigerian Prince scam. Basically, you’d receive a message from a Nigerian prince who needed help recouping millions he was being cheated out of. The prince chose you to help, and he’ll give you a huge reward if you help him out.

This long-standing scam has been swindling internet users out of their fortunes for well over a decade, which means people have a built-in inclination to be fooled where making easy money is concerned.

If someone could fall for the Nigerian prince story, maybe a scammer could take this to the next level, like to outer space. Someone posted a request they received regarding a Nigerian astronaut, the first ever, who was lost in space—well, actually he was stuck on a Russian space station and in need of money to get back home.

Apparently, the Nigerian was abandoned aboard a Soviet space nation and needed a cool $3 million for a space flight home. There’s no telling how many people actually fell for this ridiculous ruse, but the state of the human race doesn’t inspire much confidence.

The million-dollar lover boy.

Listen…everyone deserves a little love. That’s why things like eHarmony, Tinder and dating shows have slowly overtaken society.

Unfortunately, scammers are all too aware of our need for love. They prey on the likes of the needy through countless ‘catphishing’ scams. Though there have been plenty of high-profile romance scam victims, none quite stack up to the plight of one vulnerable Canadian woman.

Here’s what happened: a 65-year-old woman named Ellen began striking up an online romance with a handsome Swedish man named Dave. When she finally booked a flight to visit him, he told her he was caught up in a battle for a large family inheritance.

Many money transfers later, the poor woman lost over $1.3 million dollars.

And you thought your dating life was bad!

The scammer preyed not only on her hope for companionship and love, but her helpful nature. That’s the perfect recipe for a scammer. “I am of the nature that I would help anybody,” Ellen told a reporter. “I don’t like the idea of not being able to help somebody if I can.”

Little did she know, all she was doing was helping a scammer pull off a major scam. Ellen passes this information on to others now. “Never make a payment. Never. That first payment is the hook.”

Crazy scams go to Hollywood.

The hit TV show Grey’s Anatomy” has gained thousands of fans, and in 2022 it was embarking on its 19th season. One of the hottest characters on the show was lovingly referred to as “McDreamy,” better known by his character’s name, Dr. Dereck Shepard. The real name of the actor who portrayed him on the show is Patrick Dempsey. Well, whomever you’re referring too, the handsome face on the show won the hearts of middle-aged women everywhere with his prince charming looks.

Sadly, even McDreamy wasn’t immune to the relentless world of online scams. In a bold move in July 2018, one online user actually impersonated the popular actor on social media in a scheme to swindle people out of their money.  The con artist set up numerous Patrick Dempsey impersonation social accounts and solicited funds for a charity that, in reality, didn’t exist. Blinded by Dempsey’s undeniable charisma and sexuality, good-hearted women fell for the ruse like they fell for McDreamy. Dempsey had to post his own Tweet, on his own site, to alert his fans to the scam that was going around in his name, but by then the damage had been done.

Here’s a tip: before donating to any charity, do a simple Google search first. Just type in the celebrity’s name and add the word “scam” after it. (like, “Patrick Dempsey scam”). Do it a few times. You could save yourself embarrassment and money.

The lure of adorable pets online.

Scammers have also taken advantage of the purest of joys in this world: the love of puppies. That’s right, these vicious criminals have coaxed thousands of people out of money by preying on their desire to have a special pet and a special breed. That’s what happened to a South Carolina couple in 2012. After finding a seemingly reliable breeder, the puppy enthusiasts reached out to purchase a miniature pinscher because…its picture was adorable.

The couple ended up wiring over $1,000 in fees for things like shipping, vaccinations and dog crates.

Little did they susptect they’d given a crafty and unscrupulous con artist $1,000 and still didn’t have their dog. After getting more news of a new delay and a request for more cash to complete the transaction, the couple had enough.

They told a reporter that they finally said to themselves, “this is beginning to sound like a scam… which we should have said two days earlier.” They changed course and found another miniature pinscher through a different breeder. This time they drove to pick up their new pet in person.

On the Easy Prey podcast, you can hear an expert on pet scams give the details you need to know to avoid being a victim of a pet scam. 

“I made the ‘Hot List’!”

Move over Baby Boomers: There’s another demographic that is falling prey to spam: millennials. Yes, the online generation is actually a prime target of scammers. The tech-savvy youngsters are fooled by tech-savvy scammers who know that those under 40, unlike their paranoid parents, are less worried about transacting online.

Millennials were recently being targeted by a scam targeting their Instagram accounts. Users received messages from a random social media account claiming to have seen their pictures on a “Hot List,” which supposedly ranked them based on their physical appearance.

In this day and age of everyone wanting “Kardashian-level” fame, that type of list—and affirmation of one’s social status—is like fresh catnip to felines. Of course, the message and the list were both creations of a scammer. The list was exclusive and not every Instagram account holder had easy access to it, but they could if they shared their login credentials.

Crazy scams work because crooks play on the combination of curiosity and inner vanity of some Instagram users.

Not surprisingly, thousands of people willingly gave away their login credentials just to see their position on the Hot List.

How to stay safe and stay out of the news.

Maybe you’ve avoided a scam so far, and if so count yourself lucky. Becoming a scam victim has little to do with intelligence. Smart people are fooled by con artists every day. That happens because we all have some inner desires that could be triggered under certain circumstances.

For tips on how to avoid becoming a victim, read this insightful article on how to avoid a scam on

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