Some money scams can be so sophisticatedly laid out that it’s hard to tell whether it’s a scam or the real deal. But there are a number of scam cases out there that are so preposterous, you’ll wonder how anyone would ever fall for them in the first place!
Here are some of the silliest, most outlandish scams that actually took flight:
1. The Bill Gates Money Scam
While this get-rich-quick scheme is like every other – promising swift and hefty profit – these scam stars took it a step further by hiring a Bill Gates impersonator! The fake scheme involved a revolutionary trading system that could generate fast money for just about anyone. The ad runs on Facebook and promises to “make everyone rich through the help of science”.
This of course is not the first time that Bill Gates has been the subject of internet scams. In the 90s, an email chain circulation claimed that Bill Gates was testing a tracing program for Microsoft, and asked that the email be forwarded to as many people as possible. If it reached 1,000 recipients, “Bill” would reward senders with USD1,000. Later in 2003, fake Bill striked again and promised to send USD5,000 to anyone who shared his photo online.
Red Flag: If Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, or any other celebrities would ever want to offer you thousands of USD just to forward their emails or pictures, they’d do it in the full light of publicity and not in secret. Because, you know, marketing strategy. If you ever encounter these ‘once-in-a-lifetime offers’, don’t waste your time and just hit the delete button.
2. Internet Love Scams
In 2013, an OKCupid dating app user sent USD70,000 to his love connection to help with a business setup. Turns out it was all a scam and the victim is now suing OKCupid. Another woman landed in major credit card debt for supplementing the lifestyle of a guy she’d met online.
But that’s not all; there have been countless more stories about love scams where people have willingly parted with thousands, got into debt and lost their retirement savings all for the love of someone they’ve never met.
In fact, Malaysian women have lost over RM70 million in such love scams in 2015 alone. Love scams can be heart wrenching as the victims lose more than just their cash, and it’s a lot easier to fall prey to them than you may think. The targeted victims are usually the lonely ones who are desperately seeking for some company and affection, and tend to let their guards down when they believe they’ve found their love. Worse still, the embarrassment of the situation leaves many to avoid reporting it.
Red Flag: If you are into online dating, be wary of anyone who asks for any form of financial assistance. Make sure you’ve met the person, and likewise know him or her intimately before agreeing to provide any kind of assistance. Make it a practice to never send money, no matter how desperate the story appears.
3. The Iraqi Dinar Scam
With the way things have been in Iraq in the last decade, it’s amazing to think that people would still buy its currency for investment purposes. But yes, this is actually still happening.
A man who was selling the currency claimed to have inside knowledge on the country’s turmoil and duped investors out of USD1.7 million.
He promised returns of up to 15,000% and amazingly, 46 investors gave up their hard-earned money to strike it big with the dinar. The man has since pleaded guilty but the total number of people still holding the dinar from other cases is still unknown.
Red Flag: Never participate in any investment that looks too good to be true. Any kind of investment that offers fast and big returns are all red flags for scam, so be sure to conduct extensive research before diving into any investment scheme.
4. Nigerian Prince Scam
Since this is one of the most popular and long-running scams in the world (possibly going back 200 years), you would think that people have wised up by now. But no – these ‘Nigerian Prince Scams’ as they are known, continue to trick unsuspecting victims into sending money for one reason or another, while guaranteeing a return of a much larger sum.
The scam usually involves a Nigerian prince who has been exiled, imprisoned or something along those lines. The scammer will tell you that he or she is in possession of great wealth, but for some reason can’t get to it unless you send them money first - for customs purposes, to clear up some tax, to pay off some debt, you name it. Afterward, the scammer will supposedly give you a big cut for your kindness.
Needless to say that these are all made-up excuses to dupe you out of your money, and variations of the con have even included the names of famous people such as Winnie Mandela. But one of the strangest versions of this scam has surfaced recently with a man claiming to need money to help his cousin who is currently stranded in space! Yes, his cousin is supposedly a very wealthy astronaut who has accumulated a salary of USD15 million. Of this, he will share 20% with whoever provides the down payment to bring him home. We sincerely hope that no one will take this seriously.
Red Flag: Unsolicited emails from people asking you for money and promising hefty returns in a short time frame is very likely a scam. Don’t respond to them, and most importantly, don’t send any money to them either!
5. Black Money Cleaning Scam
This scam is quite literally named as the money in question is often coated with a black substance. The supposed reason is to help it get through customs undetected. What happens is that the scam artist will target locals and befriend them, possibly even form romantic connections.
Once trust has been gained, the scammer will then bring up the case of his or her friend or partner who is in possession of a large sum of ‘black money’. He will then proceed to inform his target that simply cleaning the money with an expensive cleansing solution will make the notes usable again. The only problem is that his friend can’t afford to buy the solution and if the target provides the cash, he or she will receive a handsome cut.
A similar case was reported in Malaysia in 2016 where the scammer posed as the United Nations Director of Operations and proceeded to scam a South Korean man out of USD12,000. But luckily the intended target did not trust the scammer and instead reported it to the police.
Here’s a video on how this scam is done
Red Flag: If someone comes to you needing help with restoring illegal money or doing anything unlawful for that matter, don’t get involved. The potential gains may be tempting, but you are putting yourself in serious danger.
Even though these scams seem funny and downright ridiculous, don’t forget that real people have lost money and been hurt in the process.
Don’t be a victim – stay alert to possible scams and remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Have you encountered any scam or know anyone who’s been a scam victim? Share your story and thoughts on the comment section below!