In the 21st Century, we have been trained to look out for scams on a daily basis. But sometimes, scams still escape our attention. Mostly because we have convinced ourself that they aren't scams; a lie we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better. But it's better we peel back the curtain and see the true form of the thing--if it is, really, a scam.
Here were some of those answers.
It Ain't Just A PrizeGiphy
Publishers Clearing House's various sweepstakes.
Source: I spent almost three years working at their distribution center.
In a legal sense, they do the absolute bare minimum required to not be a "scam," but that doesn't mean they don't screw a LOT of people.
First of all, there's the legal definition of a contest vs. a sweepstakes. A contest can't require an entry fee, purchase, etc. or have any kind of payment improve your odds of winning, while a sweepstakes can. PCH is TECHNICALLY a contest, but they do everything they can to hide the "no purchase necessary" disclaimer. You're automatically entered with a purchase, which is fine, they just can't REQUIRE it. They make this even less clear by using the terms "contest" and "sweepstakes" interchangeably in their literature.
So you probably think PCH just sells books and magazine subscriptions right? You'd be surprised. You know all those late-night infomercial products? Flex Seal, Slap Chop, the Thighmaster, and all those crappy CD compilations? Pretty much any "As Seen on TV" product is distributed by PCH (side note - the majority of these products are also available through regular retailers, despite what they'd have you believe). The infomercials aren't exactly forthcoming about this, and when you order any of that stuff off a TV ad, you end up on the PCH contest/mailing list. That wouldn't be so bad, except...
Regardless of what you buy, being put on the PCH mailing list is actually a subscription service. This is yet another thing they purposely avoid telling you. You buy one thing from them, and every month after that they're going to send out some other product that they "think you'll love," and automatically bill you for it. Now of course there's a returns process and a way to cancel your subscription (and technically there's a way to opt out of subscribing when you make a purchase in the first place, but again, you have to know that because they aren't going to tell you), but as you might expect, it's purposely as convoluted as possible to discourage people from canceling. Oh, but you get another contest entry every month that way, so that's cool, right? Well...
You know how you get that cute contest entry form with your package? I bet it was like a peel-and-stick bingo card or a scratch-off lotto ticket kind of thing? I bet it said you were pre-selected as a finalist for the contest! That's exciting right? Well no, because every single one of those inserts they send out is exactly the same. Everyone is a "finalist," and back to the "no purchase necessary" thing, they conveniently package the contest form with an insert that lists other products, to make it look like you have to order more stuff to get entered in the (non-existent) "next round" or whatever. The golden rule we had to follow packaging products was to NEVER accidentally put two contest inserts in a package - can't let people catch on that they're all the same, and therefore meaningless!
It's a pyramid scheme, except there isn't actually even a pyramid, they just want you to think there is! When all is said and done, they just randomly select a winner the way any other luck-of-the-draw contest does.
So how do they get away with all this and not have angry people show up at their HQ? This is the best part - the return address on the packages they send out is fake! The warehouse IS in St. Cloud, MN, but the street address flat-out doesn't exist and the zip code is one that isn't assigned anywhere in the United States. They have a special arrangement in place with the post office so their workers all know where stuff sent to that address is actually supposed to go. The same is true of their customer service address in NY -both use a fake "Winners Circle" street name. Also, said warehouse is listed as "Office of the PCH Controller" or something like that on the envelope, but nobody from PCH actually works there (I never met a single PCH employee the entire time I was there, although SUPPOSEDLY they show up to tour the place every once in a while...)! It's a third-party distribution center whose only client is PCH, and in turn is the only place PCH distributes through. There's no PCH signage on the building, it's purposely as nondescript as possible.
So yeah, people do win and the Prize Patrol shows up and all that. But pretty much everybody who doesn't win is getting screwed, or at least deceived.
Activated Charcoal products: They are more harmful than good
That activated charcoal toothpaste...it's nothing but an abrasive powder that will slowly erode away your enamel. It will leave you with whiter teeth but weaker ones
That activated charcoal lemonade...all that will do is actually absorb the essential nutrients...this is why doctors use them in case of poisonings. The activated charcoal would absorb the poisonous compounds to a certain degree...
EDIT: I am referring here to the AC products that are being ingested or used for toothpaste etc.
AC is widely used in many other applications like water filters etc where they work great.
They are just not recommended at all to be ingested.
Phish Phish Phish
Received an e-mail from "me", threatening to release a split screen video of me pleasuring myself on one side, while the other side shows the porn video I was watching. But for the one time only, low price of $587 bitcoin, the video would be deleted. Closed off with "Best wishes!". At least this was more entertaining than a Nigerian prince.
Playing On Our Mortal Fear Of TaxesGiphy
If anyone calls and tells you they can get rid of your interest on your credit cards, or anything credit card related, it's a scam. The only person who can really do that is your actual credit card company, and you can call them yourself to see if you qualify for any deals.
If anyone calls and says "The IRS is going to pursue legal action if you do not act now" it's a scam. The IRS will not call you. They will send you official mail.
If you are sleuthing through ads on one of those bootleg TV sites and an ad comes up saying "your mac needs to be cleared of viruses!" it's a scam.
These might be common knowledge, but I have a friend who fell for all of these.
Save The Scams For College
School fundraisers. My kids school tells the kids they can win a grand prize (junk toy) if they have the winning ticket. They send forms home for the parents. You have to go to their website where you learn that you have to validate your email and give them 5 other emails of friends and family and after they validate those you can enter your ticket number to see if you won. It provides me a good time to talk with the kids about scams.
This year I told my 7 year old that I'm thinking of a number 1-100 and if he guesses right on the first try he can have the grand prize. He guessed wrong and I said he can try again next year.
Well Formulated, Yet Not Well Concealed
This almost got me but it is pretty well known. They send you an Email saying that they need someone to buy things for them. They will pay like 13 an hour. They send you a check for like $3,000 tell you to put it in your bank. It has a wait time on it to go through in like 5 days. They than say they need you to send money to their wife or husband somewhere, and go to Walmart and do the money transfer thing. Transfer like $2,700 to their wife who is stranded somewhere in Africa. The check "clears" in 2 days. you don't do it the first day, but they harass you for the entire second day to try and have you send them the money. Of course the check doesn't go through and the bank charges you for it, and if you fall for the scam you are out $2.7K. it is so common that in money transfer places they have pamphlet explaining the scam.
The Scam Spectrum: A Lesson
First the mild end of the spectrum. It's not legal to cold call people on the do not call list for sales. You can do so for surveys though. Some companies, most prolifically in my area Eagle Water, abuse this They call for a survey which is only 2 questions and they really don't care about your answers. Afterward you'll get a call back saying you've won something, where they try to get you to let someone from their sales team into your house for some dollar store piece of junk. Recently they've also taken to sending out mail spam with the same general concept. Basically fake scratch-off tickets which always say you've won something, possibly even a jeep or other nonsense. It's all just a scam to sell massively overpriced water filters though.
On the infuriating side of things some shady apps will claim you have to hold your finger on the home button for several seconds as some kind of login or scan. Then when your finger is held there they'll try to process a large payment hoping you'll accept it accidentally. Here is one such app.
One of the more successful scams, the baby formula scam. Someone with a child in a store will say they can't afford formula for their baby, and they'll even let you know they don't want money. They'll try to get you to buy baby formula, diapers, and things like that, then they'll return all the items later for money.
Finally one of the worst scams which seems far more common than it should be and which has the potential to really screw someone. People will try to rent out properties they don't own. Any listing for renting a property which seems too good to be true, often is. Really they just want your deposit. I had to move for work at one point and didn't really know the area at all. So I was just looking to rent for a bit before finding a more permanent arrangement. I picked up on the scam pretty quickly after contacting anyone, but there were so many of them that I ultimately gave up on that plan. I just became way too uncomfortable with the idea of giving money to someone for something I hadn't seen when half of the listings seemed to be scams.
Talk Me Up To Bring Me Down
I'm a freshman in college looking for internships and someone messaged me on LinkedIn and said they would like the talk on the phone. I asked for the company name, company website, and what the internship was about but they said they'll tell me everything over the phone. This was a bad mistake, if they're reluctant to give the information when you ask then they're hiding something. It turns out they wanted me to pay for this special program at her company.
I kept asking her what the name of the company was but she just brushed it off and continued talking about how she thinks I'd be a great entrepreneur. After the phone call, every time she messaged me on LinkedIn I would keep asking for the company website until she eventually sent it and I looked it up and it was a pyramid scheme. I told her I wasn't interested but she kept calling me so I blocked her number and she contacted me from at least 7 other numbers after that (I could tell because I can see the location of the phone calls and they all came from the same location). I regret giving her my phone number because I still get phone calls and I believe she gave my information to telemarketers because I've gotten calls from random numbers too which I haven't before.
Thousands Of Problems Just Caused By AdsGiphy
"Hey, we see you're using an ad blocker. Please disable the blocker on your browser to be able to view or website".
No thanks. I'll just look up how to beat this difficult boss on one of a thousand other gaming websites.
Look, I get the websites are maintained by ads. I have no problem with that. But f*cking "popups" and other intrusive ads are bullshit. And not one single person in the world thinks they're cool. Not even the dickheads who make them. And another reason I use an ad blocker? Because even with high speed internet I have to wait 30 seconds for your g*ddamn page to load because you have half a dozen videos embedded on it. This is one of the reasons I had to stop going to Cracked.com: the aggressive ads kept causing the browser on my work computer to crash.
And while we're talking about scams on sh*tty websites: "Click this button to see the next slide" only to have to wait for an entire new page to load (with another 25 banner ads and popups) just so I can see one pic and a half a paragraph to find out what these celebrities from 80s sitcoms are up to.