There are signs that everyone recognizes immediately as warnings.
Don’t Walk. Beware of Dog. Stop. We’re taught, usually from childhood, about what those messages mean and how not heeding them could lead to harm.
There are other simple phrases we need to start teaching people. They’re not long or complicated, but not knowing them could lead to lasting harm, mostly to your wallet.
• Nigerian royalty.
If an African prince (or deposed president, ambassador, or potentate from any far-off country) has an amazing offer for you, just delete that email.
No, they do not actually want to give you a share of some shady, hidden fortune. They just want access to your banking information, credit cards, passport, or anything else they can get.
• You won the lottery!
No, no you didn’t. You definitely did not buy a ticket to an obscure or overseas lottery. You would have remembered that. If you did win the lottery, why are they asking you for fees to free up those vast winnings? Send them nothing, call the cops.
• Ghost lovers.
That person you met on that dating site? The one in a foreign country who texts and emails (but never talks by Skype, or in any other way that reveals their face) is really, really not into you.
They’re going to need some money, soon. These vultures hover around matchmaking websites, and can often be identified by their habit of using stock photos for their profiles.
• Virus on your computer.
No, there’s nothing wrong with your computer. No, that’s not Microsoft/Apple tech support calling. They don’t call you. They have too many people calling them.
• 100% Returns!
He seems nice and successful, and he’s a member of your church/ball team/PTA. Now he’s got this investment opportunity, huge returns, zero risk! How can you afford not to invest! Get a second mortgage if you have to!
Of course, this nice fellow is going to keep sending you updates on your investment. For a few months. Then the next thing you know he’ll be in Belize and the RCMP will sigh and tell you this isn’t the first time…
These are four of the most common scams. If I had more space, I could go on – there are dubious crowdfunding campaigns and fake tax auditors and a hundred get rich quick schemers. But knowing the big signs should help avoid danger.