As my grandmother always used to tell me, "If it sounds too good to be true, it's probably not". Unfortunately, it's all too easy to forget those wise words in the heat of the moment when someone makes you an offer you can't refuse. Whether on the road or on your own doorstep, there are always con artists waiting for the chance to make an easy buck off an unwary passerby.
Some perfect examples of this are the following stories from unlucky Reddit users who recently went online to share their tales of realizing they'd been scammed. Keep your wits about you!
55. Not My Trip, Man
54. Pay For The Charges To Go Away
53. Hey, Big Spender!
52. First, They Take Your Money; Then They Take Your Hair
51. Fool Me Once...
50. Why Do So Many Of These Involve Best Buy?
49. A Pyramid Scheme Is Not A Job
Worst in the sense that it gave me false hope. But my first job "offer" out of university was with a company that was owned by the Citi Group. Turns out Primerica was a multi-level marketing company (AKA pyramid scheme) and wanted me to pay hundreds of dollars in setup/training fees and eventually get my relatives to sign up.
48. That's What You Get For Buying Street Shoes
Went to China on a high school trip.
Bought some knock off Heely's (basically just 2 sets of rollerblade wheels you could attach to the back of your shoe).
I gave the guy 100 yuan and he gave me back 30 rubles. The bills had a similar color and it was dark outside so I didn't notice. Rubles are worth about 10% of the same amount in yuan.
The kicker was that I actually saw the same dude the next day when we were leaving the hotel. He booked it out of there the moment we made eye contact.
47. It's Not Magic; It's A Con
46. Don't Use Your Kid That Way
45. Tammy Doesn't Exist
44. Cabs and Closing
Thailand. Everything you want to see today is closed. Even knowing the scam they still try to scam you. Official dude outside Grand Palace. It's closed for lunch. Come over here and eat until it opens. No, go away.
Get in a cab to go to a street market. It's closed today, I'll take you to a different market.
No. Take me where I want to go and where you agreed to take me. No, it is closed. Made the guy stop the cab because he was taking us somewhere else. Even though we agreed on the market initially. I ended up walking and found the market and it was of course open.
I don't know why they won't take you where you ask and pay to go. Official cabs, had a local Thai with us too. Almost were held hostage.
How to avoid? Ignore whatever they say and just go where you want if you know it is open.
Avoid cabs? Thailand was a beautiful place, but the day I was in Bangkok at the tourist center area left a bad taste in my mouth.
43. No Gifts From Strangers
I was in Paris, France around New Year about five years ago. Two younger men were giving out "free" bracelets to celebrate. Nothing fancy, just a plastic band with "bonne annee" stamped on it. Once I accepted the bracelet, they followed me around telling me things like "A lady like you can afford 10 euro" and "Nothing is free in Paris"
I tried to give the bracelet back, but they kept harassing me with insulting comments. Finally, I found a police officer and they backed off.
Lesson learned: don't accept "gifts" from strangers, no matter how small.
42. Some Dude's Mixtape
Ended up buying some dude's mixtape on Hollywood Blvd for $10. I was wearing a Snoop Dogg t-shirt and this guy comes over with a pair of beats and asks me where I'm from/what music I like/ how I'm enjoying my stay/ to listen to his music, so I did, and say it's good out of courtesy (it was terrible) then he gives me a CD saying take this back to Australia and show your friends, then he goes "oh btw most people donate 10, 20 dollars for my music" and stands there with his hand out. I honestly didn't know how to say no because he was so friendly and nice so now I have some dudes mixtape in my cd collection lol
41. The Shoe Shine Scam
Shoe cleaning trick in Istanbul.
Shoe cleaner walks in front of you, drops his brush and I picked it up and gave it back. The guy looked really happy and thankful and started cleaning my shoes right away. He even called his friend from across the street to clean my boyfriend's shoes.
We thought he was just thanking us until he asked for money, 6 times the normal amount for some shoe cleaning. When we refused to pay he called in some more friends and it was kind of scary really. We ended up paying only the regular amount and walked away.
40. Avoid The Gypsies
Gypsies in Italy. I'm sure they are in other countries as well but I've encountered them in multiple Italian cities.
If you see a hunched over little person headed your way wiggling a cup in front of them just avoid them. Especially if they have a "baby" in their arms.
39. Fined For Photos
Not me, but my buddy. Also, not sure if it was a scam or just your average corruption.
He was in Uganda with our university for about a month. They were on a bus driving to another city and they had left at about 5 am so they were sleeping most of the time. They stopped somewhere randomly to get a bathroom break or something and saw this pretty bridge and a lot of them took out their phones/cameras to take pictures.
When they left, about a half-hour later they ran into a roadblock monitored by the military. One of the military guys saw a camera on the bus and got on (with the weapons strapped) and demanded to see everyone's pictures. Well, he saw the ones of the bridge and got mad because apparently you're not allowed to take pictures of government property in Uganda. So they had to pay $300 (which was what it equaled out to in our currency) otherwise they were going to take everyone to jail.
They paid up and left, but we're definitely scared and more careful.
38. The Bump And Run
In a diner parking lot in Asheville NC. I look over both shoulders before backing out of my parking spot and see no one there so I back out. All of a sudden there is an old beat-up truck there which of course I hit. I am on vacation and have a rental so I am like "uh oh, I have a rental, how does this work"? Etc etc. Passenger comes up and says, "Oh hey don't worry about it, it's an old beat-up truck". I go back to my car still freaked out but relieved.
The guy comes back and says "Oh hey, you don't have $15 so we can get some gas do you"? I reach in my pocket and quickly hand the guy $15.
He hops in the truck, they take off and as quickly as it took me to hand him the money I realize what just happened. I get back in the car, look at my wife and say, "I just got scammed". Hostess from the diner peeks her head out the door, "Is everything okay out here"? That sealed it.
37. An Expensive Scooter Ride
Me and my friends rented scooters in Bali to go see some sights. Within 5 minutes we got pulled over asking to see our "international license". The cop fined us on the spot. We don't even go another block when this happens again with a different cop.
This happened 3 more times until the last one we didn't stop we just went all the way back to the scooter place with the cop following us. Our 4 dollar scooter rental turned into over 200 USD paying off cops.
I have to assume the rental place called the cops because it happened so quickly.
36. Loitering For Luggage
Getting on a train in Venice, as soon as we step on with our luggage some guy grabs my suitcase and says "Which seat"?!, puts it in the overhead bin, and demands money. It all happened so fast before I could say no. He demanded money of course.
Tried to give him a Euro or two. He ended up settling for 5.
We noticed he and some other guys doing this for about 10 minutes going from car to car while the police chased them.
35. Prison Phone Call
My great aunt was tricked into thinking her grandson was being detained in a Guatemalan prison and needed money to help get him out (they live in the U.S).. The trick was foiled when her grandson called asking her to dinner that night.
34. Going Off-Menu
Accepting something not on the menu that's 3 times the price of anything on the menu (Bodrum, Turkey).
Also the guys ''on their way to the airport'' wanted to get rid of ''Armani'' jacket for a low price because they couldn't get it through customs.
Knew it was a scam but they looked good and I bargained the price as much as I could. (Paris)
33. Confused About Currency
Was in Riga, Latvia and didn't realize how similar Latvian/Lithuanian currency look. A guy in a suit approached me and asked if I could make change for him, and I was feeling stupidly generous for some reason. The denominations escape me, but he counted out 20 "Liths" in coin for my 20 Lat in bills. Ended up losing around $40.
BUT!! You won't have to worry about falling victim to this scam, because both countries are now on the Euro.
32. Buying Old Newspapers
Five years ago, Denpasar, big crossroads.
I'm going back to my guesthouse on some kind of small private bus; it's around midday and a guy staggers between the cars selling newspapers in the scorching heat. I'm half moved to piety and half excited in seeing that he is selling also a not-so-widespread newspaper from my city in northern Italy! Incredible! So I buy one for the lavish sum of three dollars, of course - just to discover, unpacking the cellophane, that it was exactly two years old.
31. An Appetizing Scam
In Lisbon, Portugal we didn't fall for it but we had to keep smacking my father's hand.
In Lisbon when you go to a restaurant for dinner, they will put bread out for you, sometimes other things like cheese, even crab once.
None of these appetizers are included! As soon as you touch one, they go on your bill and they are not cheap. Some places actually dropped off 4-5x different things hoping you would eat something.
The part that bothered me was how long and how many tables had that food bounced around on before landing on ours!
30. An Online Surfing Lesson
Husband signed up online, and paid, for surfing lessons in Puerto Rico. We get to the place and they say they don't have any record of that at all. He shows them the website, and they're like, "That's not our website". He still takes the lesson but pays again.
Don't know if it was someone else with a fake website or the actual surf shop lying to him that scammed him. How can you avoid this issue? Don't prepay for everything. If it's not the high season, it's probably not full and you can pay when you get there.
29. An Unnecessary Travel Agent
Not really a scam, but I used a travel agent to go to Japan. It cost me almost 5k for 10 days with everything aside from in-country travel and food. I realized once I got there I could have stayed in places way cheaper and while my accommodations were great I felt really ripped off.
I really enjoyed the sightseeing though.
28. A Richer Budget
Had a 2nd or 3rd class train ticket Frome Delhi to Varanasi. Outside the station, some "authority" said my ticket was no good and took me to a tour operator. I ended up with a private driver, a night in Agra, and a train ticket from outside Agra to Varanasi instead.
My life is richer for it, but I had a different budget in mind for the trip.
27. Scammed Under The Sun
I was in St. Lucia at a typical cruise port, obviously sunburnt like crazy. This guy approaches me just starts rubbing the inside of an aloe plant on my arm because he said he's just a friendly guy and I looked like I was someone in need.
Then he asks me if he thinks my legs, face, and neck need some, I say sure. He finishes and I think him so kindly for his generous offering and walk away.
He then starts getting aggressive telling me just the arms were free. Not so friendly anymore. So I gave him some money and got right out of there. I saw him try that on the way back to the ship and told the people he was talking to that it was a scam. At least I saved someone else from $5.
26. Gasing Up The Price
Gas. Pulled up, waved down to the farthest pump.
Some dude pumped my gas for me, charged three times the current price and told me "That's what it is" when I got angry he started speaking only in Spanish and pretending he didn't understand English. I could see how someone short on time or nervous would just pay up.
25. Food In Weight
It's not a proper scam per se, but food sold by weight in units you don't know.
Vendors may try to pile on dense food because they assume American tourists are unfamiliar with weighing food in anything but pounds. And at least with the people I've traveled with, they'd be right.
A classmate once paid about $22 for what was basically a bowl of mashed potatoes.
24. Expected Strength
Homeless guy bet me he could do 90 push-ups for $10. I obliged thinking he would stop after like 20 or so but he did 90 in a row and earned his $10. I didn’t really get scammed but I shouldn’t have bet against his substance fueled exercise.
23. Short Bus Ride
In Tacna, Peru I paid 30 soles to take a cab from one bus station to the bus station right across the street. The cabbie was nice enough to drive me around town for a few minutes, so I didn't realize how close they were until my trip back.
To avoid this, know what to expect before you get off a long-haul bus ride at 6 in the morning.
22. Haggling For Health Check
Cambodian/Vietnam border. We have a van driver show us where to go and all that jazz.
After we cross into Vietnam and leave the immigration building, our driver takes us to another building that was 100 feet away. Walk in and there are 'officials' wearing uniforms. Go up, they tell us $5 USD for a health check, they take a laser thermometer and put it to our skin and write down our temperature on a piece of paper, then ask for the $5 USD.
Well, I refused and just kept walking, they probably got half the people to do it when you didn't need to.
21. Paying For Pointing
While in Florence my wife and I were walking around the streets near El Duomo. There were street vendors with slate paintings on the street. My wife pointed at a few and the vendor picked them up and demanded payment from us. He wanted 70 Euro. My wife was just looking at them and not wanting it but they harassed us to buy them since she pointed at them. I said no and walked off. The street vendor started cussing us out.
20. The Ring Rip-Off
Mine wasn't too bad. When I was younger, probably 14 or so, my mother and I took a Caribbean cruise. At one of the ports of call, they had buses that would take people out to the main shopping district. After we got off the bus, we were trying to figure out where to go first, and the driver offered to take us to his friend's shop.
I was 14 and stupid, and my mom is really really nice and hadn't traveled outside the US before. So he ended up driving us to his friend's shop. I really liked this one ring, and we were talking to the shopkeeper about it.
My mom was kind of hesitant, and then the shopkeeper dropped the price by half. I apparently had really convincing puppy dog eyes, so my mom bought it.
She knew we'd been ripped off. I wouldn't admit it, but I think I knew we'd been ripped off too. But I really liked the ring.
The ring got lost before we made it back to the States.
19. Forced to Feed
The bird feed scam. Some woman came to me and offered me a bag of corn to feed the birds with. I said no thank you and she kept insisting. Then she opened the bag and put it in my hand quickly which caused the bag to drop to the ground and spill all the corn.
I started walking away but then got swarmed by a group of like 8 women who urged me to pay otherwise they would call the police.
18. Always Negotiate
Not negotiating the price before agreeing for a service. Back in Thailand a taxi driver offered to take me with his motorbike around the city. Sounded fun and the chap looked ok so I agreed. When I asked how much it will be he told me not to worry about it, he'll make you good price for me. I don't remember exactly how much I ended up paying but it was a lot.
Always, always agree on the price first.
17. Fries Are Extra
I ordered a burger in France. "Do you want fries with that"? Yes, sure. The burger was like €8, the tiny plate of fries €10. Always ask how much things cost.
16. Not-So-Romantic Rose
At the Trevi fountain a guy gave my girlfriend and her friend a rose (which they took because it seemed like he was just giving it to them), then turns to me and asks for 2 euro each. I didn't want to take a rose away from my girlfriend in Italy so I gave him 2 euro total and said go away. Surprisingly he didn't bug me for more.
15. Conned For The Children
When I was 17 I got conned by some African dudes in Paris who wanted money to send back to their country for 'children', at the time I just wanted to get out of the situation and I felt bad for them but I definitely got conned out of 20€.
14. The Wooden Cookie
Buying a window cookie in Venice. It looked so good. But it was just a prop. I tried to eat it anyway, but it was like a hard, sweetness-free blob of pink nothingness. I think they must've laughed after selling it to me.
13. Pricey Peter Pan Show
Paying for higher-priced seats at a "Peter Pan on Ice" show in Moscow. It was all general admission when we arrived.
12. Bargain Laptop
Bought 2 rocks and a piece of cardboard for 300€ in Napoli.
How to avoid it: don't try to buy a laptop from a street vendor.
It was clearly stupid.
11. The Scam Of Freedom
Started traveling and never wanted to have a normal life ever again. Whether or not you wish to avoid this scam is debatable on an individual basis.
10. Across The Strip
When I was 21 I went to Vegas with a group of friends. We got separated due to people just wandering off and doing their own thing for a little while in some random casino. I had quite a lot to drink and these two pretty girls started talking to me.
They seemed really interested. I felt like a stud. They asked if I wanted to come to a club with me at the other end of the strip. Me thinking my night was going to be awesome, I obliged and we went outside to find a ride. They suggested we take a black car because it was nicer. We get in and they start flirting and laughing with me. Amazing.
We get to the location a few miles away and they hop out and apparently, we were not splitting the ride, but they said they'd wait for me. They get out and close the door and I see them walking away.
The driver just looks back at me, winces and says, "Yeah man, I'm sorry man, but that's going to be $150". Feeling like a chump but not giving up hope, I get out and the girls are gone. The driver, apparently having pity on me, offers to give me a ride back down to the other end of the strip for free since that was going to be his last one of the night.
9. Rolled One Over On Ya
The ball game. Basically, these people (definitely all in on it) stand around in a group watching a guy on the ground roll a ball around under three different boxes.
You put money down and choose the box you think the ball is under, but he switches it at the last second and you lose your money.
8. Lets Talk Radio
When I was 18 my friend and I were in a hookah lounge and we met this guy who said he ran this pretty popular online radio station and he could give us some air time (we're musicians). I was kind of skeptical about it, but my friend was really excited to do it and she convinced me we should do it. He said we had to pay $35 to buy the slot, which I thought made sense at the time, so I put up the money.
We were supposed to meet with him again the next day so he could show us how to do everything.
My friend was really excited and we spent the rest of the evening putting together a mix CD of what songs we wanted to play. The next day, we went to meet him again at the hookah place and he was not there. We asked an employee about him since he said he often hosted the program there. They said they had never seen him before yesterday.
It was only $35, but at that time it was a decent amount of money for me and the worst part was I was actually excited to do a radio show.
7. Children In Baggage
Never ever take your eyes off your bag. Especially in Thailand. That includes putting it in the undercarriage for bags on the large busses. Had $1000 USD stolen from it (my massive mistake putting money in the bag, I know. I was wasted when I did so). They put small children or little people in duffels with all the other bags so once the bus starts moving, they search through all of them and crawl back into their little bags. Still angry about it.
As a recent high school grad, someone told me to sit through this presentation of how you can earn $xxx.
xx per week, yada yada. And every person you get to work for you, you get a share of what they earn. Up to this point, I’d never heard of a pyramid scheme. I sat through the presentation. Then they take you individually (or with one other person, I can’t remember) and get you to sign up requiring a direct deposit from my bank account. When I told my parents about this, I immediately knew this was a huge mistake. I promptly went to the credit union where I had an account and canceled it. Luckily never heard from them again.
5. Helping An Old Lady
I guess I made it worse for myself by the effort I put in, but anyway...
I was walking home through the main street of my city after a night out (stuffing my face with leftover pizza) when a lady came up to me saying she needed to get to the hospital immediately, because her fiance was in ER. She looked genuinely distressed and I quickly gave her directions of where to go and what bus to get. But she said (and I'm paraphrasing to make this more vague) "No I don't think it was that hospital, I think it's the new one on the eastern side of the city".
I looked up what bus to get and told her.
"I don't have any money," was the response. The bus stop was just round the corner, so I gave her £2 and accompanied her to the bus stop, since one was just coming, and I watched her get on...and then she got off again. Starting to get suspicious, I rushed up to her and asked what happened. "The bus driver told me to get this other bus, he said that one was more direct"? I looked it up, and saw that the closest stop for it was on the complete other side of town. "That's odd, the time it's going to take you to walk there will make it much longer"? I said.
She just acted confused too, and kept saying she didn't know the city very well.
The other stop was in the opposite direction for me, so I just accepted defeat and left her to it, feeling pretty certain that she had nabbed £2 from me.
Oh, you don't know the city at all because you're not a local, but have a good grasp on where the different hospitals are? Why are you in a city you don't know alone, away from your fiance, who just got into a fight on the other side of town? Just didn't add up really.
The £2 was nothing but I spent a good 20 minutes trying to help her out when I just wanted to go to bed.
4. Well Dressed Thai Man
The second day of my two-week-long honeymoon in Thailand.
My wife and I decided to go exploring and wanted to visit the local mall in Bangkok. We get off the ferry boat with a map in hand, looking somewhat confused and a nice, well- dressed Thai man comes up to us asking if we need help in surprisingly good English.
He mentioned that the shopping malls are closed till 1 pm due to the “mourning of the Kings death” but he knows of a place where we can get high-end suits and dresses discounted. If we follow the road all the way down a Tuk Tuk ( Thai taxi type of thing) will take you there.
Sure enough, we walk along the road and a gentleman was waiting right there for us.
We hop in, and they drop us off at this big fancy clothing store. They separated my wife and I to our men’s and women’s departments much to my dismay and horror. She didn’t seem too concerned so I let it fly. They start showing me fabrics for a custom-fitted suit. I pick out some and before I know it I’m being measured. Finally, find my wife and she has two dresses picked out. Grand total came to about $1500 American dollars.
We leave and the same Tuk Tuk is waiting for us, and then takes us to a Jewelry store where a gentleman is showing us rare “gemstones”. My wife is a sucker for Jewelry so buys one for about $250. Finally, we leave and get a regular cab back to our hotel. I pull out my phone and look up the “suit” place we went to. It literally was hundreds of people describing the scam from the beginning ( nice, well-dressed Thai man giving assistance, to the Tuk Tuk Driver) to the end. We felt absolutely robbed. Also, read that the gemstone was fake hence the “no return” policy.
We finally got our stuff in the mail back in the States about two weeks later.
My wife’s dresses are essentially Wal- Mart quality. My custom fitted suit is surprisingly decent and does fit incredibly well so it wasn’t a total bust. But we were tourists that got absolutely swindled.
3. A Disruptive Distraction
While living in Buenos Aires, I was having a beer with friends outside the Retiro train station with some friends. The patio was jammed with tourists who had their wallets and phones on their tables. Suddenly there was a commotion amongst these locals right beside the patio, and a "fight" broke out. It was a pretty big one, like 7 or 8 people seemingly beating on each other.
This lasted all of two minutes. When the tourists returned to their seats, some discovered they had lost their wallets and some of their phones. While they were looking for these things, the fighters vanished into the crowd.
2. The Home Of Nightmares
Homeownership. (And I mostly scammed myself..).
We bought our home six years ago, and I was all emotionally caught up in getting out of apartment living and getting into a house.
Sweet merciful Jesus, the guy we bought our home from saw that from a mile away. I was such an dummy, and he knew he was sitting on a lemon.
Here's a brief rundown of our nightmare:
Inside the First 30 Days
Major roof leaks discovered. Required extensive interior repair of water damage. New roof also required.
Basement renovation was concurrent with #1. New carpet. New bathroom.
Major electrical overhaul was required for #2, as previous owners had done nightmarish, awful DIY electrical work.
All major appliances failed. Replacement was effectively cheaper than repair. (Washer, dryer, refrigerator, dishwasher)
Every toilet required repair due to poor DIY work from previous owner (he used fishing line to connect the handle to the flap).
Most sinks leaked and required repair of the drains.
Rodent problem discovered. (Explains the cat they openly hated).
Gas leak discovered near furnace.
Hot water heater issues (what lead to discovering #8). Was able to repair.
Gas fireplace not sealed properly. Produced carbon monoxide.
Dangerous dryer vent clog. House almost burned down. Only discovered due to a mysterious "leak" in an adjoining room. (Water vapor from dryer not escaping).
Inside the First Six Months
AC units near failure. Only able to maintain interior temperature of ~85 F. It was a hot summer.
Garage door hole (near seal at bottom) invited rodents. The rodents invited snakes.
Tree planed in front yard was an illegal, invasive species.
Garage contained curious electrical issues. Determined to be more dangerous DIY work.
This included a naked, live wire sticking out of the wall. (It had been covered by a shelf).
Poor drainage on exterior of home.
Driveway had not been maintained. Required expensive repairs.
Front walk had not been maintained. Required expensive repairs.
Back deck had not been maintained. Required expensive repairs.
Poorly done windows. Still dealing with this.
Inside the First Two Years
Complete overhaul of HVAC system. No vacation that year...or the year after that.
Wall oven failed.
Built-in gas cooktop failed.
Garbage disposal failed.
Garage door openers failed.
Garage door replacement (no more snakes)!
More poor DIY electrical work uncovered. (Still finding some of these). Pro-tip: Don't put lamp wire in your walls. It's really dangerous. Call a professional, for God's sake.
Replacement of multiple faucets that were failing/near failure.
There is a very, very long list of things I'm forgetting. All this stuff above, plus other issues, also triggered a major depressive episode for me, from which I am only recently recovered. I joke that I had house PTSD.
The next house we buy is going to be stress-tested to the extreme. Oh, and forget home inspectors. Bring a friend along, like me, who's got the thousand-yard homeowner stare.
We use the previous owner's name as a curse word around our house.
1. MLM Scam
When I was halfway through college (late 2000's) I was lured into a MLM scam. A classmate who I considered an acquaintance/friend invited me to her house where her family was hosting an MLM presentation for like two dozen people. It sounded nice and unfortunately, I wasn't quite as cynical back then so I was interested in it. Fortunately, my natural sense of laziness actually saved me in this sense because I only sunk about $20 into some packs of energy drinks before I forgot about the whole thing.
The sick thing about MLM is that the people who get sucked into it often target their friends and families and unfortunately I've been noticing some relatives in Vietnam posting about it on Facebook (stupid HerbalLife). Out of courtesy, I warned one, but I don't think he believes me (despite me linking some articles and sharing my own experience) and I'm not pushing the issue.