Like me, most people can spot a scam from fifty paces, even when our inbox filters cannot. With a practiced eye, we quickly scan and delete, without fuss or hesitation. But how are we able to judge the credibility of a message so quickly? How do people know the difference between a genuinely valuable offer and a scam? Well, in a lot of cases, it boils down to spelling and grammar. Aren’t we lucky that most scams are so abysmally written?
In this age of fake news, scams, spam, things that are too good to be true and self-appointed but unqualified experts on everything …. people have become more cynical than ever before. Building trust has never been so crucial and your credibility can be shattered with a single typo.
Would you have fallen for any of these tricks or frauds?
Google Street View Murder
In Edinburgh, 2012, two friends noticed the Google car coming down their street and quickly staged a fake murder scene for its benefit. A few months later, the images made it to Google maps where they could be seen using Street View.
The images remained for a year before concerned members of the public reported the crime to police, who of course discovered that it was just a prank.
Money Making Machine
Victor Lustig was a charming conman, fluent in many languages. His first scam was to sell “money-printing machines” which he pre-loaded with a couple of $100 bills for demonstrations. He would complain that it took six whole hours to print each bill while wide-eyed customers happily parted with $30,000 believing the investment would soon pay for itself. Lustig then had 12 hours to disappear, as the machine would produce just two more $100 bills before reverting to blank paper.
(Lustig went on to sell the Eiffel Tower.., twice!)
When TV news stations from around the world covered Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in 2014, they didn’t know they were also filming an imposter. Sharing the stage with famous world leaders was Thamsanqa Jantjie, the supposed interpreter for the deaf. As the dignitaries spoke, Mr. Jantjie used childish hand gestures to interpret their words, but his ‘signs’ were just made-up gibberish, meaning nothing to viewers who could read sign language. Consequently barred from working as a sign-language interpreter, he is now an actor.
Tropical Island Dreams
In 1820, 250 investors set sail for their new home, Poyais, a beautiful island off the coast of Honduras. They were eager and optimistic, having read the detailed guidebook. Apparently, the island’s waters were pure enough to quench any thirst, and chunks of gold lined the riverbeds.
But there was no such island! Poyais had been invented by con artist Gregor MacGregor. By the time his investors had sailed to the vacant waters, MacGregor, armed with a fake flag and constitution, had moved on to France to round up a new batch of wealthy adventurers.
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