The biggest scams you’ll encounter besides college

Example of a Ray-Bans scam ad. Photo courtesy of Vice


The con artist is a unique breed — their work is either laughable or connivingly believable. Fraudulent schemes within the digital world aren’t new, and some of them have inexplicably survived for years.

Classic scams are underappreciated. Who doesn’t love a good Ponzi scheme or multi-level marketer? Amidst significant threats to cybersecurity and rampant identity theft, it’s sort of amazing, honestly, that some of the more ridiculous hoaxes have stuck around for so long. Over break, be sure to remind grandpa that he won’t really win a free iPad when he clicks on that chain email.

Here’s my shortlist of infamous tactics that’ll make you groan nostalgically.


DM me for details

“Hey babe, we love your feed! Let’s collab, dm for details!” This comment appears underneath your recent Instagram post, laden with cutesy emojis, from an account titled something like @wanderlustgurls or @sunshinejewelry. A visit to their page reveals tiny bikinis or crappy charm necklaces marked up 400 percent and marketed by a minimalist, edgy aesthetic. Your “collaboration” with the brand will yield a 5 percent discount off their lotus flower bracelet — and, if you’re lucky, free shipping all the way from their Taiwanese sweatshop.


Hello, LinkedIn member!

Your heart flutters — a LinkedIn message! Maybe some benevolent CEO of a reputable enterprise wants to bequeath you a salaried position. Oh, wait. It’s just a local multi-level marketer, who wants to “change your life for the better” by offering you this “one-time opportunity” to join their empire. You might sell detox tea, or financial advice, or overpriced lotion: the 2018 equivalent of penny stocks. You could easily join them as a consultant — no qualifications needed beyond being “a people person” — and they’ll slash your entry fee… because, apparently, you should pay to work for them…?


90 percent off “Ray-Bans”

This is what pops onto your feed when you don’t complicate your Facebook password. Hackers use your page to advertise bougie “Ray-Bans aviator,” sold at a mere $14.99. Every other word is misspelled, followed by a liberal amount of exclamation points. It seems to have been designed in Microsoft Paint and utilizes the clip art popular in middle school presentations. If you’re looking to avoid this, maybe stop using your dog’s name as your password, since it hasn’t changed since 2012.


This is the IRS

How odd that the International Revenue Service, a federal agency, habitually blows up your landline phone and threatens to take away some house you don’t own. Or, they claim there’s been a lawsuit filed against you after taxes were left unpaid. If you paid attention in high school AP government, you should remember that the IRS doesn’t sue citizens to collect unpaid taxes. But, if you merely provide the testy “representative” with your social security number and address, you could win a $25 iTunes gift card — so take a chance at it!


Royal emails

Sent directly from the deposed son of a Nigerian king! One would think such prestigious correspondence wouldn’t land in your junk folder. But you, random American, or, as he puts it “Miss,” are his last resort. There might be a sick grandmother involved, or some other life at immediate risk. Please wire several thousand dollars to or your love life will dry up for the next decade. Oh, wait, that’s…


Chain mail curses

These were fun, actually. Remember how mad your dad was when you opened these on the family computer? You’d scroll past endless blocks of neon text while making a wish that would surely come true, but only if you forwarded the message to 15 people. And you had to forward the thing to at least 20 friends, or you risked going years without a Valentine or having your mother cursed forever by the little girl who didn’t pass the email along; she DIED.


Shave belly fat in six months

These sit alongside every healthy eating website’s recipes. Characterized by a cartoonish gif of a bloated tummy shrinking to a six-pack, these ads pop up with red text claiming a mother in — insert your hometown — has found the fountain of youth and doctors are furious with her for exposing their secret! The cure to any ailment, after all, is likely coconut oil paired with a mumbo-jumbo powder you can easily purchase from the shady link below.



Need I explain? Like iffy eBay finds, they come wrapped in layers of baggage — err, packaging. The quality is subpar, and often, they’re less exciting in person. And, uh, smaller than expected.  


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