Failed Attempts At Scamming: Importance of Knowing Red Flags

We uncovered several examples of scammers losing their cool and dropping their acts when asked too many questions, leaving their targets as the last ones laughing.
Updated 4 October 2021
Failed Attempts At Scamming: Importance of Knowing Red Flags
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United States Scam & Fraud Statistics 2020

$3.3 billion total fraud losses
4.7 million fraud reports

1.4 million reports of identity theft

Source: 2019-20 Consumer Sentinel Report

Sections on this page
  1. Fake Social Security Caller Loses His Temper
  2. Going The Full Distance
  3. When Gift Cards Are Completely Out of Stock
  4. A Regretful Scammer
  5. An Over-Friendly Neighbor
  6. Scammer Gets Scammed
  7. What Can We Learn From This?

The Internet is an excellent source for social news and discussions with the broader community. Because of the open nature of sites like Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube, allowing users to post their views, pictures, and videos freely, it's also a great way to share the latest scams that are coming your way. We scoured the web to find some of the most obvious and hilarious (failed) attempts at committing fraud, including those foiled by scambaiters. 

Fake Social Security Caller Loses His Temper

We've all heard of fake Social Security calls—almost everyone has received such a call at least once before. The general script goes like this:

  • You receive a call or voicemail saying there's been suspicious activity using your Social Security number (SSN).
  • You're connected with a "Social
  • Security representative" (who is actually the scammer). 
  • You're told your SSN has been used in criminal activity, and in order to fix it or to avoid having your SSN suspended, you need to provide personal information, such as:
    • Your full name
    • Your zip code
    • Address (including your previous addresses)

One scambaiter decided to call the fake Social Security phone number back with a hilarious outcome. The scammer in this example tries to instill fear by saying that the target has an active warrant for her arrest. (The scambaiter pretends to be a female named Claire Underwood.)

[Warning: Explicit language]

When the target asks if she should call his lawyer, the scammer says it's not necessary, which is terrible advice when you're being told you could be arrested. As the target continues to ask questions interrupt the scammer, the scammer becomes clearly agitated, telling the target to stop interrupting. 

The scammer continues to ask questions about the target, supposedly to help her recover from the identity theft. However, the questions being asked are clearly questions to help the scammers answer security questions that will gain them access to her Social Security number and credit. 

The call ends with the scammer figuring out that they're the ones being fooled and hanging up on the target.

Red Flags of This Scam

  • The Social Security Administration (SSA) won't ever call you unsolicited.
  • If you are being arrested or charged for criminal activity, you won't receive a phone call from a government agency or law enforcement first.
  • The SSA won't call you to help you recover from identity theft.
  • Your Social Security number can't be suspended or canceled.

If you notice any of these red flags, it's a scam, and you should hang up immediately. 

Going The Full Distance

Podcaster Alex Goldman of Reply All conducted an incredible scam bust after picking up a phishing call. The scam itself was common; someone calls saying your iCloud account has been hacked and they need your information or access to your computer to fix it.  

Goldman essentially uncovers the scam in his initial call but doesn't stop there—he continues to call the Indian call center, asking for the specific caller he spoke to learn more about the company scamming people all across the U.S. 

The saga continues over two podcast episodes published one week apart, but in reality, it took over six months to produce. Spoiler alert: Goldman and his team travel to Delhi, India, searching for this call center. Their visit is met with deceit, imposters, leaving them feeling a rollercoaster of emotions but very little closure. 

Red Flags of This Scam

  • An unsolicited call from someone claiming there's an issue with your iCloud or Apple account. 
  • A request to remotely access your computer. 
  • Refusal to allow you to call them back at Apple's official phone number.

When Gift Cards Are Completely Out of Stock

Gift card scams are widespread—scammers ask for payment in gift cards, so you can't cancel the transaction, nor can you trace it back to them. In this example, someone's phone number has been hacked, and the scammer tries to scam the person's nephew out of money via gift cards. 

Example of gift card scam
(Source: Cheezburger)

Just because the text message is coming from someone you "know," it doesn't mean it's really them. Scammers can hack into your accounts to send fraudulent messages from other people's accounts. If you're ever unsure if the person you're communicating with is actually them, call them directly—scammers won't want to speak on the phone.

Red Flags of This Scam

  • A request for gift cards.
  • Lack of legitimate reason for needing the gift cards. 
  • Excuses why they are unable to buy their own gift cards. 
  • Refusing money in other forms, such as Venmo, bank deposit, or check.

A Regretful Scammer

In this next hilarious text message exchange, a scammer immediately regrets his decision. After a (bad) attempt to steal personal information, the target, who wasn't about to be tricked, replied, making the scammer think they accidentally subscribed to daily prayers, costing them 50 pesos a day.

Example of a scammer being scammed
(Source: Pinterest)

The scammer tries to cancel their "subscription," and the target continues the scam, replying with what looks like automated responses. 

Red Flags of This Scam

  • The text message is riddled with misspellings, strange capitalizations, and weird punctuation. 
  • Request for personal information via text.  

An Over-Friendly Neighbor

The scammer in this scam pretended to be someone's neighbor, asking them to send money to help them out with a flat tire. What the scammer didn't realize, however, was that the phone number they targeted belonged to a jokester who was more than happy to mess with them.

Example neighbor scam
(Source: Cheezburger)

Example neighbor text
(Source: Cheezburger)

This conversation continues for some time, with the target never failing to bring up other "neighbors" in a true neighborly gossip fashion. The scammer ignores these (fake) attempts at conversation and simply repeats their demand for payment, saying they're in a rush. Spoiler alert: The scammer eventually gives up, telling the target to stop texting. 

Red Flags of This Scam

  • A message from someone you know, but they don't give you their name. 
  • A message from someone you know but from a different phone number (and no explanation of why their number changed). 
  • Ignoring your questions or other attempts at conversation. 
  • Using a sense of urgency to get you to act quickly.

Scammer Gets Scammed

Although elderly people are known to fall for scams easily, this 80-year-old lady spotted the scam quickly, then turned the tables on the fraudsters, convincing them to send her money first. The scammer eventually threatens to call the police, but she says she'll call the police and they'll both see who gets arrested. Well played, Ruth, well played.

What Can We Learn From This?

  • Don't believe everything you hear/read: If you get a call or text from someone that seems a bit strange, it could be a scam. Even if the message is coming from that person's phone number or email address—they could have been hacked.
  • Asking questions is important: Scammers will start to get impatient and show signs of cracking as you continue to ask questions. Most scammers don't want to build relationships with you; they want something and want it immediately, so questioning their motives is a great way to uncover a scam.
  • Education is key: Being aware of the different types of scams and different tactics that scammers use is crucial. If you know how scams work, you'll be better equipped to beating them and protecting your money and identity.
  • No one is safe: Technology has made it so much easier for scammers to find new victims. Thanks to so much information being stored online and publicly shared, pretty much everyone is a target. 
  • Keeping your information private is essential: Keeping your social media profiles private and avoiding posting your personal information online can help you distance yourself from scammers. Although it's pretty much impossible to remove yourself from scammers' target lists completely, the less information they have about you, the safer you are.