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Webster's Dictionary defines a scam as "a fraudulent or deceptive act or operation." And that's it. There are no secondary definitions. It's pretty simple, really: Someone is trying to bamboozle you.
We all know them: The e-mails that come to you promising you weight loss, cases of fine champagne, and offers to erase all your fine lines and bad memories. Before I get into the specifics here, let me state a few clichés:
Strangely enough, we humans, as moderately intelligent life on this planet, seem to forget these sayings when presented with sparkly things: A new queen mattress set (still in its plastic!), cash from Bill Gates, or magic crystals that bring fortune into your life. And that is exactly what the people who set out to relieve you of all your money are banking on — that you'll unplug your capacity to reason and believe everything you read (yet another cliché).
What I'm about to tell you today is probably nothing new to you. Perhaps you've even warned others about it. Though we may want to give people the benefit of the doubt and trust what they say, there are certainly times we shouldn't. Specifically when it comes to e-mail from strangers. (How many times did your mother tell you not to take candy from strangers? Not to get into a car with a stranger or help him look for his "lost puppy"? This is exactly the same thing, only for grownups.)
Here are five basic scams — a few of my favorites — that have been circulating over the years. Most of these are bona fide financial scams designed to empty your bank account and rid you of any goodwill you had toward your fellow man or woman. Some of these scams and rumors have been around a long time, some play with new riffs on an old idea, and still others are so creatively concocted that one must almost give credit to the "artists" who created them. Whatever they are, and however they're presented, you can avoid becoming their victim — whether it's a victim of theft or merely of ignorance and stupidity.
Note You can't help but be impressed with some of these scams; so brazen, so without morals or ethics, and yet…so creative.
My top 5 list
Now, let me give you some examples of how even the most savvy of you can fall into these traps…and how to avoid that.
Read my full Crabby Office Lady column on Office Online.
"The world wants to be deceived." — Sebastian Brant