“FINAL WARNING” email – have they really hacked your

/r/Scams Common Scam Master Post

Hello visitors and subscribers of scams! Here you will find a master list of common (and uncommon) scams that you may encounter online or in real life. Thank you to the many contributors who helped create this thread!

If you know of a scam that is not covered here, write a comment and it will be added to the next edition.

Previous threads: https://old.reddit.com/Scams/search?q=common+scams+master+post&restrict_sr=on
Blackmail email scam thread: https://old.reddit.com/Scams/comments/g8jqnthe_blackmail_email_scam_part_5//
Some of these articles are from small, local publications and refer to the scam happening in a specific area. Do not think that this means that the scam won't happen in your area.

Spoofing

Caller ID spoofing
It is very easy for anyone to make a phone call while having any number show up on the caller ID of the person receiving the phone call. Receiving a phone call from a certain number does not mean that the person/company who owns that number has actually called you.
Email spoofing
The "from" field of an email can be set by the sender, meaning that you can receive scam emails that look like they are from legitimate addresses. It's important to never click links in emails unless absolutely necessary, for example a password reset link you requested or an account activation link for an account you created.
SMS spoofing
SMS messages can be spoofed, so be wary of messages that seem to be from your friends or other trusted people.

The most common scams

The fake check scam (Credit to nimble2 for this part)
The fake check scam arises from many different situations (for instance, you applied for a job, or you are selling something on a place like Craigslist, or someone wants to purchase goods or services from your business, or you were offered a job as a mystery shopper, you were asked to wrap your car with an advertisement, or you received a check in the mail for no reason), but the bottom line is always something like this:
General fraudulent funds scams If somebody is asking you to accept and send out money as a favour or as part of a job, it is a fraudulent funds scam. It does not matter how they pay you, any payment on any service can be fraudulent and will be reversed when it is discovered to be fraudulent.
Phone verification code scams Someone will ask you to receive a verification text and then tell you to give them the code. Usually the code will come from Google Voice, or from Craigslist. In the Google version of the scam, your phone number will be used to verify a Google Voice account that the scammer will use to scam people with. In the Craigslist version of the scam, your phone number will be used to verify a Craigslist posting that the scammer will use to scam people. There is also an account takeover version of this scam that will involve the scammer sending a password reset token to your phone number and asking you for it.
Bitcoin job scams
Bitcoin job scams involve some sort of fraudulent funds transfer, usually a fake check although a fraudulent bank transfer can be used as well. The scammer will send you the fraudulent money and ask you to purchase bitcoins. This is a scam, and you will have zero recourse after you send the scammer bitcoins.
Email flooding
If you suddenly receive hundreds or thousands of spam emails, usually subscription confirmations, it's very likely that one of your online accounts has been taken over and is being used fraudulently. You should check any of your accounts that has a credit card linked to it, preferably from a computer other than the one you normally use. You should change all of your passwords to unique passwords and you should start using two factor authentication everywhere.
Boss/CEO scam A scammer will impersonate your boss or someone who works at your company and will ask you to run an errand for them, which will usually be purchasing gift cards and sending them the code. Once the scammer has the code, you have no recourse.
Employment certification scams
You will receive a job offer that is dependent on you completing a course or receiving a certification from a company the scammer tells you about. The scammer operates both websites and the job does not exist.
Craigslist fake payment scams
Scammers will ask you about your item that you have listed for sale on a site like Craigslist, and will ask to pay you via Paypal. They are scamming you, and the payment in most cases does not actually exist, the email you received was sent by the scammers. In cases where you have received a payment, the scammer can dispute the payment or the payment may be entirely fraudulent. The scammer will then either try to get you to send money to them using the fake funds that they did not send to you, or will ask you to ship the item, usually to a re-shipping facility or a parcel mule.
General fraudulent funds scams The fake check scam is not the only scam that involves accepting fraudulent/fake funds and purchasing items for scammers. If your job or opportunity involves accepting money and then using that money, it is almost certainly a frauduent funds scam. Even if the payment is through a bank transfer, Paypal, Venmo, Zelle, Interac e-Transfer, etc, it does not matter.
Credit card debt scam
Fraudsters will offer to pay off your bills, and will do so with fraudulent funds. Sometimes it will be your credit card bill, but it can be any bill that can be paid online. Once they pay it off, they will ask you to send them money or purchase items for them. The fraudulent transaction will be reversed in the future and you will never be able to keep the money. This scam happens on sites like Craigslist, Twitter, Instagram, and also some dating sites, including SeekingArrangement.
The parcel mule scam
A scammer will contact you with a job opportunity that involves accepting and reshipping packages. The packages are either stolen or fraudulently obtained items, and you will not be paid by the scammer. Here is a news article about a scam victim who fell for this scam and reshipped over 20 packages containing fraudulently acquired goods.
The Skype sex scam
You're on Facebook and you get a friend request from a cute girl you've never met. She wants to start sexting and trading nudes. She'll ask you to send pictures or videos or get on webcam where she can see you naked with your face in the picture. The scam: There's no girl. You've sent nudes to a guy pretending to be a girl. As soon as he has the pictures he'll demand money and threaten to send the pictures to your friends and family. Sometimes the scammer will upload the video to a porn site or Youtube to show that they are serious.
What to do if you are a victim of this scam: You cannot buy silence, you can only rent it. Paying the blackmailer will show them that the information they have is valuable and they will come after you for more money. Let your friends and family know that you were scammed and tell them to ignore friend requests or messages from people they don't know. Also, make sure your privacy settings are locked down and consider deactivating your account.
The underage girl scam
You're on a dating site or app and you get contacted by a cute girl. She wants to start sexting and trading nudes. Eventually she stops communicating and you get a call from a pissed off guy claiming to be the girl's father, or a police officer, or a private investigator, or something else along those lines. Turns out the girl you were sexting is underage, and her parents want some money for various reasons, such as to pay for a new phone, to pay for therapy, etc. There is, of course, no girl. You were communicating with a scammer.
What to do if you are a victim of this scam: Stop picking up the phone when the scammers call. Do not pay them, or they will be after you for more money.
Phishing
Phishing is when a scammer tries to trick you into giving information to them, such as your password or private financial information. Phishing messages will usually look very similar to official messages, and sometimes they are identical. If you are ever required to login to a different account in order to use a service, you should be incredibly cautious.
The blackmail email scam The exact wording of the emails varies, but there are generally four main parts. They claim to have placed software/malware on a porn/adult video site, they claim to have a video of you masturbating or watching porn, they threaten to release the video to your friends/family/loved ones/boss/dog, and they demand that you pay them in order for them to delete the video. Rest assured that this is a very common spam campaign and there is no truth behind the email or the threats. Here are some news articles about this scam.
The blackmail mail scam
This is very similar to the blackmail email scam, but you will receive a letter in the mail.
Rental scams Usually on local sites like Craigslist, scammers will steal photos from legitimate real estate listings and will list them for rent at or below market rate. They will generally be hesitant to tell you the address of the property for "safety reasons" and you will not be able to see the unit. They will then ask you to pay them a deposit and they claim they will ship you the keys. In reality, your money is gone and you will have no recourse.
Craigslist vehicle scams A scammer will list a vehicle on Craigslist and will offer to ship you the car. In many cases they will also falsely claim to sell you the car through eBay or Amazon. If you are looking for a car on Craigslist and the seller says anything about shipping the car, having an agent, gives you a long story about why they are selling the car, or the listing price is far too low, you are talking to a scammer and you should ignore and move on.
Advance-fee scam, also known as the 419 scam, or the Nigerian prince scam. You will receive a communication from someone who claims that you are entitled to a large sum of money, or you can help them obtain a large sum of money. However, they will need money from you before you receive the large sum.
Man in the middle scams
Man in the middle scams are very common and very hard to detect. The scammer will impersonate a company or person you are legitimately doing business with, and they will ask you to send the money to one of their own bank accounts or one controlled by a money mule. They have gained access to the legitimate persons email address, so there will be nothing suspicious about the email. To prevent this, make contact in a different way that lets you verify that the person you are talking to is the person you think you are talking to.
Cam girl voting/viewer scam
You will encounter a "cam girl" on a dating/messaging/social media/whatever site/app, and the scammer will ask you to go to their site and sign up with your credit card. They may offer a free show, or ask you to vote for them, or any number of other fake stories.
Amateur porn recruitment scam
You will encounter a "pornstar" on a dating/messaging/social media/whatever site/app, and the scammer will ask you to create an adult film with hehim, but first you need to do something. The story here is usually something to do with verifying your age, or you needing to take an STD test that involves sending money to a site operated by the scammer.
Hot girl SMS spam
You receive a text from a random number with a message along the lines of "Hey babe I'm here in town again if you wanted to meet up this time, are you around?" accompanied by a NSFW picture of a hot girl. It's spam, and they'll direct you to their scam website that requires a credit card.
Identity verification scam
You will encounter someone on a dating/messaging/social media/whatever site/app, and the scammer will ask that you verify your identity as they are worried about catfishing. The scammer operates the site, and you are not talking to whoever you think you are talking to.
This type of scam teases you with something, then tries to make you sign up for something else that costs money. The company involved is often innocent, but they turn a blind eye to the practice as it helps their bottom line, even if they have to occasionally issue refunds. A common variation takes place on dating sites/dating apps, where you will match with someone who claims to be a camgirl who wants you to sign up for a site and vote for her. Another variation takes place on local sites like Craigslist, where the scammers setup fake rental scams and demand that you go through a specific service for a credit check. Once you go through with it, the scammer will stop talking to you. Another variation also takes place on local sites like Craigslist, where scammers will contact you while you are selling a car and will ask you to purchase a Carfax-like report from a specific website.
Multi Level Marketing or Affiliate Marketing
You apply for a vague job listing for 'sales' on craigslist. Or maybe an old friend from high school adds you on Facebook and says they have an amazing business opportunity for you. Or maybe the well dressed guy who's always interviewing people in the Starbucks that you work at asks if you really want to be slinging coffee the rest of your life. The scam: MLMs are little more than pyramid schemes. They involve buying some sort of product (usually snake oil health products like body wraps or supplements) and shilling them to your friends and family. They claim that the really money is recruiting people underneath you who give you a slice of whatever they sell. And if those people underneath you recruit more people, you get a piece of their sales. Ideally if you big enough pyramid underneath you the money will roll in without any work on your part. Failure to see any profit will be your fault for not "wanting it enough." The companies will claim that you need to buy their extra training modules or webinars to really start selling. But in reality, the vast majority of people who buy into a MLM won't see a cent. At the end of the day all you'll be doing is annoying your friends and family with your constant recruitment efforts. What to look out for: Recruiters love to be vague. They won't tell you the name of the company or what exactly the job will entail. They'll pump you up with promises of "self-generating income", "being your own boss", and "owning your own company." They might ask you to read books about success and entrepreneurs. They're hoping you buy into the dream first. If you get approached via social media, check their timelines. MLMs will often instruct their victims to pretend that they've already made it. They'll constantly post about how they're hustling and making the big bucks and linking to youtube videos about success. Again, all very vague about what their job actually entails. If you think you're being recruited: Ask them what exactly the job is. If they can't answer its probably a MLM. Just walk away.

Phone scams

You should generally avoid answering or engaging with random phone calls. Picking up and engaging with a scam call tells the scammers that your phone number is active, and will usually lead to more calls.
Tax Call
You get a call from somebody claiming to be from your countries tax agency. They say you have unpaid taxes that need to be paid immediately, and you may be arrested or have other legal action taken against you if it is not paid. This scam has caused the American IRS, Canadian CRA, British HMRC, and Australian Tax Office to issue warnings. This scam happens in a wide variety of countries all over the world.
Warrant Call
Very similar to the tax call. You'll get a phone call from an "agent", "officer", "sheriff", or other law enforcement officer claiming that there is a warrant out for your arrest and you will be arrested very soon. They will then offer to settle everything for a fee, usually paid in giftcards.
[Legal Documents/Process Server Calls]
Very similar to the warrant call. You'll get a phone call from a scammer claiming that they are going to serve you legal documents, and they will threaten you with legal consequences if you refuse to comply. They may call themselves "investigators", and will sometimes give you a fake case number.
Student Loan Forgiveness Scam
Scammers will call you and tell you about a student loan forgiveness program, but they are interested in obtaining private information about you or demanding money in order to join the fake program.
Tech Support Call You receive a call from someone with a heavy accent claiming to be a technician Microsoft or your ISP. They inform you that your PC has a virus and your online banking and other accounts may be compromised if the virus is not removed. They'll have you type in commands and view diagnostics on your PC which shows proof of the virus. Then they'll have you install remote support software so the technician can work on your PC, remove the virus, and install security software. The cost of the labor and software can be hundreds of dollars. The scam: There's no virus. The technician isn't a technician and does not work for Microsoft or your ISP. Scammers (primarily out of India) use autodialers to cold-call everyone in the US. Any file they point out to you or command they have you run is completely benign. The software they sell you is either freeware or ineffective. What to do you if you're involved with this scam: If the scammers are remotely on your computer as you read this, turn off your PC or laptop via the power button immediately, and then if possible unplug your internet connection. Some of the more vindictive tech scammers have been known to create boot passwords on your computer if they think you've become wise to them and aren't going to pay up. Hang up on the scammers, block the number, and ignore any threats about payment. Performing a system restore on your PC is usually all that is required to remove the scammer's common remote access software. Reports of identity theft from fake tech calls are uncommon, but it would still be a good idea to change your passwords for online banking and monitor your accounts for any possible fraud. How to avoid: Ignore any calls claiming that your PC has a virus. Microsoft will never contact you. If you're unsure if a call claiming to be from your ISP is legit, hang up, and then dial the customer support number listed on a recent bill. If you have elderly relatives or family that isn't tech savvy, take the time to fill them in on this scam.
Chinese government scam
This scam is aimed at Chinese people living in Europe and North America, and involves a voicemail from someone claiming to be associated with the Chinese government, usually through the Chinese consulate/embassy, who is threatening legal action or making general threats.
Chinese shipping scam
This scam is similar to the Chinese government scam, but involves a seized/suspicious package, and the scammers will connect the victim to other scammers posing as Chinese government investigators.
Social security suspension scam
You will receive a call from someone claiming to work for the government regarding suspicious activity, fraud, or serious crimes connected to your social security number. You'll be asked to speak to an operator and the operator will explain the steps you need to follow in order to fix the problems. It's all a scam, and will lead to you losing money and could lead to identity theft if you give them private financial information.
Utilities cutoff
You get a call from someone who claims that they are from your utility company, and they claim that your utilities will be shut off unless you immediately pay. The scammer will usually ask for payment via gift cards, although they may ask for payment in other ways, such as Western Union or bitcoin.
Relative in custody Scammer claims to be the police, and they have your son/daughtenephew/estranged twin in custody. You need to post bail (for some reason in iTunes gift cards or MoneyGram) immediately or the consequences will never be the same.
Mexican family scam
This scam comes in many different flavours, but always involves someone in your family and Mexico. Sometimes the scammer will claim that your family member has been detained, sometimes the scammer will claim that your family member has been kidnapped, and sometimes the scammer will claim that your family member is injured and needs help.
General family scams
Scammers will gather a large amount of information about you and target your family members using different stories with the goal of gettimg them to send money.
One ring scam
Scammers will call you from an international number with the goal of getting you to return their call, causing you to incur expensive calling fees.

Online shopping scams

THE GOLDEN RULE OF ONLINE SHOPPING: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Dropshipping
An ad on reddit or social media sites like Facebook and Instagram offers items at huge discounts or even free (sometimes requiring you to reblog or like their page). They just ask you to pay shipping. The scam: The item will turn out to be very low quality and will take weeks or even months to arrive. Sometimes the item never arrives, and the store disappears or stops responding. The seller drop-ships the item from China. The item may only cost a few dollars, and the Chinese government actually pays for the shipping. You end up paying $10-$15 dollars for a $4 item, with the scammer keeping the profit. If you find one of these scams but really have your heart set on the item, you can find it on AliExpress or another Chinese retailer.
Influencer scams
A user will reach out to you on a social media platform, usually Instagram, and offer you the chance to partner with them and receive a free/discounted product, as long as you pay shipping. This is a different version of the dropshipping scam, and is just a marketing technique to get you to buy their products.
Triangulation fraud
Triangulation fraud occurs when you make a purchase on a site like Amazon or eBay for an item at a lower than market price, and receive an item that was clearly purchased new at full price. The scammer uses a stolen credit card to order your item, while the money from the listing is almost all profit for the scammer.
Instagram influencer scams
Someone will message you on Instagram asking you to promote their products, and offering you a discount code. The items are Chinese junk, and the offer is made to many people at a time.
Cheap Items
Many websites pop up and offer expensive products, including electronics, clothes, watches, sunglasses, and shoes at very low prices. The scam: Some sites are selling cheap knock-offs. Some will just take your money and run. What to do if you think you're involved with this scam: Contact your bank or credit card and dispute the charge. How to avoid: The sites often have every brand-name shoe or fashion item (Air Jordan, Yeezy, Gucci, etc) in stock and often at a discounted price. The site will claim to be an outlet for a major brand or even a specific line or item. The site will have images at the bottom claiming to be Secured by Norton or various official payment processors but not actual links. The site will have poor grammar and a mish-mash of categories. Recently, established websites will get hacked or their domain name jacked and turned into scam stores, meaning the domain name of the store will be completely unrelated to the items they're selling. If the deal sounds too good to be true it probably is. Nobody is offering brand new iPhones or Beats or Nintendo Switches for 75% off.
Cheap Amazon 3rd Party Items
You're on Amazon or maybe just Googling for an item and you see it for an unbelievable price from a third-party seller. You know Amazon has your back so you order it. The scam: One of three things usually happen: 1) The seller marks the items as shipped and sends a fake tracking number. Amazon releases the funds to the seller, and the seller disappears. Amazon ultimately refunds your money. 2) The seller immediately cancels the order and instructs you to re-order the item directly from their website, usually with the guarantee that the order is still protected by Amazon. The seller takes your money and runs. Amazon informs you that they do not offer protection on items sold outside of Amazon and cannot help you. 2) The seller immediately cancels the order and instructs you to instead send payment via an unused Amazon gift card by sending the code on the back via email. Once the seller uses the code, the money on the card is gone and cannot be refunded. How to avoid: These scammers can be identified by looking at their Amazon storefronts. They'll be brand new sellers offering a wide range of items at unbelievable prices. Usually their Amazon names will be gibberish, or a variation on FIRSTNAME.LASTNAME. Occasionally however, established storefronts will be hacked. If the deal is too good to be true its most likely a scam.
Scams on eBay
There are scams on eBay targeting both buyers and sellers. As a seller, you should look out for people who privately message you regarding the order, especially if they ask you to ship to a different address or ask to negotiate via text/email/a messaging service. As a buyer you should look out for new accounts selling in-demand items, established accounts selling in-demand items that they have no previous connection to (you can check their feedback history for a general idea of what they bought/sold in the past), and lookout for people who ask you to go off eBay and use another service to complete the transaction. In many cases you will receive a fake tracking number and your money will be help up for up to a month.
Scams on Amazon
There are scams on Amazon targeting both buyers and sellers. As a seller, you should look out for people who message you about a listing. As a buyer you should look out for listings that have an email address for you to contact the person to complete the transaction, and you should look out for cheap listings of in-demand items.
Scams on Reddit
Reddit accounts are frequently purchased and sold by fraudsters who wish to use the high karma count + the age of the account to scam people on buy/sell subreddits. You need to take precautions and be safe whenever you are making a transaction online.
Computer scams
Virus scam
A popup or other ad will say that you have a virus and you need to follow their advice in order to remove it. They are lying, and either want you to install malware or pay for their software.

Assorted scams

Chinese Brushing / direct shipping
If you have ever received an unsolicited small package from China, your address was used to brush. Vendors place fake orders for their own products and send out the orders so that they can increase their ratings.
Money flipping
Scammer claims to be a banking insider who can double/triple/bazoople any amount of money you send them, with no consequences of any kind. Obviously, the money disappears into their wallet the moment you send it.

Door to door scams

As a general rule, you should not engage with door to door salesmen. If you are interested in the product they are selling, check online first.
Selling Magazines
Someone or a group will come to your door and offer to sell a magazine subscription. Often the subscriptions are not for the duration or price you were told, and the magazines will often have tough or impossible cancellation policies.
Energy sales
Somebody will come to your door claiming to be from an energy company. They will ask to see your current energy bill so that they can see how much you pay. They will then offer you a discount if you sign up with them, and promise to handle everything with your old provider. Some of these scammers will "slam" you, by using your account number that they saw on your bill to switch you to their service without authorization, and some will scam you by charging higher prices than the ones you agreed on.
Security system scams
Scammers will come to your door and ask about your security system, and offer to sell you a new one. These scammers are either selling you overpriced low quality products, or are casing your home for a future burglary.
They ask to enter your home
While trying to sell you whatever, they suddenly need to use your bathroom, or they've been writing against the wall and ask to use your table instead. Or maybe they just moved into the neighborhood and want to see how you decorate for ideas.
They're scoping out you and your place. They want to see what valuables you have, how gullible you are, if you have a security system or dogs, etc.

Street scams

Begging With a Purpose
"I just need a few more dollars for the bus," at the bus station, or "I just need $5 to get some gas," at a gas station. There's also a variation where you will be presented with a reward: "I just need money for a cab to get uptown, but I'll give you sports tickets/money/a date/a priceless vase."
Three Card Monte, Also Known As The Shell Game
Unbeatable. The people you see winning are in on the scam.
Drop and Break
You bump into someone and they drop their phone/glasses/fancy bottle of wine/priceless vase and demand you pay them back. In reality, it's a $2 pair of reading glasses/bottle of three-buck-chuck/tasteful but affordable vase.
CD Sales
You're handed a free CD so you can check out the artist's music. They then ask for your name and immediately write it on the CD. Once they've signed your name, they ask you for money, saying they can't give it to someone else now. Often they use dry erase markers, or cheap CD sleeves. Never use any type of storage device given to you by a random person, as the device can contain malware.
White Van Speaker Scam
You're approached and offered speakers/leather jackets/other luxury goods at a discount. The scammer will have an excuse as to why the price is so low. After you buy them, you'll discover that they are worthless.
iPhone Street Sale
You're approached and shown an iPhone for sale, coming in the box, but it's open and you can see the phone. If you buy the phone, you'll get an iPhone box with no iPhone, just some stones or cheap metal in it to weigh it down.
Buddhist Monk Pendant
A monk in traditional garb approaches you, hands you a gold trinket, and asks for a donation. He holds either a notebook with names and amounts of donation (usually everyone else has donated $5+), or a leaflet with generic info. This is fairly common in NYC, and these guys get aggressive quickly.
Friendship Bracelet Scam More common in western Europe, you're approached by someone selling bracelets. They quickly wrap a loop of fabric around your finger and pull it tight, starting to quickly weave a bracelet. The only way to (easily) get it off your hand is to pay. Leftover sales
This scam involves many different items, but the idea is usually the same: you are approached by someone who claims to have a large amount of excess inventory and offers to sell it to you at a great price. The scammer actually has low quality items and will lie to you about the price/origin of the items.
Dent repair scams
Scammers will approach you in public about a dent in your car and offer to fix it for a low price. Often they will claim that they are mechanics. They will not fix the dent in your car, but they will apply large amounts of wax or other substances to hide the dent while they claim that the substance requires time to harden.
Gold ring/jewelry/valuable item scam
A scammer will "find" a gold ring or other valuable item and offers to sell it to you. The item is fake and you will never see the scammer again.
Distraction theft
One person will approach you and distract you, while their accomplice picks your pockets. The distraction can take many forms, but if you are a tourist and are approached in public, watch closely for people getting close to you.

General resources

Site to report scams in the United Kingdom: http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/
Site to report scams in the United States: https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
Site to report scams in Canada: www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/reportincident-signalerincident/index-eng.htm
Site to report scams in Europe: https://www.europol.europa.eu/report-a-crime/report-cybercrime-online
FTC scam alerts: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts
Microsoft's anti-scam guide: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/safety/online-privacy/avoid-phone-scams.aspx
https://www.usa.gov/common-scams-frauds
https://www.usa.gov/scams-and-frauds
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts
https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-fraud-schemes
submitted by EugeneBYMCMB to Scams [link] [comments]

/r/Scams Common Scam Master Post

Hello visitors and subscribers of scams! Here you will find a master list of common (and uncommon) scams that you may encounter online or in real life. Thank you to the many contributors who helped create this thread!

If you know of a scam that is not covered here, write a comment and it will be added to the next edition.

Previous threads: https://old.reddit.com/Scams/search?q=common+scams+master+post&restrict_sr=on
Blackmail email scam thread: https://reddit.com/Scams/comments/dohaea/the_blackmail_email_scam_part_4/
Some of these articles are from small, local publications and refer to the scam happening in a specific area. Do not think that this means that the scam won't happen in your area.

Spoofing

Caller ID spoofing
It is very easy for anyone to make a phone call while having any number show up on the caller ID of the person receiving the phone call. Receiving a phone call from a certain number does not mean that the person/company who owns that number has actually called you.
Email spoofing
The "from" field of an email can be set by the sender, meaning that you can receive scam emails that look like they are from legitimate addresses. It's important to never click links in emails unless absolutely necessary, for example a password reset link you requested or an account activation link for an account you created.
SMS spoofing
SMS messages can be spoofed, so be wary of messages that seem to be from your friends or other trusted people.

The most common scams

The fake check scam (Credit to nimble2 for this part)
The fake check scam arises from many different situations (for instance, you applied for a job, or you are selling something on a place like Craigslist, or someone wants to purchase goods or services from your business, or you were offered a job as a mystery shopper, you were asked to wrap your car with an advertisement, or you received a check in the mail for no reason), but the bottom line is always something like this:
General fraudulent funds scams If somebody is asking you to accept and send out money as a favour or as part of a job, it is a fraudulent funds scam. It does not matter how they pay you, any payment on any service can be fraudulent and will be reversed when it is discovered to be fraudulent.
Phone verification code scams Someone will ask you to receive a verification text and then tell you to give them the code. Usually the code will come from Google Voice, or from Craigslist. In the Google version of the scam, your phone number will be used to verify a Google Voice account that the scammer will use to scam people with. In the Craigslist version of the scam, your phone number will be used to verify a Craigslist posting that the scammer will use to scam people. There is also an account takeover version of this scam that will involve the scammer sending a password reset token to your phone number and asking you for it.
Bitcoin job scams
Bitcoin job scams involve some sort of fraudulent funds transfer, usually a fake check although a fraudulent bank transfer can be used as well. The scammer will send you the fraudulent money and ask you to purchase bitcoins. This is a scam, and you will have zero recourse after you send the scammer bitcoins.
Email flooding
If you suddenly receive hundreds or thousands of spam emails, usually subscription confirmations, it's very likely that one of your online accounts has been taken over and is being used fraudulently. You should check any of your accounts that has a credit card linked to it, preferably from a computer other than the one you normally use. You should change all of your passwords to unique passwords and you should start using two factor authentication everywhere.
Boss/CEO scam A scammer will impersonate your boss or someone who works at your company and will ask you to run an errand for them, which will usually be purchasing gift cards and sending them the code. Once the scammer has the code, you have no recourse.
Employment certification scams
You will receive a job offer that is dependent on you completing a course or receiving a certification from a company the scammer tells you about. The scammer operates both websites and the job does not exist.
Craigslist fake payment scams
Scammers will ask you about your item that you have listed for sale on a site like Craigslist, and will ask to pay you via Paypal. They are scamming you, and the payment in most cases does not actually exist, the email you received was sent by the scammers. In cases where you have received a payment, the scammer can dispute the payment or the payment may be entirely fraudulent. The scammer will then either try to get you to send money to them using the fake funds that they did not send to you, or will ask you to ship the item, usually to a re-shipping facility or a parcel mule.
General fraudulent funds scams The fake check scam is not the only scam that involves accepting fraudulent/fake funds and purchasing items for scammers. If your job or opportunity involves accepting money and then using that money, it is almost certainly a frauduent funds scam. Even if the payment is through a bank transfer, Paypal, Venmo, Zelle, Interac e-Transfer, etc, it does not matter.
Credit card debt scam
Fraudsters will offer to pay off your bills, and will do so with fraudulent funds. Sometimes it will be your credit card bill, but it can be any bill that can be paid online. Once they pay it off, they will ask you to send them money or purchase items for them. The fraudulent transaction will be reversed in the future and you will never be able to keep the money. This scam happens on sites like Craigslist, Twitter, Instagram, and also some dating sites, including SeekingArrangement.
The parcel mule scam
A scammer will contact you with a job opportunity that involves accepting and reshipping packages. The packages are either stolen or fraudulently obtained items, and you will not be paid by the scammer. Here is a news article about a scam victim who fell for this scam and reshipped over 20 packages containing fraudulently acquired goods.
The Skype sex scam
You're on Facebook and you get a friend request from a cute girl you've never met. She wants to start sexting and trading nudes. She'll ask you to send pictures or videos or get on webcam where she can see you naked with your face in the picture. The scam: There's no girl. You've sent nudes to a guy pretending to be a girl. As soon as he has the pictures he'll demand money and threaten to send the pictures to your friends and family. Sometimes the scammer will upload the video to a porn site or Youtube to show that they are serious.
What to do if you are a victim of this scam: You cannot buy silence, you can only rent it. Paying the blackmailer will show them that the information they have is valuable and they will come after you for more money. Let your friends and family know that you were scammed and tell them to ignore friend requests or messages from people they don't know. Also, make sure your privacy settings are locked down and consider deactivating your account.
The underage girl scam
You're on a dating site or app and you get contacted by a cute girl. She wants to start sexting and trading nudes. Eventually she stops communicating and you get a call from a pissed off guy claiming to be the girl's father, or a police officer, or a private investigator, or something else along those lines. Turns out the girl you were sexting is underage, and her parents want some money for various reasons, such as to pay for a new phone, to pay for therapy, etc. There is, of course, no girl. You were communicating with a scammer.
What to do if you are a victim of this scam: Stop picking up the phone when the scammers call. Do not pay them, or they will be after you for more money.
Phishing
Phishing is when a scammer tries to trick you into giving information to them, such as your password or private financial information. Phishing messages will usually look very similar to official messages, and sometimes they are identical. If you are ever required to login to a different account in order to use a service, you should be incredibly cautious.
The blackmail email scam The exact wording of the emails varies, but there are generally four main parts. They claim to have placed software/malware on a porn/adult video site, they claim to have a video of you masturbating or watching porn, they threaten to release the video to your friends/family/loved ones/boss/dog, and they demand that you pay them in order for them to delete the video. Rest assured that this is a very common spam campaign and there is no truth behind the email or the threats. Here are some news articles about this scam.
The blackmail mail scam
This is very similar to the blackmail email scam, but you will receive a letter in the mail.
Rental scams Usually on local sites like Craigslist, scammers will steal photos from legitimate real estate listings and will list them for rent at or below market rate. They will generally be hesitant to tell you the address of the property for "safety reasons" and you will not be able to see the unit. They will then ask you to pay them a deposit and they claim they will ship you the keys. In reality, your money is gone and you will have no recourse.
Craigslist vehicle scams A scammer will list a vehicle on Craigslist and will offer to ship you the car. In many cases they will also falsely claim to sell you the car through eBay or Amazon. If you are looking for a car on Craigslist and the seller says anything about shipping the car, having an agent, gives you a long story about why they are selling the car, or the listing price is far too low, you are talking to a scammer and you should ignore and move on.
Advance-fee scam, also known as the 419 scam, or the Nigerian prince scam. You will receive a communication from someone who claims that you are entitled to a large sum of money, or you can help them obtain a large sum of money. However, they will need money from you before you receive the large sum.
Man in the middle scams
Man in the middle scams are very common and very hard to detect. The scammer will impersonate a company or person you are legitimately doing business with, and they will ask you to send the money to one of their own bank accounts or one controlled by a money mule. They have gained access to the legitimate persons email address, so there will be nothing suspicious about the email. To prevent this, make contact in a different way that lets you verify that the person you are talking to is the person you think you are talking to.
Cam girl voting/viewer scam
You will encounter a "cam girl" on a dating/messaging/social media/whatever site/app, and the scammer will ask you to go to their site and sign up with your credit card. They may offer a free show, or ask you to vote for them, or any number of other fake stories.
Amateur porn recruitment scam
You will encounter a "pornstar" on a dating/messaging/social media/whatever site/app, and the scammer will ask you to create an adult film with hehim, but first you need to do something. The story here is usually something to do with verifying your age, or you needing to take an STD test that involves sending money to a site operated by the scammer.
Hot girl SMS spam
You receive a text from a random number with a message along the lines of "Hey babe I'm here in town again if you wanted to meet up this time, are you around?" accompanied by a NSFW picture of a hot girl. It's spam, and they'll direct you to their scam website that requires a credit card.
Identity verification scam
You will encounter someone on a dating/messaging/social media/whatever site/app, and the scammer will ask that you verify your identity as they are worried about catfishing. The scammer operates the site, and you are not talking to whoever you think you are talking to.
This type of scam teases you with something, then tries to make you sign up for something else that costs money. The company involved is often innocent, but they turn a blind eye to the practice as it helps their bottom line, even if they have to occasionally issue refunds. A common variation takes place on dating sites/dating apps, where you will match with someone who claims to be a camgirl who wants you to sign up for a site and vote for her. Another variation takes place on local sites like Craigslist, where the scammers setup fake rental scams and demand that you go through a specific service for a credit check. Once you go through with it, the scammer will stop talking to you. Another variation also takes place on local sites like Craigslist, where scammers will contact you while you are selling a car and will ask you to purchase a Carfax-like report from a specific website.
Multi Level Marketing or Affiliate Marketing
You apply for a vague job listing for 'sales' on craigslist. Or maybe an old friend from high school adds you on Facebook and says they have an amazing business opportunity for you. Or maybe the well dressed guy who's always interviewing people in the Starbucks that you work at asks if you really want to be slinging coffee the rest of your life. The scam: MLMs are little more than pyramid schemes. They involve buying some sort of product (usually snake oil health products like body wraps or supplements) and shilling them to your friends and family. They claim that the really money is recruiting people underneath you who give you a slice of whatever they sell. And if those people underneath you recruit more people, you get a piece of their sales. Ideally if you big enough pyramid underneath you the money will roll in without any work on your part. Failure to see any profit will be your fault for not "wanting it enough." The companies will claim that you need to buy their extra training modules or webinars to really start selling. But in reality, the vast majority of people who buy into a MLM won't see a cent. At the end of the day all you'll be doing is annoying your friends and family with your constant recruitment efforts. What to look out for: Recruiters love to be vague. They won't tell you the name of the company or what exactly the job will entail. They'll pump you up with promises of "self-generating income", "being your own boss", and "owning your own company." They might ask you to read books about success and entrepreneurs. They're hoping you buy into the dream first. If you get approached via social media, check their timelines. MLMs will often instruct their victims to pretend that they've already made it. They'll constantly post about how they're hustling and making the big bucks and linking to youtube videos about success. Again, all very vague about what their job actually entails. If you think you're being recruited: Ask them what exactly the job is. If they can't answer its probably a MLM. Just walk away.

Phone scams

You should generally avoid answering or engaging with random phone calls. Picking up and engaging with a scam call tells the scammers that your phone number is active, and will usually lead to more calls.
Tax Call
You get a call from somebody claiming to be from your countries tax agency. They say you have unpaid taxes that need to be paid immediately, and you may be arrested or have other legal action taken against you if it is not paid. This scam has caused the American IRS, Canadian CRA, British HMRC, and Australian Tax Office to issue warnings. This scam happens in a wide variety of countries all over the world.
Warrant Call
Very similar to the tax call. You'll get a phone call from an "agent", "officer", "sheriff", or other law enforcement officer claiming that there is a warrant out for your arrest and you will be arrested very soon. They will then offer to settle everything for a fee, usually paid in giftcards.
[Legal Documents/Process Server Calls]
Very similar to the warrant call. You'll get a phone call from a scammer claiming that they are going to serve you legal documents, and they will threaten you with legal consequences if you refuse to comply. They may call themselves "investigators", and will sometimes give you a fake case number.
Student Loan Forgiveness Scam
Scammers will call you and tell you about a student loan forgiveness program, but they are interested in obtaining private information about you or demanding money in order to join the fake program.
Tech Support Call You receive a call from someone with a heavy accent claiming to be a technician Microsoft or your ISP. They inform you that your PC has a virus and your online banking and other accounts may be compromised if the virus is not removed. They'll have you type in commands and view diagnostics on your PC which shows proof of the virus. Then they'll have you install remote support software so the technician can work on your PC, remove the virus, and install security software. The cost of the labor and software can be hundreds of dollars. The scam: There's no virus. The technician isn't a technician and does not work for Microsoft or your ISP. Scammers (primarily out of India) use autodialers to cold-call everyone in the US. Any file they point out to you or command they have you run is completely benign. The software they sell you is either freeware or ineffective. What to do you if you're involved with this scam: If the scammers are remotely on your computer as you read this, turn off your PC or laptop via the power button immediately, and then if possible unplug your internet connection. Some of the more vindictive tech scammers have been known to create boot passwords on your computer if they think you've become wise to them and aren't going to pay up. Hang up on the scammers, block the number, and ignore any threats about payment. Performing a system restore on your PC is usually all that is required to remove the scammer's common remote access software. Reports of identity theft from fake tech calls are uncommon, but it would still be a good idea to change your passwords for online banking and monitor your accounts for any possible fraud. How to avoid: Ignore any calls claiming that your PC has a virus. Microsoft will never contact you. If you're unsure if a call claiming to be from your ISP is legit, hang up, and then dial the customer support number listed on a recent bill. If you have elderly relatives or family that isn't tech savvy, take the time to fill them in on this scam.
Chinese government scam
This scam is aimed at Chinese people living in Europe and North America, and involves a voicemail from someone claiming to be associated with the Chinese government, usually through the Chinese consulate/embassy, who is threatening legal action or making general threats.
Chinese shipping scam
This scam is similar to the Chinese government scam, but involves a seized/suspicious package, and the scammers will connect the victim to other scammers posing as Chinese government investigators.
Social security suspension scam
You will receive a call from someone claiming to work for the government regarding suspicious activity, fraud, or serious crimes connected to your social security number. You'll be asked to speak to an operator and the operator will explain the steps you need to follow in order to fix the problems. It's all a scam, and will lead to you losing money and could lead to identity theft if you give them private financial information.
Utilities cutoff
You get a call from someone who claims that they are from your utility company, and they claim that your utilities will be shut off unless you immediately pay. The scammer will usually ask for payment via gift cards, although they may ask for payment in other ways, such as Western Union or bitcoin.
Relative in custody Scammer claims to be the police, and they have your son/daughtenephew/estranged twin in custody. You need to post bail (for some reason in iTunes gift cards or MoneyGram) immediately or the consequences will never be the same.
Mexican family scam
This scam comes in many different flavours, but always involves someone in your family and Mexico. Sometimes the scammer will claim that your family member has been detained, sometimes the scammer will claim that your family member has been kidnapped, and sometimes the scammer will claim that your family member is injured and needs help.
General family scams
Scammers will gather a large amount of information about you and target your family members using different stories with the goal of gettimg them to send money.
One ring scam
Scammers will call you from an international number with the goal of getting you to return their call, causing you to incur expensive calling fees.

Online shopping scams

THE GOLDEN RULE OF ONLINE SHOPPING: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Dropshipping
An ad on reddit or social media sites like Facebook and Instagram offers items at huge discounts or even free (sometimes requiring you to reblog or like their page). They just ask you to pay shipping. The scam: The item will turn out to be very low quality and will take weeks or even months to arrive. Sometimes the item never arrives, and the store disappears or stops responding. The seller drop-ships the item from China. The item may only cost a few dollars, and the Chinese government actually pays for the shipping. You end up paying $10-$15 dollars for a $4 item, with the scammer keeping the profit. If you find one of these scams but really have your heart set on the item, you can find it on AliExpress or another Chinese retailer.
Influencer scams
A user will reach out to you on a social media platform, usually Instagram, and offer you the chance to partner with them and receive a free/discounted product, as long as you pay shipping. This is a different version of the dropshipping scam, and is just a marketing technique to get you to buy their products.
Triangulation fraud
Triangulation fraud occurs when you make a purchase on a site like Amazon or eBay for an item at a lower than market price, and receive an item that was clearly purchased new at full price. The scammer uses a stolen credit card to order your item, while the money from the listing is almost all profit for the scammer.
Instagram influencer scams
Someone will message you on Instagram asking you to promote their products, and offering you a discount code. The items are Chinese junk, and the offer is made to many people at a time.
Cheap Items
Many websites pop up and offer expensive products, including electronics, clothes, watches, sunglasses, and shoes at very low prices. The scam: Some sites are selling cheap knock-offs. Some will just take your money and run. What to do if you think you're involved with this scam: Contact your bank or credit card and dispute the charge. How to avoid: The sites often have every brand-name shoe or fashion item (Air Jordan, Yeezy, Gucci, etc) in stock and often at a discounted price. The site will claim to be an outlet for a major brand or even a specific line or item. The site will have images at the bottom claiming to be Secured by Norton or various official payment processors but not actual links. The site will have poor grammar and a mish-mash of categories. Recently, established websites will get hacked or their domain name jacked and turned into scam stores, meaning the domain name of the store will be completely unrelated to the items they're selling. If the deal sounds too good to be true it probably is. Nobody is offering brand new iPhones or Beats or Nintendo Switches for 75% off.
Cheap Amazon 3rd Party Items
You're on Amazon or maybe just Googling for an item and you see it for an unbelievable price from a third-party seller. You know Amazon has your back so you order it. The scam: One of three things usually happen: 1) The seller marks the items as shipped and sends a fake tracking number. Amazon releases the funds to the seller, and the seller disappears. Amazon ultimately refunds your money. 2) The seller immediately cancels the order and instructs you to re-order the item directly from their website, usually with the guarantee that the order is still protected by Amazon. The seller takes your money and runs. Amazon informs you that they do not offer protection on items sold outside of Amazon and cannot help you. 2) The seller immediately cancels the order and instructs you to instead send payment via an unused Amazon gift card by sending the code on the back via email. Once the seller uses the code, the money on the card is gone and cannot be refunded. How to avoid: These scammers can be identified by looking at their Amazon storefronts. They'll be brand new sellers offering a wide range of items at unbelievable prices. Usually their Amazon names will be gibberish, or a variation on FIRSTNAME.LASTNAME. Occasionally however, established storefronts will be hacked. If the deal is too good to be true its most likely a scam.
Scams on eBay
There are scams on eBay targeting both buyers and sellers. As a seller, you should look out for people who privately message you regarding the order, especially if they ask you to ship to a different address or ask to negotiate via text/email/a messaging service. As a buyer you should look out for new accounts selling in-demand items, established accounts selling in-demand items that they have no previous connection to (you can check their feedback history for a general idea of what they bought/sold in the past), and lookout for people who ask you to go off eBay and use another service to complete the transaction. In many cases you will receive a fake tracking number and your money will be help up for up to a month.
Scams on Amazon
There are scams on Amazon targeting both buyers and sellers. As a seller, you should look out for people who message you about a listing. As a buyer you should look out for listings that have an email address for you to contact the person to complete the transaction, and you should look out for cheap listings of in-demand items.
Scams on Reddit
Reddit accounts are frequently purchased and sold by fraudsters who wish to use the high karma count + the age of the account to scam people on buy/sell subreddits. You need to take precautions and be safe whenever you are making a transaction online.
Computer scams
Virus scam
A popup or other ad will say that you have a virus and you need to follow their advice in order to remove it. They are lying, and either want you to install malware or pay for their software.

Assorted scams

Chinese Brushing / direct shipping
If you have ever received an unsolicited small package from China, your address was used to brush. Vendors place fake orders for their own products and send out the orders so that they can increase their ratings.
Money flipping
Scammer claims to be a banking insider who can double/triple/bazoople any amount of money you send them, with no consequences of any kind. Obviously, the money disappears into their wallet the moment you send it.

Door to door scams

As a general rule, you should not engage with door to door salesmen. If you are interested in the product they are selling, check online first.
Selling Magazines
Someone or a group will come to your door and offer to sell a magazine subscription. Often the subscriptions are not for the duration or price you were told, and the magazines will often have tough or impossible cancellation policies.
Energy sales
Somebody will come to your door claiming to be from an energy company. They will ask to see your current energy bill so that they can see how much you pay. They will then offer you a discount if you sign up with them, and promise to handle everything with your old provider. Some of these scammers will "slam" you, by using your account number that they saw on your bill to switch you to their service without authorization, and some will scam you by charging higher prices than the ones you agreed on.
Security system scams
Scammers will come to your door and ask about your security system, and offer to sell you a new one. These scammers are either selling you overpriced low quality products, or are casing your home for a future burglary.
They ask to enter your home
While trying to sell you whatever, they suddenly need to use your bathroom, or they've been writing against the wall and ask to use your table instead. Or maybe they just moved into the neighborhood and want to see how you decorate for ideas.
They're scoping out you and your place. They want to see what valuables you have, how gullible you are, if you have a security system or dogs, etc.

Street scams

Begging With a Purpose
"I just need a few more dollars for the bus," at the bus station, or "I just need $5 to get some gas," at a gas station. There's also a variation where you will be presented with a reward: "I just need money for a cab to get uptown, but I'll give you sports tickets/money/a date/a priceless vase."
Three Card Monte, Also Known As The Shell Game
Unbeatable. The people you see winning are in on the scam.
Drop and Break
You bump into someone and they drop their phone/glasses/fancy bottle of wine/priceless vase and demand you pay them back. In reality, it's a $2 pair of reading glasses/bottle of three-buck-chuck/tasteful but affordable vase.
CD Sales
You're handed a free CD so you can check out the artist's music. They then ask for your name and immediately write it on the CD. Once they've signed your name, they ask you for money, saying they can't give it to someone else now. Often they use dry erase markers, or cheap CD sleeves. Never use any type of storage device given to you by a random person, as the device can contain malware.
White Van Speaker Scam
You're approached and offered speakers/leather jackets/other luxury goods at a discount. The scammer will have an excuse as to why the price is so low. After you buy them, you'll discover that they are worthless.
iPhone Street Sale
You're approached and shown an iPhone for sale, coming in the box, but it's open and you can see the phone. If you buy the phone, you'll get an iPhone box with no iPhone, just some stones or cheap metal in it to weigh it down.
Buddhist Monk Pendant
A monk in traditional garb approaches you, hands you a gold trinket, and asks for a donation. He holds either a notebook with names and amounts of donation (usually everyone else has donated $5+), or a leaflet with generic info. This is fairly common in NYC, and these guys get aggressive quickly.
Friendship Bracelet Scam More common in western Europe, you're approached by someone selling bracelets. They quickly wrap a loop of fabric around your finger and pull it tight, starting to quickly weave a bracelet. The only way to (easily) get it off your hand is to pay. Leftover sales
This scam involves many different items, but the idea is usually the same: you are approached by someone who claims to have a large amount of excess inventory and offers to sell it to you at a great price. The scammer actually has low quality items and will lie to you about the price/origin of the items.
Dent repair scams
Scammers will approach you in public about a dent in your car and offer to fix it for a low price. Often they will claim that they are mechanics. They will not fix the dent in your car, but they will apply large amounts of wax or other substances to hide the dent while they claim that the substance requires time to harden.
Gold ring/jewelry/valuable item scam
A scammer will "find" a gold ring or other valuable item and offers to sell it to you. The item is fake and you will never see the scammer again.
Distraction theft
One person will approach you and distract you, while their accomplice picks your pockets. The distraction can take many forms, but if you are a tourist and are approached in public, watch closely for people getting close to you.

General resources

Site to report scams in the United Kingdom: http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/
Site to report scams in the United States: https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
Site to report scams in Canada: www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/reportincident-signalerincident/index-eng.htm
Site to report scams in Europe: https://www.europol.europa.eu/report-a-crime/report-cybercrime-online
FTC scam alerts: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts
Microsoft's anti-scam guide: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/safety/online-privacy/avoid-phone-scams.aspx
https://www.usa.gov/common-scams-frauds
https://www.usa.gov/scams-and-frauds
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts
https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-fraud-schemes
submitted by EugeneBYMCMB to Scams [link] [comments]

/r/Scams Common Scam Master Post

fHello visitors and subscribers of scams! Here you will find a master list of common (and uncommon) scams that you may find online or in real life. A big thanks to the many contributors who helped create this thread.

If you know of a scam that is not covered here, write a comment and I'll add it.

Here is the last version of this thread. Here is the previous version of this thread from 2018, here is the previous version of this thread from 2017, and here is the previous version of this thread from 2016.
Some of these articles are from small, local publications and refer to the scam happening in a specific area. Do not think that this means that the scam won't happen in your area.
The fake check scam (Credit to nimble2 for this part)
The fake check scam arises from many different situations (for instance, you applied for a job, or you are selling something on a place like Craigslist, or someone wants to purchase goods or services from your business, or you were offered a job as a mystery shopper, you were asked to wrap your car with an advertisement, or you received a check in the mail for no reason), but the bottom line is always something like this:
General fraudulent funds scams If somebody is asking you to accept and send out money as a favour or as part of a job, it is a fraudulent funds scam. It does not matter how they pay you, any payment on any service can be fraudulent and will be reversed when it is discovered to be fraudulent.
Phone verification code scams Someone will ask you to receive a verification text and then tell you to give them the code. Usually the code will come from Google Voice, or from Craigslist. In the Google version of the scam, your phone number will be used to verify a Google Voice account that the scammer will use to scam people with. In the Craigslist version of the scam, your phone number will be used to verify a Craigslist posting that the scammer will use to scam people. There is also an account takeover version of this scam that will involve the scammer sending a password reset token to your phone number and asking you for it.
Bitcoin job scams
Bitcoin job scams involve some sort of fraudulent funds transfer, usually a fake check although a fraudulent bank transfer can be used as well. The scammer will send you the fraudulent money and ask you to purchase bitcoins. This is a scam, and you will have zero recourse after you send the scammer bitcoins.
Email flooding
If you suddenly receive hundreds or thousands of spam emails, usually subscription confirmations, it's very likely that one of your online accounts has been taken over and is being used fraudulently. You should check any of your accounts that has a credit card linked to it, preferably from a computer other than the one you normally use. You should change all of your passwords to unique passwords and you should start using two factor authentication everywhere.
Boss/CEO scam A scammer will impersonate your boss or someone who works at your company and will ask you to run an errand for them, which will usually be purchasing gift cards and sending them the code. Once the scammer has the code, you have no recourse.
Employment certification scams
You will receive a job offer that is dependent on you completing a course or receiving a certification from a company the scammer tells you about. The scammer operates both websites and the job does not exist.
Craigslist fake payment scams
Scammers will ask you about your item that you have listed for sale on a site like Craigslist, and will ask to pay you via Paypal. They are scamming you, and the payment in most cases does not actually exist, the email you received was sent by the scammers. In cases where you have received a payment, the scammer can dispute the payment or the payment may be entirely fraudulent. The scammer will then either try to get you to send money to them using the fake funds that they did not send to you, or will ask you to ship the item, usually to a re-shipping facility or a parcel mule.
General fraudulent funds scams The fake check scam is not the only scam that involves accepting fraudulent/fake funds and purchasing items for scammers. If your job or opportunity involves accepting money and then using that money, it is almost certainly a frauduent funds scam. Even if the payment is through a bank transfer, Paypal, Venmo, Zelle, Interac e-Transfer, etc, it does not matter.
Credit card debt scam
Fraudsters will offer to pay off your bills, and will do so with fraudulent funds. Sometimes it will be your credit card bill, but it can be any bill that can be paid online. Once they pay it off, they will ask you to send them money or purchase items for them. The fraudulent transaction will be reversed in the future and you will never be able to keep the money. This scam happens on sites like Craigslist, Twitter, Instagram, and also some dating sites, including SeekingArrangement.
The parcel mule scam
A scammer will contact you with a job opportunity that involves accepting and reshipping packages. The packages are either stolen or fraudulently obtained items, and you will not be paid by the scammer. Here is a news article about a scam victim who fell for this scam and reshipped over 20 packages containing fraudulently acquired goods.
The Skype sex scam
You're on Facebook and you get a friend request from a cute girl you've never met. She wants to start sexting and trading nudes. She'll ask you to send pictures or videos or get on webcam where she can see you naked with your face in the picture. The scam: There's no girl. You've sent nudes to a guy pretending to be a girl. As soon as he has the pictures he'll demand money and threaten to send the pictures to your friends and family. Sometimes the scammer will upload the video to a porn site or Youtube to show that they are serious.
What to do if you are a victim of this scam: You cannot buy silence, you can only rent it. Paying the blackmailer will show them that the information they have is valuable and they will come after you for more money. Let your friends and family know that you were scammed and tell them to ignore friend requests or messages from people they don't know. Also, make sure your privacy settings are locked down and consider deactivating your account.
The underage girl scam
You're on a dating site or app and you get contacted by a cute girl. She wants to start sexting and trading nudes. Eventually she stops communicating and you get a call from a pissed off guy claiming to be the girl's father, or a police officer, or a private investigator, or something else along those lines. Turns out the girl you were sexting is underage, and her parents want some money for various reasons, such as to pay for a new phone, to pay for therapy, etc. There is, of course, no girl. You were communicating with a scammer.
What to do if you are a victim of this scam: Stop picking up the phone when the scammers call. Do not pay them, or they will be after you for more money.
Phishing
Phishing is when a scammer tries to trick you into giving information to them, such as your password or private financial information. Phishing messages will usually look very similar to official messages, and sometimes they are identical. If you are ever required to login to a different account in order to use a service, you should be incredibly cautious.
The blackmail email scam The exact wording of the emails varies, but there are generally four main parts. They claim to have placed software/malware on a porn/adult video site, they claim to have a video of you masturbating or watching porn, they threaten to release the video to your friends/family/loved ones/boss/dog, and they demand that you pay them in order for them to delete the video. Rest assured that this is a very common spam campaign and there is no truth behind the email or the threats. Here are some news articles about this scam.
The blackmail mail scam
This is very similar to the blackmail email scam, but you will receive a letter in the mail.
Rental scams Usually on local sites like Craigslist, scammers will steal photos from legitimate real estate listings and will list them for rent at or below market rate. They will generally be hesitant to tell you the address of the property for "safety reasons" and you will not be able to see the unit. They will then ask you to pay them a deposit and they claim they will ship you the keys. In reality, your money is gone and you will have no recourse.
Craigslist vehicle scams A scammer will list a vehicle on Craigslist and will offer to ship you the car. In many cases they will also falsely claim to sell you the car through eBay or Amazon. If you are looking for a car on Craigslist and the seller says anything about shipping the car, having an agent, gives you a long story about why they are selling the car, or the listing price is far too low, you are talking to a scammer and you should ignore and move on.
Advance-fee scam, also known as the 419 scam, or the Nigerian prince scam. You will receive a communication from someone who claims that you are entitled to a large sum of money, or you can help them obtain a large sum of money. However, they will need money from you before you receive the large sum.
Man in the middle scams
Man in the middle scams are very common and very hard to detect. The scammer will impersonate a company or person you are legitimately doing business with, and they will ask you to send the money to one of their own bank accounts or one controlled by a money mule. They have gained access to the legitimate persons email address, so there will be nothing suspicious about the email. To prevent this, make contact in a different way that lets you verify that the person you are talking to is the person you think you are talking to.
Cam girl voting/viewer scam
You will encounter a "cam girl" on a dating/messaging/social media/whatever site/app, and the scammer will ask you to go to their site and sign up with your credit card. They may offer a free show, or ask you to vote for them, or any number of other fake stories.
Amateur porn recruitment scam
You will encounter a "pornstar" on a dating/messaging/social media/whatever site/app, and the scammer will ask you to create an adult film with hehim, but first you need to do something. The story here is usually something to do with verifying your age, or you needing to take an STD test that involves sending money to a site operated by the scammer.
Hot girl SMS spam
You receive a text from a random number with a message along the lines of "Hey babe I'm here in town again if you wanted to meet up this time, are you around?" accompanied by a NSFW picture of a hot girl. It's spam, and they'll direct you to their scam website that requires a credit card.
Identity verification scam
You will encounter someone on a dating/messaging/social media/whatever site/app, and the scammer will ask that you verify your identity as they are worried about catfishing. The scammer operates the site, and you are not talking to whoever you think you are talking to.
This type of scam teases you with something, then tries to make you sign up for something else that costs money. The company involved is often innocent, but they turn a blind eye to the practice as it helps their bottom line, even if they have to occasionally issue refunds. A common variation takes place on dating sites/dating apps, where you will match with someone who claims to be a camgirl who wants you to sign up for a site and vote for her. Another variation takes place on local sites like Craigslist, where the scammers setup fake rental scams and demand that you go through a specific service for a credit check. Once you go through with it, the scammer will stop talking to you. Another variation also takes place on local sites like Craigslist, where scammers will contact you while you are selling a car and will ask you to purchase a Carfax-like report from a specific website.
Multi Level Marketing or Affiliate Marketing
You apply for a vague job listing for 'sales' on craigslist. Or maybe an old friend from high school adds you on Facebook and says they have an amazing business opportunity for you. Or maybe the well dressed guy who's always interviewing people in the Starbucks that you work at asks if you really want to be slinging coffee the rest of your life. The scam: MLMs are little more than pyramid schemes. They involve buying some sort of product (usually snake oil health products like body wraps or supplements) and shilling them to your friends and family. They claim that the really money is recruiting people underneath you who give you a slice of whatever they sell. And if those people underneath you recruit more people, you get a piece of their sales. Ideally if you big enough pyramid underneath you the money will roll in without any work on your part. Failure to see any profit will be your fault for not "wanting it enough." The companies will claim that you need to buy their extra training modules or webinars to really start selling. But in reality, the vast majority of people who buy into a MLM won't see a cent. At the end of the day all you'll be doing is annoying your friends and family with your constant recruitment efforts. What to look out for: Recruiters love to be vague. They won't tell you the name of the company or what exactly the job will entail. They'll pump you up with promises of "self-generating income", "being your own boss", and "owning your own company." They might ask you to read books about success and entrepreneurs. They're hoping you buy into the dream first. If you get approached via social media, check their timelines. MLMs will often instruct their victims to pretend that they've already made it. They'll constantly post about how they're hustling and making the big bucks and linking to youtube videos about success. Again, all very vague about what their job actually entails. If you think you're being recruited: Ask them what exactly the job is. If they can't answer its probably a MLM. Just walk away.

Phone scams

Tax Call
You get a call from somebody claiming to be from your countries tax agency. They say you have unpaid taxes that need to be paid immediately, and you may be arrested or have other legal action taken against you if it is not paid. This scam has caused the American IRS, Canadian CRA, British HMRC, and Australian Tax Office to issue warnings. This scam happens in a wide variety of countries all over the world.
Warrant Call
Very similar to the tax call. You'll get a phone call from an "agent", "officer", "sheriff", or other law enforcement officer claiming that there is a warrant out for your arrest and you will be arrested very soon. They will then offer to settle everything for a fee, usually paid in giftcards.
[Legal Documents/Process Server Calls]
Very similar to the warrant call. You'll get a phone call from a scammer claiming that they are going to serve you legal documents, and they will threaten you with legal consequences if you refuse to comply. They may call themselves "investigators", and will sometimes give you a fake case number.
Student Loan Forgiveness Scam
Scammers will call you and tell you about a student loan forgiveness program, but they are interested in obtaining private information about you or demanding money in order to join the fake program.
Tech Support Call You receive a call from someone with a heavy accent claiming to be a technician Microsoft or your ISP. They inform you that your PC has a virus and your online banking and other accounts may be compromised if the virus is not removed. They'll have you type in commands and view diagnostics on your PC which shows proof of the virus. Then they'll have you install remote support software so the technician can work on your PC, remove the virus, and install security software. The cost of the labor and software can be hundreds of dollars. The scam: There's no virus. The technician isn't a technician and does not work for Microsoft or your ISP. Scammers (primarily out of India) use autodialers to cold-call everyone in the US. Any file they point out to you or command they have you run is completely benign. The software they sell you is either freeware or ineffective. What to do you if you're involved with this scam: If the scammers are remotely on your computer as you read this, turn off your PC or laptop via the power button immediately, and then if possible unplug your internet connection. Some of the more vindictive tech scammers have been known to create boot passwords on your computer if they think you've become wise to them and aren't going to pay up. Hang up on the scammers, block the number, and ignore any threats about payment. Performing a system restore on your PC is usually all that is required to remove the scammer's common remote access software. Reports of identity theft from fake tech calls are uncommon, but it would still be a good idea to change your passwords for online banking and monitor your accounts for any possible fraud. How to avoid: Ignore any calls claiming that your PC has a virus. Microsoft will never contact you. If you're unsure if a call claiming to be from your ISP is legit, hang up, and then dial the customer support number listed on a recent bill. If you have elderly relatives or family that isn't tech savvy, take the time to fill them in on this scam.
Chinese government scam
This scam is aimed at Chinese people living in Europe and North America, and involves a voicemail from someone claiming to be associated with the Chinese government, usually through the Chinese consulate/embassy, who is threatening legal action or making general threats.
Chinese shipping scam
This scam is similar to the Chinese government scam, but involves a seized/suspicious package, and the scammers will connect the victim to other scammers posing as Chinese government investigators.
Social security suspension scam
You will receive a call from someone claiming to work for the government regarding suspicious activity, fraud, or serious crimes connected to your social security number. You'll be asked to speak to an operator and the operator will explain the steps you need to follow in order to fix the problems. It's all a scam, and will lead to you losing money and could lead to identity theft if you give them private financial information.
Utilities cutoff
You get a call from someone who claims that they are from your utility company, and they claim that your utilities will be shut off unless you immediately pay. The scammer will usually ask for payment via gift cards, although they may ask for payment in other ways, such as Western Union or bitcoin.
Relative in custody Scammer claims to be the police, and they have your son/daughtenephew/estranged twin in custody. You need to post bail (for some reason in iTunes gift cards or MoneyGram) immediately or the consequences will never be the same.
Mexican family scam
This scam comes in many different flavours, but always involves someone in your family and Mexico. Sometimes the scammer will claim that your family member has been detained, sometimes the scammer will claim that your family member has been kidnapped, and sometimes the scammer will claim that your family member is injured and needs help.
General family scams
Scammers will gather a large amount of information about you and target your family members using different stories with the goal of gettimg them to send money.
One ring scam
Scammers may call you from an international number with the goal of getting you to return their call, incurring expensive calling fees.

Online shopping scams

THE GOLDEN RULE OF ONLINE SHOPPING: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Dropshipping
An ad on reddit or social media sites like Facebook and Instagram offers items at huge discounts or even free (sometimes requiring you to reblog or like their page). They just ask you to pay shipping. The scam: The item will turn out to be very low quality and will take weeks or even months to arrive. Sometimes the item never arrives, and the store disappears or stops responding. The seller drop-ships the item from China. The item may only cost a few dollars, and the Chinese government actually pays for the shipping. You end up paying $10-$15 dollars for a $4 item, with the scammer keeping the profit. If you find one of these scams but really have your heart set on the item, you can find it on AliExpress or another Chinese retailer.
Triangulation fraud
Triangulation fraud occurs when you make a purchase on a site like Amazon or eBay for an item at a lower than market price, and receive an item that was clearly purchased new at full price. The scammer uses a stolen credit card to order your item, while the money from the listing is almost all profit for the scammer.
Instagram influencer scams
Someone will message you on Instagram asking you to promote their products, and offering you a discount code. The items are Chinese junk, and the offer is made to many people at a time.
Cheap Items
Many websites pop up and offer expensive products, including electronics, clothes, watches, sunglasses, and shoes at very low prices. The scam: Some sites are selling cheap knock-offs. Some will just take your money and run. What to do if you think you're involved with this scam: Contact your bank or credit card and dispute the charge. How to avoid: The sites often have every brand-name shoe or fashion item (Air Jordan, Yeezy, Gucci, etc) in stock and often at a discounted price. The site will claim to be an outlet for a major brand or even a specific line or item. The site will have images at the bottom claiming to be Secured by Norton or various official payment processors but not actual links. The site will have poor grammar and a mish-mash of categories. Recently, established websites will get hacked or their domain name jacked and turned into scam stores, meaning the domain name of the store will be completely unrelated to the items they're selling. If the deal sounds too good to be true it probably is. Nobody is offering brand new iPhones or Beats or Nintendo Switches for 75% off.
Cheap Amazon 3rd Party Items
You're on Amazon or maybe just Googling for an item and you see it for an unbelievable price from a third-party seller. You know Amazon has your back so you order it. The scam: One of three things usually happen: 1) The seller marks the items as shipped and sends a fake tracking number. Amazon releases the funds to the seller, and the seller disappears. Amazon ultimately refunds your money. 2) The seller immediately cancels the order and instructs you to re-order the item directly from their website, usually with the guarantee that the order is still protected by Amazon. The seller takes your money and runs. Amazon informs you that they do not offer protection on items sold outside of Amazon and cannot help you. 2) The seller immediately cancels the order and instructs you to instead send payment via an unused Amazon gift card by sending the code on the back via email. Once the seller uses the code, the money on the card is gone and cannot be refunded. How to avoid: These scammers can be identified by looking at their Amazon storefronts. They'll be brand new sellers offering a wide range of items at unbelievable prices. Usually their Amazon names will be gibberish, or a variation on FIRSTNAME.LASTNAME. Occasionally however, established storefronts will be hacked. If the deal is too good to be true its most likely a scam.
Scams on eBay
There are scams on eBay targeting both buyers and sellers. As a seller, you should look out for people who privately message you regarding the order, especially if they ask you to ship to a different address or ask to negotiate via text/email/a messaging service. As a buyer you should look out for new accounts selling in-demand items, established accounts selling in-demand items that they have no previous connection to (you can check their feedback history for a general idea of what they bought/sold in the past), and lookout for people who ask you to go off eBay and use another service to complete the transaction. In many cases you will receive a fake tracking number and your money will be help up for up to a month.
Scams on Amazon
There are scams on Amazon targeting both buyers and sellers. As a seller, you should look out for people who message you about a listing. As a buyer you should look out for listings that have an email address for you to contact the person to complete the transaction, and you should look out for cheap listings of in-demand items.
Scams on Reddit
Reddit accounts are frequently purchased and sold by fraudsters who wish to use the high karma count + the age of the account to scam people on buy/sell subreddits. You need to take precautions and be safe whenever you are making a transaction online.
Computer scams
Virus scam
A popup or other ad will say that you have a virus and you need to follow their advice in order to remove it. They are lying, and either want you to install malware or pay for their software.

Assorted scams

Chinese Brushing / direct shipping
If you have ever received an unsolicited small package from China, your address was used to brush. Vendors place fake orders for their own products and send out the orders so that they can increase their ratings.
Money flipping
Scammer claims to be a banking insider who can double/triple/bazoople any amount of money you send them, with no consequences of any kind. Obviously, the money disappears into their wallet the moment you send it.

Door to door scams

As a general rule, you should not engage with door to door salesmen. If you are interested in the product they are selling, check online first.
Selling Magazines
Someone or a group will come to your door and offer to sell a magazine subscription. Often the subscriptions are not for the duration or price you were told, and the magazines will often have tough or impossible cancellation policies.
Energy sales
Somebody will come to your door claiming to be from an energy company. They will ask to see your current energy bill so that they can see how much you pay. They will then offer you a discount if you sign up with them, and promise to handle everything with your old provider. Some of these scammers will "slam" you, by using your account number that they saw on your bill to switch you to their service without authorization, and some will scam you by charging higher prices than the ones you agreed on.
They ask you to donate $1
After you decline to buy a subscription, they ask you to donate a small sum of money. Your mind goes "I guess it's only $1" or "if that's what it takes for them to go away".
Security system scams
Scammers will come to your door and ask about your security system, and offer to sell you a new one. These scammers are either selling you overpriced low quality products, or are casing your home for a future burglary.
They ask to enter your home
While trying to sell you whatever, they suddenly need to use your bathroom, or they've been writing against the wall and ask to use your table instead. Or maybe they just moved into the neighborhood and want to see how you decorate for ideas.
They're scoping out you and your place. They want to see what valuables you have, how gullible you are, if you have a security system or dogs, etc.

Street scams

Begging With a Purpose
"I just need a few more dollars for the bus," at the bus station, or "I just need $5 to get some gas," at a gas station. There's also a variation where you will be presented with a reward: "I just need money for a cab to get uptown, but I'll give you sports tickets/money/a date/a priceless vase."
Three Card Monte, Also Known As The Shell Game
Unbeatable. The people you see winning are in on the scam.
Drop and Break
You bump into someone and they drop their phone/glasses/fancy bottle of wine/priceless vase and demand you pay them back. In reality, it's a $2 pair of reading glasses/bottle of three-buck-chuck/tasteful but affordable vase.
CD Sales
You're handed a free CD so you can check out the artist's music. They then ask for your name and immediately write it on the CD. Once they've signed your name, they ask you for money, saying they can't give it to someone else now. Often they use dry erase markers, or cheap CD sleeves. Never use any type of storage device given to you by a random person, as the device can contain malware.
White Van Speaker Scam
You're approached and offered speakers/leather jackets/other luxury goods at a decent discount. The scammer will claim they ordered too many, their store closed, they need to avoid customs fees, or they need money quick. After you buy them, you'll discover that they are worthless.
iPhone Street Sale
You're approached and shown an iPhone for sale, coming in the box, but it's open and you can see the phone. If you buy the phone, you'll get an iPhone box with no iPhone, just some stones or cheap metal in it to weigh it down.
Buddhist Monk Pendant
A monk in traditional garb approaches you, hands you a gold trinket, and asks for a donation. He holds either a notebook with names and amounts of donation (usually everyone else has donated $5+), or a leaflet with generic info. This is fairly common in NYC, and these guys get aggressive quickly.
Sports Team Donations
You're approached by teens with a clipboard with a letter from their high school about how they need to gather donations for their upcoming seasons to buy new uniforms/equipment/priceless vases. No high school is sending their students into the subway to get pocket change.
Friendship Bracelet Scam More common in western Europe, you're approached by someone selling bracelets. They quickly wrap a loop of fabric around your finger and pull it tight, starting to quickly weave a bracelet. The only way to (easily) get it off your hand is to pay. Leftover sales
This scam involves many different items, but the idea is usually the same: you are approached by someone who claims to have a large amount of excess inventory and offers to sell it to you at a great price. The scammer actually has low quality items and will lie to you about the price/origin of the items.
Dent repair scams
Scammers will approach you in public about a dent in your car and offer to fix it for a low price. Often they will claim that they are mechanics. They will not fix the dent in your car, but they will apply large amounts of wax or other substances to hide the dent while they claim that the substance requires time to harden.
Gold ring/jewelry/valuable item scam
A scammer will "find" a gold ring or other valuable item and offers to sell it to you. The item is fake and you will never see the scammer again.
Distraction theft
One person will approach you and distract you, while their accomplice picks your pockets. The distraction can take many forms, but if you are a tourist and are approached in public, watch closely for people getting close to you.

General resources

Site to report scams in the United Kingdom: http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/
Site to report scams in the United States: https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
Site to report scams in Canada: www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/reportincident-signalerincident/index-eng.htm
Site to report scams in Europe: https://www.europol.europa.eu/report-a-crime/report-cybercrime-online
FTC scam alerts: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts
Microsoft's anti-scam guide: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/safety/online-privacy/avoid-phone-scams.aspx
https://www.usa.gov/common-scams-frauds
https://www.usa.gov/scams-and-frauds
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts
https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-fraud-schemes
submitted by EugeneBYMCMB to Scams [link] [comments]

r/Ethereum - I wrote this to explain Ethereum in depth to newbies. Please check for accuracy!

Hello ethereum - I'm currently in Singapore exploring all of the cool blockchain tech that's going on here. I'm also writing a blog that aims to explain blockchain technology simply to anyone whose interested. www.cryptoambit.com
If you guys could spot check my Ethereum post for accuracy, I'd appreciate it. If you like it, would also appreciate some subscribers! Thanks
By now, most people know Ethereum as the second most valuable cryptocurrency, currently valued at over $60 billion dollars. Well, it turns out that Ethereum isn't actually a cryptocurrency - it's a software platform that let's programmers build applications on top of blockchain technology. Within the ethereum platform, is a cryptocurrency called ether that is used to power applications built on the Ethereum blockchain.
From Bitcoin to Ethereum
Bitcoin uses a global network of computers that maintain a shared ledger called a blockchain that keeps track of who owns bitcoin. Once blockchain technology was introduced to the world, people realized that blockchains could be used to keep track of anything of value. In 2013, a 19 year old named Vitalik Buterin introduced the Ethereum white paper, which proposed an open source platform that would let programmers build blockchain applications that could facilitate the exchange of money, content, property, shares or anything of value. Much like with Satoshi Nakamoto's paper, Buterin's was met with widespread excitement from software developers around the world who began building toward the vision Buterin laid out.
Much like Bitcoin, Ethereum isn't owned or controlled by any one person. Unlike Bitcoin, whose creator remains anonymous, Ethereum has a leader in Vitalik Buterin (pictured below). While Buterin doesn't control Ethereum in the way that a CEO does, his word carries tremendous weight in dictating the direction of the project - something that is considered a strength or a weakness, depending on who you ask.
Smart Contracts
The basic function that programs built on Ethereum perform are called smart contracts. Smart contracts are digital agreements that execute automatically based on real world data. An easy way to think of them is an "If-then statement." IF condition A exists, THEN perform function B.
Let's say for example Grandma wants to make sure she never forgets to give Little Billy birthday money each year. She could write a smart contract that says IF it's Little Billy's birthday, THEN pay him $10 from Grandma's account. Once this contract is broadcast to the Ethereum network, it will execute automatically each year on Little Billy's birthday.
Smart contracts have applications far beyond improving the reliability and efficiency of Grandmothers around the world. Another simple application of a smart contract is for rental payments: IF date = 1st of the month, THEN pay landlord rent amount. Processes that currently involve manual interactions between two parties can now be automated and the value can be moved in real time over the blockchain rather than settling days later as with traditional banking.
A Real World Example
Ethereum and smart contracts are a big deal because they have the ability to usher in what's been dubbed the "smart economy" - one in which slow manual processes prone to human error and deceit are replaced with automated processes that are completely transparent and trustworthy. A real world example that typifies the new "smart economy" is a project being run by a French insurance company called AXA.
AXA offers a flight insurance product that pays out a policy holder in the event that a flight is delayed by two hours or more. It currently has a product in trial that will pay out insurance claims using smart contracts and the Ethereum blockchain. The smart contract is simple: IF flight is over two hours late, THEN pay policyholder. The smart contract is connected to a database that monitors flight times. If the database shows that the flight is over two hours late, the smart contract is triggered and the policyholder is paid automatically over the blockchain.
Without the smart contract, the policyholder would have to file a claim and wait for the insurance company's claims department to process it, which could take anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks. With the smart contract, neither the insurance company nor the policyholder has to do anything. This also creates trust between the two parties because there are no grey areas - the customer can review the smart contract prior to purchasing the policy and feel comfortable that he will receive his claim in the event of a delay.
Ethereum vs Ether
As stated in the intro, Ethereum is a platform for building blockchain applications using smart contracts. What you may have just purchased on Coinbase is called Ether, which is the cryptocurrency that fuels the Ethereum network.
Ether functions more like a digital commodity than a digital currency. Just like you need gasoline to fuel your car, you need Ether to run applications on the Ethereum blockchain. In the Grandmother example cited above, Grandma would have to purchase small amounts of Ether to fuel her smart contract that pays Little Billy his birthday money.
The Ethereum blockchain functions in the same way as the Bitcoin blockchain: a network of computers run software that validates transactions through majority consensus. The people running these computers are called miners. Bitcoin miners are compensated for their resources by being paid in Bitcoin. Ethereum miners are compensated in Ether. On Little Billy's birthday, Grandma's ether transaction fee will go to whichever miner adds the block containing Grandma's transaction to the blockchain. That miner will also receive new Ether in the process.
The same supply/demand economics that apply to commodities like oil and gas also apply to Ether. Oil is valuable because it powers many of the things we use in our everyday life - it heats our homes and fuels our engines. The more people and enterprises that rely on Ethereum based applications, the higher the demand will be for Ether which will increase its value. As with all cryptocurrencies, there's plenty of speculation baked into the price - speculation that the demand for Ether will increase in the future. Since Ether is valuable, exchangeable and transferable, certain merchants are also starting to accept it as a currency.
dApps - Decentralized Apps
Applications that run smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain are called "dApps," or decentralized apps. Just as any app developer can build apps on top of Apple's IOS operating system, developers can build on top of Ethereum's blockchain infrastructure. To the end user of a dApp, it might not look and feel any different than the apps you use today. It's the underlying blockchain infrastructure that make them different.
Since dApps function on top of the blockchain, they can be used to transfer value peer-to-peer. To return to our Grandmother example, there could be a dApp that Granny can download that lets her schedule Little Billy's birthday payments without having to code the smart contract herself. dApps are also completely open sourced so other people can access the code and build on top of them. Someone could take the code to the birthday payment dApp and add the ability for Grandma to add a note that says, "Happy Birthday Billy!" Running dApps on the blockchain also offers added security benefits. Since the transactions are distributed and encrypted across the Ethereum blockchain, there is no central place for a hacker to breach and gain access to all of the world's Grandmother to grandson birthday payment data.
At this point, I'm really beating the GrandmotheLittle Billy example to death because I think it represents a simple illustration for the kinds of applications that can be built on the Ethereum blockchain. In reality, the dApps that are being built are much more complex. Here are a few examples:
Ethereum Tokens
So now that you understand that Ethereum is a network for building decentralized applications that require a cryptocurrency called Ether to run, I'm going to introduce a confusing concept. Many dApps built on Ethereum have their own cryptocurrencies or "tokens." In order to interact with the dApps, customers need to purchase the dApp's native token.
Here's a helpful analogy I came across - when you go to a waterpark, you pay the admission fee and in return, you get a wristband. That wristband gives you the ability to ride the waterslides in the water park. With certain dApps, the token is the wristband, and a user must purchase it to interact with whatever the dApp offers.
Let's take a dApp called Golem as an example. Golem lets people rent out their excess computing power to people who need it - kind of like a computer AirBnb. To cite this article from Laura Shin, if I'm a computer graphics artist that wants to render some kind of computationally intense animation, I can purchase Golem tokens that let me tap into the Golem network to generate my animation. I then pay the people who are renting me their computers with the Golem tokens. The Golem token is a form of smart contract and this transaction is recorded on the Ethereum blockchain.
Since Golem tokens are also a cryptocurrency, they can be traded on the free market. If I'm a speculator who has no intention of using the Golem network to rent computing power, I can still buy the Golem token on an exchange in hopes that it appreciates in value. Like bitcoin, there is a fixed supply of Golem tokens so if the demand for the service increases, so will the value of the token. If I bought Golem at its original price of around 1 penny and held it to today, I would have made 35X my initial investment since Golem tokens currently trade around 35 cents a piece.
ICOs
ICO stands for, "Initial Coin Offering" which is a fundraising mechanism for cryptocurrencies which has exploded in popularity this year - the majority of them are held on the Ethereum network. Similar to a kickstarter campaign, they allow entrepreneurs to raise money for projects by giving investors an early opportunity to purchase the cryptocurrency before the final product has been built. If the project is successful, the value of the cryptocurrency will rise in value and early investors can sell it on the open market for a profit.
ICOs have stirred up a lot of controversy because they represent a risky proposition with zero investor protection. Let's say I wanted to build a casino and to finance it, I gave investors the opportunity to buy chips that can be used at my roulette tables once the casino opened. If you bought $100K in roulette chips from me and I decide that I no longer want to build the casino, you're stuck holding worthless chips. If investors don't do their due diligence, they may end up buying tokens for a project whose creators never intended on building it in he first place - the creators walk away with the money and the investors have no way of recouping their funds.
On the other hand, early investors in projects that go on to be successful have the opportunity to make enormous returns. For example, people who invested $1,000 in the Golem ICO would be sitting on $35,000 at it's current price of $0.35 - if it ever goes to $10, they're all millionaires. Another positive aspect of ICOs is that they let anyone, rich or poor get involved in early stage investing. To invest in a company like Twitter or Facebook pre-IPO (initial public offering), you need to be an accredited investor - this basically means you're already a rich person. With ICOs, all you need is an internet connection and a little bit of money and you have the potential to become wealthy by investing in the right projects.
Far From Perfect
Ethereum has the potential to change the way humans transact with one another but it is still a very young technology and it hasn't been without its problems. While the blockchain architecture underlying the Ethereum network is secure, not all of the applications built on top of it are. Faulty code can and has made applications vulnerable to hacking and malfunctions. Here are two prime examples:
DAO Hack - DAO was a dApp built on Ethereum that enabled crowd based venture capital. DAO token holders were given the right to vote on projects they wanted to support - if projects went on to be successful, DAO token holders would receive financial rewards. The DAO ICO received $168 million in funding. The DAO software was hosted on the Ethereum blockchain and was publically visible by all. A hacker spotted a flaw in the DAO's code that enabled him to route $55M in ether held by the DAO into an account that he controlled. The Ethereum team had do do something called a hard fork (something I won't get into now) to reverse return the stolen funds. Parity Wallet Freeze - Parity is a wallet where people store Ether. A flaw in Parity's code let a user delete a specific line of code that was necessary for accessing funds in a Parity wallet. This led to $280 million dollars worth of ether being frozen - it hasn't been stolen but it can't be accessed either. Parity Technologies has proposed another hard fork to correct the issue - something that is sure to divide the Ethereum community and rattle user confidence.
Despite the world changing implications that Ethereum dApps and smart contracts have, the trouble is that any programmer can write them - if they aren't written properly, they can behave in unintended ways and be exploited like in the above listed examples. Ethereum is still a very young network and security issues with dApps and smart contracts will have to be sorted out if its to reach its true aspirations.
Leading The Decentralized Revolution
“Ethereum aims to take the promise of decentralization, openness and security that is at the core of blockchain technology and brings it to almost anything that can be computed.” - Vitalik Buterin
With dApps, smart contracts and blockchain technology, Ethereum is leading the decentralized revolution. Bitcoin is the world's first decentralized currency, that operates on a global network of computers outside of central intermediaries. Ethereum gives programmers a platform to develop a decentralized version of just about anything.
Decentralized networks like Ethereum have the power to remove the intermediaries that currently exist between producer and consumer. Let's take a company like Uber. Uber is a platform that brings people who need rides together with people who have cars. To facilitate this interaction, Uber collects 20% of every ride. With Ethereum and blockchain technology, there is nothing to prevent a bunch of software developers from writing a dApp that creates a decentralized Uber. Instead of 20% per ride, transaction fees are paid to the network and the driver takes home the lions share of the transaction. Tokens can be issued that represent ownership in the network. Coders who work on improving the network can get paid for their efforts in ownership tokens. Non-technical people can come up with marketing campaigns that spread awareness for the network and also get compensated in ownership tokens. As the decentralized Uber network grows and improves, the value of its ownership token increases, rewarding the people that built it. The result is whats referred to as a "Decentralized Autonomous Organization" and theres a strong possibility that DAOs replace a lot of the world's biggest corporations.
This may sound like a radical concept but blockchain technology enables these kinds of decentralized organizations to exist - Ethereum provides the tools for people to go out and build them.
submitted by CryptigoVespucci to ethereum [link] [comments]

I'm an Identity Thief and I Want My Identity Back [Part 1]

Found this on a darkweb forum. It was posted only yesterday, and I thought you all might find it interesting. Fair warning, there's supposedly more to come, according to the comments on the forum, so this isn't an all inclusive post. I decided to paste it here in real time as it was posted instead of waiting until they were done putting it all online.
From here on out, this is a direct copy-paste of the post, plus some formatting for Reddit.
 
 
I fucked up. Badly.
My whole life has been a great, big fuckup, but this really takes the cake. I'll be dead soon, so it can't get much worse.
My name is Michael Kay, also known as Neale Keaton. If you're running your little bots trying to find my name, it'll match this post. Hello, my little darkweb stalkers.
I'm about to give you my version of events. I'm about to show you that you're being played like the gullible little basement dwellers you are.
So sit down, go fullscreen, and read this through to the end.
Because I think that by the end, you'll see things my way.
 
I'm an identity thief. Have been for four years. When I got out of the military, I couldn't adjust back to "normal" life. I got stuck in the same cycle that other vets do.
No job, living on savings from my military income, and trying to kick my drinking habit.
After almost a year, I came to a brutal conclusion that is the reality for many people in this economy: my identity wasn't worth shit.
I was only a few months away from homelessness, had no prospects at a job, and was lacking in the social etiquette needed for dating. I was an only child of two only children. Grandparents were all dead, and my parents... well, I wanted nothing to do with them. They were the reason I joined the military and left home at 18.
Again, my identity was shit.
But, my drunk and sometimes high brain had a thought that kept repeating itself.
What if I were someone else? Someone with a good background. Some work experience, proof that I was a good employee, maybe even a degree.
In the military, I got to share a training ground temporarily with some of the boys heading into the Army Cyber Command. We got a few chances to swap stories, and they talked about the things they were learning. One guy was especially cocking about how "good" he was at navigating the darkweb. He regaled us with stories about finding illegal identities and firearms online before he even joined the military. He told us that the darkweb was full of everything you'd need, legal or illegal.
With that memory in mind, that's who I turned to.
In a move that further diminished my savings, I bought myself a nice identity off the darkweb. A driver's license, social security number, the works. It came with years of taxes being paid on-time, and some falsified work experience. If I paid extra, the people I bought it from would even pick up the phone when the prospective employer called and recommend me as a good employee. They had a fake website for the company and everything.
They even told me that their services were geared towards people like myself. Those unfortunate enough to have a bad identity. People who just needed the leg up of a trustworthy social security number.
And it worked.
I followed their guidelines, and true to their word, I got a job. From my Bachelor's degree in Business Management, I landed a position as a store manager for a small retail chain.
During the day, I went to work and pretended I knew what the hell was going on.
At night, I got a couple of dated self-help books from the library so I could make it look like I knew what I was doing with all the spreadsheets, scheduling, profit and loss statements, and anything else I was given.
I worked hard. I didn't sit on my ass and let my identity carry me. I worked to earn what I'd been given, and it was the only way I could live with what I'd done.
I was told that the identity was from a child who had died at birth, yet the social security number had not been discarded. The people I bought it from had "raised" that social security number. They hacked into school databases and inserted their name and grades, and did everything they needed to make the kid look like he'd grown into the man I was.
Or rather, the man whose shoes I would step into.
That identity saved me.
But good things can't last forever.
 
While the identity gave me a second chance, it didn't give me good money. The job was good enough to subsist on, but after a year and then two years, I found that I was unable to save anything. At the rate I was going, I'd be working until I was 65 years old and yet have nothing to show for it.
Once your basic needs are met, higher needs come into play. I learned that while reading books about business. Books about how to understand your customers. Even if all their basic needs are met, people are never satisfied.
We crave purpose. We crave something higher. Something better. All the time and always. No matter how high you go, you'll always find something more to want.
The same psychology that has been plaguing humanity for thousands of years, affected me.
I didn't want to be a store manager my entire life. But I also wasn't sure what I wanted.
So, I explored. I read even more books. I'd never read that much in my life, but I was on a mission. I was searching for something, some kind of meaning. I'd been given a second chance, and I wanted to do something with it. But I had no idea what it was.
My first wrong decision, which led me to where I am now, came during work. I was manning a register while one of my employees took a break, and a customer left their debit card behind. I didn't notice it until a few customers later, when one held it up and said "I think someone forgot this."
I took it, stuck it in the bottom of the cash drawer, and thanked that customer.
My employee returned, and I went back to my office to work on more spreadsheets.
At the end of their shift, the employee, whose register I had taken over, brought me the card. I told him I'd take care of it, and took it for safekeeping.
As I turned it around in my hand after he left, my brain started to run things over in my head. I had questions.
What was to stop me from sliding this card through the card reader at a register, choosing to process it as a credit card, and withdrawing cash? Who would know? How would they trace me?
The store didn't have cameras. We were in a good enough neighborhood that my superior had decided not to pay for them.
So, in all seriousness, who would know?
Nobody.
 
My plan was devised while sitting in the office.
It was just past lunch and time for a couple more employees to take breaks. I walked over, card in my pocket, and told the cashier that it was their time for a break. They happily walked to the break room, and I slipped into their place.
The other cashier and I worked through a couple more customers, then we had nothing to do. The store wasn't busy during this time.
I told the other cashier to take some returned merchandise and enter it into the inventory computer in the back. They obeyed, and I had my chance.
Swiftly, I moved to the other cashier's register and typed on their machine. I logged in under their name. They were new, and I had just barely trained them on the system. I only knew their password because it was literally "1234567". I'd seen them type it so many times that I had incidentally memorized it. Their login was the key to my plan.
With their account open, I scanned a pack of gum and rang out the "customer." I slid the card through the card reader, punched in $100 in cash to withdraw, and waited for the approval.
Ding.
Approved.
The cash drawer popped open, I extracted a couple tens, some fives, and a 20 before slamming it closed. I snatched the receipt, stuffed everything into my pocket, including the gum, and went back to my register.
When the other cashier returned, I told them I needed a few minutes in my car. That's where I hid the gum, receipt, and cash.
On my way back in, I used my shirt to wipe the card clean of any fingerprints. I dropped it by the curb on my way into the store, stomping on it a couple of times to make it look abused.
Taking a deep breath, I walked back inside.
Son of a bitch. It worked.
 
There was never and kickback from that experiment. The customer never came to the register asking about their card, and the card disappeared from the curb outside before the end of the day. I suspect that the customer found it there when they came back for their card.
I'm willing to guess that the customer talked to their bank about the extra transaction. The bank probably refunded them and gave them a new card, and the police never showed up asking questions.
At home, I burned the receipt and the gum pack. I burned the gum pack so the barcode could never be traced to me. Just in case.
To celebrate, I used the cash to treat myself to a very expensive dinner that night.
All the evidence was gone, and I was clear and free.
And the thrill was exactly what I'd been searching for.
 
From there, I brainstormed and even researched better ways to accomplish what I wanted.
My goals were two-fold:
1) Make a decent chunk of money. Generate enough to save for long-term goals and happiness.
2) Not harm the identities of those who I used.
And, of course, not get fucking caught.
Generally, I planned this out by attacking many targets for small amounts, maybe a hundred dollars or less. If I hit six to ten targets a month, that'd be anywhere from $600 to $1000 extra a month. Which was enough.
There were a lot of technical details that I had to plan for. I couldn't keep using my store: it was too obvious and the police would be on me in a month easily. I also couldn't use the same city. Some debit cards wouldn't let you withdraw cash without a pin. I got lucky the first time. And, what if the customer didn't have $100 in their account?
I had to look at contingencies for contingencies.
I also had to set rules for myself.
Don't use an ATM. Don't use cards in stores that have cameras. Stay with crowds and look for cameras outside each store, like in the parking lots. Don't deposit the cash you took into your own bank account. Don't put it in a safety deposit box either. All kinds of rules based on my research and contingency planning.
I bought a pen-camera off of ebay which I used while going to the store. I used it to film the person in front of me obscurely. I always got in line behind a man, too.
When they pulled their card out, they often held it around their chest, like they wanted people to see their card. Rarely did people try to obscure their pins.
At home, I would pull the video from my camera for the day and hope that at least one card was legible enough that I could extract the card number, expiration date, and name.
A lot of people like to stand in line with their card on the counter until it's their time to pay. Or they hold it over the card reader like it's a race and they're waiting for the gun to fire. It's ridiculously easy for someone like me to extract that info with a camera.
I set up an account on the darkweb where I would submit the card information, and a shiny, newly printed debit or credit card would show up in the mail. They routed the envelope through a network of darkweb "MailMen" so the envelope never even used the actual postal service.
I would scuff the card up a bit, validate the data on my own card reader that I purchased through another darkweb service, and queue it up for use.
I had a queue system so the cards were never used in perfect order, and were used a few months after I had snatched their information.
I was grabbing information in stores that had cameras, so I wanted there to be time between when I grabbed it and when I used it. Sometimes this meant that the card went out of service before I could use it. But I was collecting enough cards that it didn't matter.
I had no way to know if the cards would work, so before going to pay, I would have a contact buy a song on an obscure site using the card. It was a site that didn't require the security code printed on the back of regular cards, since I didn't have those codes.
My phone would buzz after the transaction went through or failed, and I'd know whose card was next to be used. I'd get in, pay, withdraw cash, take the receipt, then leave.
After each money run, I'd burn all the evidence and hide my cash.
I had a good contingency plan for if a cashier asked for my ID. It was too expensive to get an ID for every card I planned to use once. So, I had my acting always ready to go.
"Can I see your ID?"
"Crap, that's my boyfriend's card, he's out in the car. We're just getting cash to pay the neighborhood kid who takes care of our lawn."
If the cashier asked me to go and get my "boyfriend", I'd leave the store and never come back. But they always bought the excuse. And apparently I play a gay guy pretty well. Who would've thought?
 
I know what you're probably thinking.
"God damn, Michael, get to the important parts! Blah, blah blah!"
I don't get to brag much about what I've done and how clever it was, so I'm taking my last opportunity before I'm probably shot. So fuck off.
During all of this, where it went on for three months without so much as a hiccup, I was doing other research.
I was making more money, but those needs came back again and I found myself needing more. How could I make money faster? I'd ask myself that all the time, and skim the darkweb for methods that would work for me.
That's when I turned to credit card fraud of the mail-in card variety. A new formula for making money right this second began to form.
I used a feature of the MailMan darkweb service to set up a mailing address that would forward all mail to me. Then, I went online and bought a few hundred sets of personal data that were probably hacked from some company's database.
Using this personal data, I signed up for three to four credit cards for each person. With those cards, I bought things online that I already intended to purchase for myself. Once the items arrived, I paid off the balance on the credit cards with my hard-earned money using prepaid cards that I bought with cash.
Then, after a month or two of using the card, I would withdraw $100 in cash at a store. And then I'd store the card in my hiding place, never to be used again.
If anyone ever looked at their credit reports and saw the credit card, it would look suspicious and odd, but would only be a $100 balance. They would, hopefully, just pay it off, close the card, and stop caring. Besides, my use of the card boosted their credit score. I paid the bills and fees on time, and kept the card open as long as I could afford, paying the yearly premium out of my own pocket. It was my way of saying thanks that they'd never hear.
You give me some money, I help you boost your credit score. A symbiotic relationship.
I even thought I'd earned the title of "ethical credit card scammer." No one, especially not the police, would see it that way, but that's how I justified my actions to myself.
My mistake came from not researching my "clients" before I used their identity and their card.
That's what got me caught.
But not by the police.
 
I'd gotten used to the current routine to the point where I could do it in my sleep. I was making good money, much better compared to before. I kept my job as a store manager, and it felt so much more fulfilling because I was making the money I needed overall, and had something to look forward to: the thrill of identity theft.
After some cautious planning, I rented out a nice, two-story duplex in one of my "client's" names and credit score. I kept my payments on-time and was the perfect tenant. The duplex's owner only did a soft pull on this client's credit, so it wouldn't show up on their credit report.
Regardless, I had a contact on the darkweb set up some monitoring for this identity online. He assured me that if anything went wacky with the credit that made it seem like the client was suspicious or investigating, I'd get a text. I wanted a heads up if I needed to ditch my place.
One month. It only took one month for them to find me. In the digital world, you would think one month was a long time, but it was too short for me. Too unexpected.
I was in bed, sleeping, when I heard the front door squeak open. My eyes shot open. A million fears and thoughts ran through my head. It didn't matter if it was just a thief or the FBI. Either way, the police would be involved, and I'd be caught.
I rolled out of bed silently. Watching my half-open bedroom door, I grabbed my sheets and spread them tight across my bed. I wanted to make it look like no one was home. Snatching my wallet and keys from the bedside table, I dropped to the ground and rolled under my bed. The boxes I kept under the bed for storage hid me from view once I arranged them.
Footsteps came up the stairs. I wished I'd thought to buy a gun. But buying a gun took heavy background checks, and I hadn't figured out how to bypass those yet.
Heavy boots tried to sneak down the hall. I saw two of them, one behind the other. Both black and menacing. They moved like they had training, but not much. From the way the floor bent under each step, they were both probably heavy around the belly.
The door opened as they entered the room. Upon seeing the empty bed, they paused, unsure of what to do next.
One of them whispered, loud enough that I could hear.
"Not home."
"So we wait."
I bit my lip and cursed internally. They were looking for me, whoever they were. Probably not cops: they wore jeans, not uniforms. They could be plainclothes, sure, but I just felt that they weren't cops.
I heard the front door squeak again, but the two men were too busy whispering to notice. I wondered if the door was just open in the wind.
My reply came in the form of a voice from the hall.
"Evening, fellas. Hands where I can see them."
Shit. A cop.
This guy's feet moved gracefully under him. Definitely trained.
Suddenly, the two men rushed the cop, and I watched him fall as they shoved their way past him. Through the dimness, I could see that it wasn't a cop at all. It was Jack, my neighbor across the street. He was ex-military, like me, though he'd been in the service a lot longer than I had.
I heard the front door fly open and slam shut as the two would-be thieves left the house. Jack stayed on the ground, sighing. He probably figured that pursuit wasn't worth the trouble.
I weighed my options before finally pushing boxes out of the way and crawling out from under the bed. Jack watched, surprised.
"You were under there the whole time?" He asked.
"They weren't here long, thanks to you."
Jack eyed my perfectly made bed, then where I'd crawled from.
"Smart tactic for hiding. I'll have to remember that one."
"Thanks."
We stood in the dark for a minute, feeling awkward for different reasons.
"Listen..." I said. "I'm grateful that you came and chased these assholes out, but can we not call the police? They didn't take anything, I'm not hurt, and I really don't want to deal with the hassle."
Jack chuckled. "I was about to ask you the same thing."
I looked at him in confusion. He lifted his gun, pointing it at the ceiling and showing it to me. It was a 92FS Beretta. Sleek, shiny, and well oiled.
"This girl here is illegal for me to have. I have a small rap sheet from before the military, but am still not allowed to own a gun of my own. So, I'm going to agree that we don't involve the cops."
"It's beautiful," I said, trying not to gasp from relief.
"She sure is," he grinned.
"Jack, thank you," I said, extending my hand.
"Any time," he said, shaking my hand.
 
I wondered for a few days about those thieves. There's no way they broke into my house by random chance. They were looking for me: they'd verbally confirmed that.
So who were they? Why did they want me?
I thought myself into dead end after dead end. There wasn't anything I could do until I had more information. And yet, I had no way to get more information.
I was stuck in limbo until they tried again, if they truly were looking for me, or until I could stop double checking my locks at night.
 
One night, as I lay in bed reading a book as usual, my phone rang. The duplex had actually come with a cordless phone system, which was humorous considering our cell-phone dominated world.
I answered it, not knowing who it was.
"Hello?"
"Hi, Neale. Listen, just wanted to give you a heads up. There's a weird car that's been parked outside my house for hours. People were lying down and taking a nap for a while, but perked up when you got home. Now they've got cameras aimed at your house. Don't come to the window and try to look, they'll see. I just wanted to call and tell you that before I go and talk to them."
What the hell. Breaking in is one thing, but now surveillance?
Who did they think I was?
Unfortunately, that was the question I should have pursued long before things got worse.
"Did you get their license plate?" I asked.
"And their make and model."
"Can I have it before you talk to them?"
"Sure," Jack said.
He gave me the info, and I told him I'd call him back in a bit. To his credit, Jack didn't even question what I was doing or why I wasn't freaking out and calling the cops.
I connected to Tor and sought out a darkweb site that had a backdoor into my state's DMV registration database. Only one or two states have those backdoors, and mine is one of them. Lucky for me.
I put in the license plate number and the results came back. I paid my $25 fee with the usual Bitcoin, and opened the word doc that came back.
Registered to one Charles B. Matsworth. With an address across the state from me. The database backdoor didn't transmit images, so I couldn't compare their driver's license photo with the people in the car. I was either dealing with Charles himself, or a stolen vehicle. Helpful, but also potentially not.
I hit up another darkweb site and searched for Charles. I paid my fee, then the results populated. Except there were no results. There were ALWAYS results, but this guy's name wasn't there. Which was impossible with this site. It passively picked up every name tossed around the internet and provided you with links to where it was mentioned.
But there were no results. Which means someone was actively scrubbing this guy's name from the web.
So, that's when I knew he was one of you, darkweb.
I hit redial on my home phone and got Jack back on the line. It was just past 11pm.
"Hey, Neale," he answered.
"Hey," I said, resisting the urge to peer through the blinds. "I can't look, obviously, but have you seen anything else helpful about them?"
Jack paused, probably looking out the window. "Passenger is a heavy smoker: there's a small pile of cigarette butts on his side and he's smoking one right now. They've got some Arby's wrappers on their front dash. Driver is using a telescopic lens on a pretty expensive camera. Canon, I think. Two coffee cups from a gas station in the cup holders. Car looks pretty new, just a little dust. If you took it through a car wash, it would probably shine. I'm guessing it's a new model."
I listened to him observe them, spouting off anything that he thought might be useful.
"Any of that help you out?" He asked.
"Maybe," I said, trying to think what I should do. Scare them off and let them know I'm onto them? Let them sit there and spy, hoping they don't decide to physically enter? Leave out the back? My bedroom light was on, so they knew I was home. My shadow had probably played against it a few times tonight too.
This was a situation I didn't have a contingency for.
"You should come over to my house. Sneak out around back, walk a block over, and come in through my back door," Jack said. "We can spy on the spies."
I considered it. Last time, we had scared off the thieves and not gotten any useful information. This was the most useful situation since that night. I should take advantage of it.
"Okay, I'll do that," I said. I gave him my mobile phone number so he could use that instead of the home phone.
I made my way to the back door and left, locking it behind me. Going straight back and over the back fence, I went to the next street over, then jogged three streets down to crawl through someone else's yard and into Jack's. He was waiting at the sliding glass door when I got there.
"No movement, they're still staring at the house and talking occasionally."
"Any idea what they're saying?" I asked, hopeful.
"Nope."
I walked into his living room, and found his setup. He had a pair of binoculars on a coffee table, and a few slats of his blinds were held open by paper clips.
"Have a look," he said, waving me into the room. "Need some water?"
"Yes, please," I said, picking up the binoculars.
Through the blinds, I saw the two men in their car, both heads turned towards my house. It was exactly as Jack had described. The streetlight was far away, so I couldn't make out hair colors, but one had longer hair than the other. That was about all I could make out.
Jack appeared beside me and set a glass of water on the table.
"Recognize them?" He asked.
"No," I muttered, setting down the binoculars.
"You in some kind of trouble, Neale? Borrow money from the wrong guys? Or are these just private investigators from your ex-wife trying to track you down for child support?"
Jack's tone was light and joking. He honestly didn't seem to give a shit what kind of trouble I was in.
"Not that I know of," I said weakly, turning back to the window.
"Maybe they're after the guy who lived there before me?"
"Could be," Jack said, sitting on the couch.
I turned back around to face him while he watched me with the slightest smile on his face.
"Thank you, again, for helping me figure this out," I said.
"I haven't had this much fun since my last tour. I haven't had any action since. This is exciting and refreshing, Jack. I'm happy to help."
I nodded, taking a seat as well, but keeping the window within sight.
"So, it's not money, it's not women. Is it drugs? No judgement from me, man."
"No drugs either," I said, trying to do my own thought process. For half a second, I considered telling Jack about myself. Then I realized how asinine of an idea that was. He'd probably kick my ass for stealing.
"I say we watch 'em. We won't learn anything by running out there and scaring them off. But maybe they'll do something that gives us an idea of what they're up to," Jack said. It was the same conclusion I'd come to, so I agreed.
We watched them in silence for about an hour. I was perfectly okay not talking to Jack, and he seemed okay not talking to me. We took turns at the window, and if something interesting seemed to start happening, we'd wave the other one over to look.
Nothing interesting happened until almost 1am.
They both got out of their seats and exited the car. Each one stretched, then pulled pistols out of their belts. They examined their guns, cocked them, and made their way to my house, side by side.
I waved Jack over, and he watched them try my front door, find it locked, then go around back.
"I have an idea," Jack hissed, suddenly shoving something into my hand. His Beretta.
"If they come out, open the front door and yell to me. If they start shooting, you shoot back. Give me cover to get back into the house."
"What are you doing?!" I hissed back as he grabbed at the front door.
"Getting some information!" He said before shutting the door.
I watched him drop to a low crouch and crab-walk his way to their car, which was parked at the edge of his sidewalk. The passenger window was open from the smoker, so he leaned into the car and rustled around.
I watched my house, heart beating sharply. I saw a shadow pass by my bedroom window. They would have found me not in bed by now. They could be leaving soon.
I made my way to the front door and opened it a crack.
"Jack!" I whispered. "They made it to my bedroom! Hurry up!"
I shut the door, and ran back to the window, careful not to disturb the blinds. With the binoculars, I inspected my house. The figure was still by my window, and Jack was still rummaging through the car.
The figure moved away from my window, and I dashed back to the door.
"They're coming!" I called. Jack didn't waste time. He got up and bolted for the door. I shut the front door as he entered, and we both went to the window. The men came back around my house and got back into their car.
I thought they would wait around until I came home, but the car started, and they drove away.
We both watched the tail lights disappear.
When they were gone, I turned back to Jack, who had dumped handfuls what he was carrying onto the coffee table.
"Receipts," he said. "I didn't see any badges for policemen or private detectives. Car is registered to Charles B. Matsworth, but the address is blurred out on the papers."
I blurted out half the address before I caught myself. Jack looked at me funny, but didn't ask.
"I guess grabbing the receipts was useless," he chuckled. "I was gonna say we could plot the receipts on a map and try to figure out where they came from."
"That's still a good idea," I said. "That address is for Charles, not necessarily where these guys came from."
"Pretty sure these guys are criminal. Sure you don't want to hand this off to the police?" Jack asked.
My heart skipped a beat, and I tried to sound nonchalant.
"No, I don't want to get the police involved unless it's serious."
Jack laughed out loud. "They pulled guns, then went into your house in the middle of the night. I'd say it's pretty serious, Neale."
"Okay, okay, I'll level with you," I said. "I've done some stuff and still have an outstanding warrant. If I go to the cops, I'll be arrested." That was enough of the truth to be a convincing argument.
Jack pondered that for a bit.
"What'd you do?" He asked.
"Unpaid speeding ticket," I said quickly with a shrug. "50 in a 35. That was a few months ago. If I go now, before paying the ticket, I'll probably get arrested."
Jack nodded with a slight smile. "Okay, Neale. We'll investigate it ourselves until you get your ticket paid. Then we'll get the police involved."
I swallowed hard.
I didn't intend to ever get the police involved. So I had to resolve this fast.
 
Part 2
Part 3
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