The easiest people to rip off are the young and the elderly. Young adults are just starting to integrate into the adult world and older people are trying to keep up with technology that seems to never slow down. Every year there’s a new scam, or a twist on an old one. That’s why although I won’t be able to list each one, I can try to talk about the ones I know to better prepare you all.
The majority of these is what you may have already guessed – pyramid schemes! These will draw you in with promises of money, perks, recognition, job flexibility, etc, but requires you to draw in others. It will involve a product like knives, juice, protein powder, books, makeup, or whatever niche you’ve found yourself into.
Now some of these will seem like you’re truly just doing sales with a commission. The part where you buy the product then sell it for profit isn’t the bad part. In fact, that’s what almost all merchandisers do. The bad part is them making you believe you can sell enough to profit. What ends up happening is that you buy the huge minimum amount of the product, sell a few around your neighborhood then lose steam. Now at a loss, you turn to gathering referrals to try to make up for the few hundred you just blew. Now it’s your job to try to get as many people hooked and buy the product and try to trick them into thinking this is a money maker.
I’ll admit, there are some who can succeed, but they are not average people, and in the end you might have made more money with a part time job.
Next up targeting college students are fake recruiters. These people will seem like totally normal recruiters working at a small company you haven’t heard of, but then you think, “I’m young and inexperienced. Maybe this will be a good place for me.” They claim that you’re a great fit for their role and company, despite you not remembering ever sending out your resume, but hey maybe they found you on LinkedIn. You do a quick screening interview and things seem normal, and then they hit you with “We are happy to offer you a position at ABC Company. To start your training, go to this website and register. It will only cost $200 and this is a one time purchase.” Here are ways to identify this sort of scam:
- You got a job offer from one short online or phone interview. A legitimate company would never put you on payroll that quickly.
- Your job description isn’t clear.
- They are making you pay a large sum of money upfront. (Does not count uniforms depending on your situation.)
In the end, there’s no job and after you pay, the “recruiter” will disappear.
Fake scholarship letters are also a common scam that targets all students. If you get a letter or email saying you received a scholarship from some place you’ve never heard of, yes, it is too good to be true. This is the equivalent of your mom insisting she won a lottery for a $2,000 Amazon gift card from an email in her Spam folder.
“But what if?” Usually a quick Google search of the organization name will handle that, or contact your college to ask if they can verify that it is a legitimate scholarship. You should never be giving out any personal information to an organization you don’t know.
Fake Honor Societies
Another scam targeting high school students and college students are fake honor societies. Some of you may already be aware of them. They’ll have some fancy official-sounding name and website and letterhead and gush about how they’re so happy to invite you in… for a small fee of a few hundred bucks. Don’t do it. There’s no network, there’s no extracurriculars, no way to make you a shoo-in for colleges or jobs.
One thing I particularly hate is the National Association of Professional Women. This organization claims to help women, but is actually led by men and does absolutely nothing that they claim to do. Their membership fees are $199-800 and they call to try to get the highest price they can from you. Their practices were so outrageous that they had to change their name from International Association of Women to NAPW. Don’t fall for it! Anyone who is willing to be your mentor you can find at your school, city, or LinkedIn!
The rich foreign student tutoring scam is a newer one I came across. You’ll be approached by someone claiming to have a young family member (niece, step son, granddaughter, etc) who is visiting from a different state/province/country and is looking to get short term tutoring in certain subjects while they are visiting. Sometimes the fake student will have a caretaker like a nanny or older sibling with a bank account.
The first trigger is that the person approaching you will ask for your rate and subjects even if you’ve clearly listed it on your postings. The second is going into detail about how the student is not from the area and is looking for short term tutoring. The last part is there is a third party that is mentioned but seemingly has nothing to do with you yet. After determining your correct rate, time, and location, they will send you a high amount of money.
For example, if your fee for the week of tutoring was $120, they will send you $1200, claiming they accidentally added a zero. They’ll apologize for the trouble and ask you to subtract your fee and send the remaining $1080 to the third party (nanny, sister, whatever) and give you their money info, reason being it’ll make it easier for them to use the money for living expenses for that month anyway.
This is the scam: the money isn’t real and your bank will realize it the next day and it will bounce back. But if you immediately sent the money “back,” you may have sent money either from your personal account, and/or overdrawn and got hit with overdraft fees. By the time you realize this and contact your bank, it’s too late.
As time passes, I’ll definitely be providing an update to this list! In the meanwhile, stay safe and don’t ever give out any personal information!