3 Signs You're About to Be Scammed

Red flags are often ignored. Would you have fallen for these cons, too?

Sketchy man showing dollar bills
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When Goldberg told the tennis club owner what happened, he replied, "That's nothing. You wouldn't believe what this guy got me for."

Why the red flag was ignored. Goldberg thought he was dealing with a friend, or something close to that. One can't blame Goldberg for dropping his guard, given that he had known the guy a few months. Still, it was a bit brazen for the tennis instructor to ask an acquaintance to co-sign a loan. Didn't he have a relative or close friend who was also a successful businessperson?

The red flag. You're selling merchandise, and the prospective buyers are giving off a grifter vibe.

What happened. In 1988, Jeff Critser was a 21-year-old college senior at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., when he decided to sell his 1977 Volkswagen Rabbit. After listing the car for $1,200 in an advertisement, he received an inquiry from a middle-aged couple and met them at the bus station downtown.

"They looked at the car and asked for a test drive," recalls Critser, who is now 47 and lives in Cary, N.C. working in sales.

Critser was fine with test drive, but oddly enough, the shadowy duo didn't want him to drive with them.

Critser was smart enough to suggest that he make photocopies of one of their licenses and a credit card before handing over the keys. But "the moment they got in the car, I immediately got an uneasy feeling," Critser says.

He watched them drive away – and 45 minutes later, still watching and waiting, realized he had been had.

[See: 10 Warning Signs of Identity Theft.]

At least Critser was insured for theft. But his insurer sent him a $600 check and not the $1,200 he had been hoping for.

"I never saw them again," Critser says.

Why the red flag was ignored. The middle-aged couple had years on Critser, and he wanted all of this to work out. He also probably – even if just subconsciously – didn't want to lose a sale after the effort of coming downtown. But the fact that they wanted to meet at a bus station should have been a sign that they weren't locals.

In any case, while it would have been smart for Critser to have told the couple he had second thoughts about selling and left with the car, it was just as well that he didn't insist on riding with them.

As a police officer told him, he could have put his life in danger since they turned out to be criminals. So if you're in deep and believe you're moments away from being conned, occasionally it may be safer and smarter to allow yourself to be taken for a ride – or in this case, letting a criminal take the ride.