4 Outrageous Scams Consumers Fall For

You’re not paranoid. There are really people out there who want to get you.

A man with phone resting on his forehead. Looks like bad news.
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"Legitimate companies usually won't contact you out of the blue on LinkedIn to offer you the job. They might ask you to apply for an opening or schedule an interview, but never to offer you the job without talking to you first," Sutton Fell says.

For job seekers now wondering if they should ever trust anyone they meet via social media sites, the answer is yes, but be careful. This particular job seeker was interviewed over the phone, Sutton Fell says, but the now-obvious red flag is that the so-called employer wanted to hire her right away.

"The job seeker who was scammed on LinkedIn told us that the scam company asked her to make a decision on the spot and required her to start immediately, rather than giving two weeks' notice to her current employer," Sutton Fell says. "Scammers like to use urgency like this to knock you off-guard and cause you to make rash decisions before really thinking them through."

The utility scam. Many consumers have probably heard that if their utility company calls – or any company, for that matter – and requests personal information, stay away. But Steven Weisman, founder of scamicide.com, a blog that offers information on scams, says that during the "polar vortex" in early January, consumers were receiving phone calls from so-called utility companies and were told that they were behind on their payments and their utilities would be shut off unless immediate payment was made using a Green Dot MoneyPak card (a favorite tool of scammers).

All of which may sound plausible enough if you're behind on your electric bill and scared of the heat going out during a raging winter storm.

It's worth remembering this scam since some meteorologists are predicting another polar vortex before the season is over.

The something-is-wrong-with-your-computer scam. People have been duped by this one for a while now, but it seems to be making a comeback, according to Steven Benario, a product manager at Ufora, a data company in New York City.

[See: 10 Saving Strategies That Can Backfire.]

"I've actually personally seen two instances of a scam going around wherein someone calls the victim claiming to be Microsoft technical support and convinces the victim that their machine is insecure," Benario says. "In both cases, the victim then gave a credit card over the phone and authorized about $100 in charges while the scammer remotely controlled the computer to 'fix it' live."

Of course, the victim is paying the criminal to do nothing – while giving away credit card information. But it's easy to understand how people allow themselves to become victims with a scam like this. Con artists exploit everyone's fear of being conned.