Society has an interesting love-hate relationship with crooks and cheats. Obviously, nobody wants to fall victim to a con. We're wary of even answering our phones these days for fear of getting tricked. And yet we idolize the con artist, sometimes enough to let them go viral on the internet, as is the case with Joanne the Scammer, or that guy who scammed free Starbucks for a year. And sometimes we like them enough to elect them leader of the free world.
Inevitably, at some point in each of our lives, our generosity, greed, or genitals will get the better of us, and we too will fall victim to someone's scheme. All we can do is try to learn from the experience and hope the damage isn't too substantial.
We asked people for their most embarrassing anecdote of falling for a cunning ruse, so you can avoid making the same dumb mistakes they did.
My group of elementary school BFFs decided to switch our Neopet passwords as the ultimate sign of trust and friendship. One of the girls was so greedy about being the richest and best. All her Neopets were treated with baby paintbrushes and fairy paintbrushes (100K Neopoints per brush), and all her Neopets had really expensive Petpets.
One day, she took all my Codestones (valuable for leveling up Neopet stats for battle) by putting them on sale for really cheap on my shop and then going into her own account and buying them immediately for the cheap price. I knew it was her because a few of my valuable items suddenly went on sale at her shop for market price. I was devastated because, though I couldn't prove she did it, I knew she took a lot of valuable merch from me.
Then, months later in a forum, I remember this guy posting online about how he was going on vacation and needed a "babysitter" for his Neopets. I went to his shop and saw he had some Codestones. I got greedy and thought I'd swindle someone how my friend had swindled me. I agreed to babysit for him, but, in order for him to "trust" me, I had to give him my own account password too. For some reason, it never crossed my mind that someone could be trying to scam me, too. I gave him my password, and, within seconds, it had been changed. All my Neopoints were gone. All my valuable items were gone. He even took my Neopets' Petpets for himself.
I spent the next month writing angry messages to him and to Neopets corporate about what happened to me to no avail.
- Erica, Orange, California
Got conned out of £30 ($38) once, because a woman said she was stranded and needed a train ticket home. She told me a full life story and seemed so genuine. She had her backstory studied as fuck. Even had a fake nurse's badge.
I could almost taste the good karma, but the next day, I saw the same woman tell the exact same story to another person. She didn't remember who I was and actually began to tell me the same story about needing train money when I approached her. I lost my shit at her in a busy street.
- Andrew, Leeds, UK
A guy pulled up next to me and told me he could fix the dents in the door of my Jeep. All it would cost me is $100. I don't know why, but I agreed, and he immediately pulled out this wax compound and began smearing it all over the dented areas. He said it was "to protect the paint from cracks." After that he took this little shim device and slid it into the door's panel and started pushing it against the dents. To his credit, he was actually able to un-dent them a little bit, but it was clear that once I washed off the wax, which was just there to gloss over the angles of the dents and smooth them out, the car would look basically the same as before.
Once he finished his "work," I protested paying and told him that I knew he hadn't actually fixed it and smudged some of the wax off to prove my point. But then I realized I was alone in the middle of nowhere with two guys (his friend had come out of the passenger seat to watch) holding tire irons. So I handed them the money and got out of there. I tried to rationalize my cowardice by telling myself it was the holidays and I was choosing to give them a donation in the spirit of Christmas.
- Rory, Park City, Utah
My brother and I were on vacation in Paris and swinging by the Moulin Rouge. Right on the front sidewalk, we saw a large gathering of roughly 15 people, betting on an interesting coin game. A variation on the shell game you might be familiar with where you have to pick which coin has the white symbol from the three available after the set of them get shuffled around a bit.
People seemed to be making some money here and there, and I was following the white mark and guessing correctly each time, so I considered placing a bet of my own. The guy beside me asked me if I wanted to go in halvesies with him, to reduce the risk. I declined, as he seemed a bit too shady, and I figured I'd be safer betting alone. I placed a $100 bet that I immediately lost after a heretofore unseen flurry of coin movement.
I was 16 years old, in a foreign country, and blew my entire wad of spending money in just ten seconds. Only later did I realize that all 15 of them were in on the world's oldest and most obvious scam.
- Clarence, St. Louis
My girlfriend and I were getting ready to leave for dinner when our doorbell rang. At the door was a young guy, early 20s, with a lanyard around his neck with his picture on it. We get a lot of house renewal (windows and door) solicitors stopping by, so I was ready to tell him I can't afford $15,000 for new windows and decline his offer of a free in-home estimate.
Instead, the guy told me he was a convict who was hired by a company that hires convicts and gives them a second chance by selling magazines door to door. Yes, pretty much the same as in Office Space. He also told me up front that the magazines were crazy expensive due to the nature of running a business that solely employed convicts. The list of available magazines was printed on sheets of paper, rife with spelling errors.
Since I was a longtime Maxim subscriber, I figured I could help the guy out. I bought a $60 subscription to Maxim. I paid by check. He told me the processing time would be about two months before I received the first issue and left.
I never got the magazines. To this day, I squirm during the scene in Office Space. I have never renewed my subscription to Maxim. I'm still on the fence as to whether or not this guy actually did me a favor in the long run.
- Bill, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
My friend Sean and I were visiting New Orleans for the first time, and, on our last night there, we decided to do the touristy Bourbon Street stuff. We started with the "Hand Grenade" grain alcohol cocktails that come in a big plastic cups. These get you incredibly drunk while simultaneously branding the words "easy target" on your forehead.
After a few blocks of walking around, sipping our drinks, I hear a guy whisper "Gs for 15." I was fiending for some pot, so I took him up on the offer and gave him a $20. He gave me back a nug wrapped in brown paper with no change.
Soon after that, a big guy came right up to me and said "I bet you I can tell you what city and state you got your shoes in." As I'd purchased my shoes online, I figured this was an easy bet and took him up on it. He informed me that I "got" my shoes right there in New Orleans, Louisiana.
I didn't have any cash on hand, but the guy said he could take me to an ATM to get some to pay him for the bet I'd lost. He and his friend escorted me and my friend to a bar with a machine inside. The bartender immediately asked if the guys were hustling us. When we affirmed that they were, he had a bouncer come from the back with a broom to shoo the guys away. We hid out in that bar for a while, having a few more drinks, before heading next door to another for a change of scenery once the coast was clear.
The only other people in the bar were two girls. Sean struck up a convo with them, and they agreed to have drinks with us. The bar was cash only, so I went to the ATM in the back to get some cash. One of the girls came over to me and put her arm around me while I withdrew funds, and she fiddled with the jukebox next to us. What I didn't realize at the time was that while she was asking what song she should put on, she was also taking note of my PIN as I entered it.
We had some shots, and then they suggested we go to a more local spot to party further. They'd drive. I offered some of my weed for the journey, and one of the girls immediately took note of the packaging and said, "Oh, honey, no. Don't smoke that. That's dirt." I unfolded the packet to find clumps of grass and sod.
We all decided to spring for some harder drugs instead, and the girls drove us to a convenience store where Sean got cash from an ATM for coke. We picked up from a dealer the girls knew, and they started giving us fingernail bumps on the way to the "local spot." For everything else that had been going and was about to go wrong, the bright spot was that it ended up being actual cocaine.
Once at the destination, the girls dropped us off by the front door and told us to wait in line while they parked the car around back. As we shut the car doors and they sped off, we quickly realized they'd ditched us. Soon after that, we figured out they'd taken our debit cards, phones, and even Sean's passport (he's an Irish citizen). It would be a massive understatement to say that flying home the next day was a bit tricky.
- Brad, Pittsburgh