People Share the Dumbest Ways They've Been Scammed

It can happen to anyone… or can it?
Man crying on sofa
Photo: Getty Images

We’ve all been scammed in some way – sometimes in tiny, almost comically nothing ways, and sometimes in painfully embarrassing, crushingly expensive ways. It seems scams are woven into the modern experience now – you get someone in [insert provincial city] calling you every other day, peddling life insurance or some other made-up thing.


Take the viral first-person essay written by Charlotte Cowles, The Cut’s financial advice columnist, in which she admits to putting $50,000 in a shoebox and giving it to a stranger on the street. Some people say they would simply never think the CIA would ring them up asking for $50,000, and they certainly would not heed that call. Others are saying you would only get that admission out of them even if they were tortured, or that Cowles’ privilege conditioned her to think that the CIA might really want something to do with her.

And so while the message of that piece – that this could happen to anyone – has somewhat fallen on deaf ears, it’s important to remember that, you know, scams do happen. And sometimes… s ometimes they’re fucking ridiculous. I’ve been scammed somewhere between two and four times, depending on if a couple of them were, in fact, scams. And the amount of fraud in the UK more than doubled to £2.3bn in 2023, according to the accounting firm BDO. To find out all the utterly stupid ways you can get scammed, read on.


‘When I shook hands with them, they were really clammy and awkward’

“I was looking for a short-term office job. The job advert didn't require any experience, and it was paid relatively well. You had to go in person to a really shit, horrible part of Salford to hand in your CV and £20 in cash to process the application, which is never a thing. I dressed quite smart and was a bit nervous for it, thinking it would be an interview.

“It was these two men who looked like serial petty criminals. They'd put on their nicest clothes, but that was like a fucking Carbrini jumper. I was trying to make a good impression, and asked them a little bit about the job, and they were really, really shifty. When I shook hands with them, they were really clammy and awkward and I was just like, ‘This doesn't feel right’. But I’d already given them my CV and the £20 note. They didn't have any questions for me at all; they were just trying to get me out. They’d rented a shit office in this basically empty block. As soon as I left I was just like, ‘Yeah, that feels very dodgy.’ I just knew I was never gonna hear anything from them again.” – Dom, 30, London

‘Her bio said she was from “Norwhich”’

“I was low on cash and ebb. This girl followed me (or I followed her, not sure!) on Instagram who seemed to be turning people’s investments of, say, £100 into £500 or more. She was posting ‘evidence’ of this on her story – the pictures always looked like screenshots, and they always featured physical cash. Her bio said she was from ‘Norwhich’, which is an incorrect spelling of where I’m from. When I asked her what school she went to, I don’t think she really nailed that one either. Her language was off, like that uncanny feeling you get from bots. 

“I was willing enough to give it a try though, so I sent her £50 to invest for me, except you actually send the money to some guy (who presumably is the scammer). My £50 investment had somehow skyrocketed to like a thousands-of-pounds windfall. I just had to send another £200 (which eventually became £674!) or so to unlock the massive sum. I obviously blew past many red flags up til that point, but this one was just too glaring. It was very much a case of ‘I’m just doing my job’ and ‘I don’t need your £50!’, but she never gave it back lol.” – Me, 30, London


‘I was trying to scam EA’

“I got scammed at David Lloyd, the health club, when I was six – some older kids got me to swap my £1 for their 50p. When I was about 14, I was also trying to scam EA by pretending I'd been scammed, in order to get better players for FIFA Ultimate Team. But then I gave my log-in details to scammers pretending to be EA.” – Callum Davison, 25, Manchester

‘He had two eyes that were simply independent of each other’

“I was 19, backpacking around southeast Asia with three mates. We’d been fairly lucky with our approach to drugs, and we’d always basically been fine bar buying an actual rock once, and one massively dangerous incident involving a handgun. We’d just arrived at our hostel in Ho Chi Minh City, and my friend got talking to a squat Vietnamese man on a moped selling weed. His T-shirt was riding halfway up his body and he had two eyes that were, directionally speaking, simply independent of each other. It was a bait, touristy road, but it seemed like such an impossible put on that we figured he couldn’t be a policeman.

“I didn’t even want the weed per se, but we all followed the moped man to a quiet street to pick up. I guess when we verbally agreed to the deal, the man brandished a laminated ID (we never actually inspected the ID!) and said ‘I’m a cop’, in that kind of made-up, ersatz American way. He then escorted us one by one to the ATM, where we each had to get out $100 to pay him off. I went last, and so I had to pay him $200 for some reason. His eyes somehow corrected themselves once he revealed himself – I didn’t know that was possible.” – Me, 30, London


‘I had a sinking feeling that I'd made a bad call’

“Bitcoin had skyrocketed from £60 to about £20,000. The seven or eight coins I previously owned had either been spent or seized by the FBI on the former Silk Road, but I still had about 0.15 coins on the local trading platform, which was worth approximately £3,000 – so I tried to sell it.

“The buyer traded through the online escrow service which meant the trading platform would hold the bitcoins until the seller notifies the platform that payment has been made. The buyer explained that their bank had a high security system which meant transaction clearance would take up to a day, but that they were happy to show the payment had been made. I was used to trusting the buyers/vendors as their rating are built on trust – this person had a good transaction history and they seemed transparent, so I conceded and released the bitcoins.”

“I waited for the money to arrive and as the day went on I had a sinking feeling that I'd made a bad call. I followed up but, when I realised I wasn't going to get a response, I knew I'd been fucked over. I'd just given away £3,000 to a stranger.” – Winston, 29, London

‘I liked the deal so much I agreed to purchase two!’

“A professional-looking gentleman was delivering flat-screen televisions in my neighborhood. As I passed him, he stopped me to tell me about a fantastic deal his company was running on those televisions. Large, high-end flatscreen televisions going at cost, for only $200. He opened the box he was currently delivering and showed me the TV. I liked the deal so much I agreed to purchase two! He pulled two boxes out of his truck and was even kind enough to place them in my house. He shook my hand, said ‘thank you’, then drove away. I opened one box to swap my old TV out, only to find a very heavy oven door. $400 for two oven doors… Surprise.” –  Michelle Parsons, 65, Sacramento, California 

‘I was endlessly roasted for bringing in oversized, bootlegged AirPods’

“This happened during my freshman year of high school, when AirPods were first starting to become popular. Everyone else was getting them. I didn’t have a job yet, so I tried to find the cheapest ones available. I kept seeing $100 AirPods until I found myself on AliExpress, which had them for $50. This should’ve been a blatantly obvious scam, and I don’t know how I didn’t consider that. I went through with it and they arrived around two weeks later. At school I was endlessly roasted for bringing in oversized, bootlegged AirPods.” – Jonnathan Josias, 19, New Jersey

‘He was in trouble and needed money’

“Getting out of a bad marriage and raising my children on my own, I hadn’t really had the time for myself. Then my daughter expressed her desire for me to find someone, and suggested I try online dating. Then I met David. He made me believe I was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He said he would support me and take care of me, but that he was taking a business trip to China.

“Numerous weeks into the relationship, I woke to a letter – he was in trouble and needed money. We had some intense conversations; 24 hours of him begging, crying, and ultimately trying to manipulate my empathy – I blocked him. My feelings got the better of me because a couple of days later we resumed the relationship. I contacted the American embassy in Beijing to get him some help, but also to find answers for myself. They couldn’t find anything on him entering the country or being in trouble with the authorities there. I had a hacker check where the communications from David had come from. They originated in Nigeria.” – Nella Larsen, 61, Utah