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Scams 101

It's amazing how many highschool-age people get sucked into these things.
  [vote for,

Very simple really. Teach highschool kids how to spot a scam.

1) If one of the first things a 'recruiter' or 'presenter' says is "this is not a pyramid scheme/scam", you should get up and walk out. Immediately. Don't say a word, don't try to excuse yourself. Just get up and walk out. Immediately.

2) If the organizational structure that is the key to your money-making future is shaped, literally, like a pyramid, well gee go figure. It's a fucking pyramid scheme. You're old enough to know your shapes by now. Don't say a word, just get up and walk out. Immediately.

3) If the presenter has a 'wife' who is dressed like high-class call girl and keeps smiling at you and complimenting you on the most mundane things, it's a scam. Get up and walk out. Immediately.

4) If the presenter claims that he was working a 'so-called' real job making $40,000.00 a year and cutting his own hair because he was struggling to get by, it's a scam. That's actually petty good money. Get up and walk out. Immediately.

I'm sure there are other ways to spot a scam that could be added to the class, but you get the general idea. I was at a friend's apartment earlier, and she has a highschool age roommate. The roommate got sucked into one of these things, hook line and sinker, and there was a 'presenter' in the living room pitching his spiel to all her equally young and naive friends. I saw all four of the above-mentioned signs in the presentation. In addition to those, he also kept telling them that if their friends and families don't support you in this, then they don't respect you as a person.

21 Quest, Jul 06 2012

Internet Scams 101 http://www.scamwarners.com/
[swimswim, Jul 09 2012]

Vous etes ici http://www.snopes.com/fraud/topscams.asp
Now with added editorial integrity... [4whom, Jul 09 2012]


       Got my vote [+]. I always thought there should be a high school course in 'life lessons'. Things like you just mentioned plus a basic understanding of how logic and persuasive arguments function - such the straw man attack etcetera. Throw in a few other skills as how to manage a basic budget, tie some proper knots to hold things on top of the car and they'll go away with skills that will be of life-long utility.
AusCan531, Jul 06 2012

       The local high-schools have a class titled 'life skills', in which they teach things like budgeting and balancing a checkbook. Spotting scams isn't part of the curriculum. There are enough scams out there to justify a class of it's own.
21 Quest, Jul 06 2012

       It makes my blood boil, hearing about these kinds of things - horrible horrible bastards.

       This is a classic problem though, how do you prepare a young person for the rigours of the outside world without ruining their otherwise positive and optimistic outlook.

       I may be a miserable, cynical, sneering bastard today, but in my youth, I really was quite idealistic - I wouldn't have wanted to sit cynicism lessons, it would have spoiled all the fun and surprise of having my hopes and dreams trampled on quite so spectacularly later.
zen_tom, Jul 06 2012

       There's a few of the nastier surprises out there that I genuinely wish someone would have warned me about as a youth, like how political the workplace can be and that you really can get fired from a job just because the right co-worker doesn't like you. Or that having a roommate, while sounding obviously more financially secure, has a lot of risks of its own.
21 Quest, Jul 06 2012

       Hmm... rant.

       There's a million things wrong with the education system but teaching vague, diluted 'life skills' is really the wrong direction to go. The specifics of this scam-spotting course would have to be generalized to the point of being useless, since scammers will just swerve around any particular giveaway you've taught.
mitxela, Jul 06 2012

       I had some "micro-economics" courses in elementary school, but they really didn't teach anything useful (and were to early, before I had a real understanding of money). A high school level class that taught the basics of finances, managing credit, and a realistic picture of income/outgo for labor and services would be well worth the time.
MechE, Jul 06 2012

       The biggest danger is overthinking a scam. You'll lie awake at night trying to spot the catch, and the scammer knows it. They will challenge you to spot the catch, and usually they say it right in their original recruitment pitch. 'I bet you're wondering what's the catch here, right?'. If the guy says that, you know right away that there's a fucking catch that he thinks he's too clever for you to find and he's challenging you to look for it. The elusive 'catch' is the distraction he uses to pull the wool over your eyes.

       If you can tell that there MUST be a catch, then stop thinking and get out. Congratulations, you've won the game. You don't have to know what kind of scam it is to avoid it. ALL you need to know is that there IS a catch. If there IS a catch, get out.
21 Quest, Jul 06 2012

       I think a course covering a few tens of common scams would give a student a good head start in spotting other kinds. Also there are some things whole genres of scams have in common.

       For example the idea it should be kept quiet, the abovementioned pyramid structure of an organization, the claim that someone can make loads of money fast with little experience, training, or risk, or an exchange that involves someone providing something of significant and liquid value up front with collateral or promises given in return.
Voice, Jul 06 2012

       On an unrelated note someone tried to suck me into such a scheme when I was fresh out of high school. The use of basic math protected me even when I knew nothing about the scam and didn't even realize it was a scam.
Voice, Jul 06 2012

       Basic math (including, as mentioned in the post, geometry) saved my bacon a few times as well. But scams seem to be cropping up at an alarming rate these days. If it's not phishing scams, it's pyramid schemes. If it's not pyramid schemes, it's Ponzi schemes. I've often wondered if there's some scammer's handbook out there being circulated, because it is AMAZING how similar every one of the pyramid schemes I've encountered have been.
21 Quest, Jul 06 2012

       //Things like you just mentioned plus a basic understanding of how logic and persuasive arguments function - such the straw man attack etcetera.// My high school taught that! They failed to teach us about scams though, and as a result I still get occasional calls from my classmates hawking knives for Vector Marketing.
DIYMatt, Jul 06 2012

       Mathematics has never spared me from a scam.
I'm sure it would have spared many of them... but ya can't work with what ya don't got.

       Looking a feller in the eye though...
well that there's a whole different kettle of calculus.

       The only scam I've ever fallen for involved a pretty girl with a taste for expensive drinks and an Vienna nightclub owner triple-charging my credit card (this was before I met my wife). It wasn't even until I got home that it dawned on me that the girl was in on it. At the time, I was having too much fun to notice, but later I realized that she'd been ordering a drink, taking two or three sips, then pulling me out on the dance floor. This went on for maybe five hours. They were probably recycling her cocktails and serving them to somebody else. The next morning I ordered a plate of sausage and fried tomatoes and ended up having a lengthy telephone conversation with my credit card company while the café manager stood across the dining room glaring at me. I was out $650.

       I'm not sure if any class in high school could have prepared me for that.
Alterother, Jul 07 2012

       I [+]'d this. Purely because 90% of scams are easy enough to spot. There'll always be the 10% that take a bit of thought and the 1% of really clever ones, but it only takes a few minutes to warn kids about the obvious ones.

       In fact I run a very successful course to warn kids about exactly these sort of things. You too can become a qualified and certificated trainer with our global company for only €5,000USD - and that's great value because you'll be bringing in so much money that you'll need a bigger bank to put it in! Just make sure you recruit five other trainers. It's for the children!
wagster, Jul 07 2012

       Yes. And a free pen.
wagster, Jul 07 2012

       [Alterother] a general rule to know what you're buying and its price would have protected you from that scam...
Voice, Jul 09 2012

       It's quite educational to have someone spend a lot of effort trying to recruit you into a pyramid scheme. A very nice couple who we vaguely knew, once started being very nice to us, inviting us to dinner, doing us favours, etc., all as part of a plan to recruit us to Amway. As soon as we made it very clear we weren't interested, they dropped us like a stone. It was quite a lesson in the lengths people will go to to recruit new members.
hippo, Jul 09 2012

       (Tangent: does anyone know where the "101" phrase comes from?)
theleopard, Jul 09 2012

       [theleopard] It comes from "Room 101" in George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty Four" - organisers of introductory courses on topics like to allude to the terror of "Room 101" to ironically suggest that their course will be the most difficult and fearsome introduction to a subject ever.
hippo, Jul 09 2012

       // a general rule to know what you're buying and it's price would have protected you from that scam... //

       I knew what I was buying and its price. I just didn't know until the next day that they'd run my card four times for each purchase and (probably) forged my signature on the other three slips.
Alterother, Jul 09 2012

       Ha! Amway is the organization the folks at my friend's apartment were recruiting for!
21 Quest, Jul 09 2012


       Most US colleges number their courses starting with a subject code, then with (nominally) the first number referring to the difficulty/year, and the last numbers indicating (roughly) complexity in that year. Thus CHEM 101 or BIOL 101 would be the introductory courses for these subjects. CHEM 112 would still be a freshman course, but a slightly more complex or specialized one. CHEM 264 would be a sophmore level course, but specfically the follow-on to 164.
MechE, Jul 09 2012

       that's not a scam, it's fraud
Voice, Jul 09 2012

       Oh, good. That means I've never been the victim of a scam, then. What a comforting thought.

       I was thinking of it as a scam because, once I'd thought about it, I was pretty sure they'd used the pretty girl to sucker me in.
Alterother, Jul 09 2012

       Snopes 467:
4whom, Jul 09 2012

       Go on...
Alterother, Jul 09 2012

       Well you can't Snopes 419 anymore, so given [MechE]'s explanation we move onto Snopes 467 , which would be same year, more complex and 2 down in the ninth? This idea is what Snopes does. Rather point the kids in that direction. Snopes have already done all the editorial manipulation.
4whom, Jul 09 2012

       I thought Snopes just bunked/debunked rumors and urban myth.
Alterother, Jul 09 2012

       No that's mythbusters. See /fraud/topscams.asp ( will post link)
4whom, Jul 09 2012


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