online scams

Online Scams: The top 5 from a Veteran Cop

Online scams: the top 5online scams

The birth of the internet almost 20 years ago has ramped up the ingenious ways online scams are carried out. As a veteran cop, I have seen every possible scheme and hustle that has been hatched by these keyboard hucksters.

Although these online scams showed up on day 2 of the internet, most have been refined with great success in the past 15 years.

As a cop, I am always amazed at the schemes that people will fall for. I am in no way belittling or talking down to anyone
that has fallen for these. My goal is to make you aware of these online scams.

There are literally a ton of online scams out there. Most of them perfected by the Nigerians. They really are the Super Bowl Champions of the internet fraud and online scams universe. Some of them are even quite funny.

All of these online scams have one universal thread running through them.

Greed. And money for nothing (yes, I turn that song up every time I hear it too).

I have picked the ones that I believe are the top 5. Keep in mind that these online scams are always being tweaked and changed as to avoid detection. One version of a trick or ruse today may become obsolete as the scammers are masters at evolving their scams to fit in with current events.

Note: this post contains affiliate links 

1.  Nigerian email scam

Probably my favorite scam of all time, the Nigerian email scam has been around for some time. It probably reached its most prevalent right after the Iraq War. I remember responding to these calls about a suspicious email they had just received. I was shocked over how many people actually fell for this one.

online scam

The scam went something like this;

An email is received by the victim from a Marine Platoon Sergeant currently serving in Iraq. The email went on to say that he (the bogus Marine) and his platoon had just captured and secured one of Saddam Hussein’s opulent palaces.

The Marine goes on to say that while clearing the palace, he and his fellow Marines had discovered over 10 million dollars of American money stashed in a vault.

Do you see where this is going??

The Marine goes on to say that his commanding officer has allowed him to keep the money but will not be able to carry the cash through customs (or some variation of that).

The Marine then tells the victim that they will give them a substantial portion of the millions if they would only do what?

Let them put the cash in their bank account until they re-deploy back to the states.

 2. Work at home online scam

This is another highly effective scam that fools its victims into quitting their day jobs. It usually starts with an email that offers out of this world returns on easy tasks that can be done on your couch.

The more complex schemes usually lure their prey to a video attached with the email. In the video, the scammers set the trap by asking several questions.

Do you like slaving away at a 9 to 5 job? Are you tired of just getting by and never having enough money? Would you like to be your own boss and have the freedom to live life by your rules?

After being told what types of jobs they can choose, from envelope stuffing to coupon clipping, the victims are then given one last instruction. This last instruction is downplayed as almost an afterthought. To initiate the start of their new life and newly found freedom, the victim is asked to either make a purchase or send start up money.

Really folks, it’s just that simple.

And people fall for it every day!

 3. The Craigslist hustle

Craigslist is the one stop shop for almost anything you can think of. It is also the vehicle by which many crimes have been committed. From murder to simple theft to everything in between.

If Craigslist were a state, its capital city would be called “Fraud”. In other words, “buyer beware!”

I have worked and responded to numerous crimes that all started on Craigslist. The one that I remember the most was a classic example how Craigslist is used as a solid hustle for the uninitiated.

Several years ago, two teenage boys, two very green, naive teenage boys, decided to travel several hours to our jurisdiction. They were looking to buy a classic Ford Mustang from the seller who had put the offer up on Craigslist.

The boys were overcome with excitement.

It didn’t even phase them that the seller would accept cash only. Or that the meeting would take place at night in the hood. The two teenage boys met with the seller and wouldn’t you know it. The seller pulled out a gun and calmly put the barrel of 9 mil in their faces and took off with their money.

Not surprisingly, this case was never solved.

4. The charity scam

This one scam is tops in my book as far as downright despicable. I’m talking real scum of the earth, bottom of the barrel type criminal here people.

This scam typically involves a recent disaster or some plea for help. They usually disguise themselves as a legitimate organization.

They are anything but legitimate.

I remember the weeks following Hurricane Katrina. When those levees broke, the hearts of many Americans broke as well.

Everyone wanted to help.

The sheer scale of the online scams perpetrated from this disaster were disheartening. Many people, so eager to help there fellow Americans in need, were duped by these scammers who showed no mercy in bilking them of their money.

Most charity organizations have well established websites set up to take donations in the aftermath of one of these emergencies. Almost none will conduct email campaigns asking for money. If you receive an email asking for a donation, please DO NOT click make payment or give them your banking information.

Your best practice is to go directly to the organizations website and donate there.

5. Family member hostage online scam

This is another clever, horrible way, in which these scammers play on human emotions. This scam was recently shown on 60 minutes.

Here is how this one plays out;

The victim receives either a phone call or an email demanding money. The caller then urgently tells to the victim that they have their family member, usually their son or daughter, held captive. They give the victim specific instructions on how the money is to be sent and where.

They are then assured that their son or daughter will be released once the money is sent. Oh, and the most important nugget to the success of this scam is..

If you call the police they will kill your hapless family member in the most horrible way you can imagine

Shake my damn head. 

It’s a scam. A trick. A ruse. A hustle.

And it works way more than you would expect.

This is why hardening your security settings on your social media accounts is so important. The scammers will use the intel from your sites to gather the information they need to exploit you. For example, they see that you post your cell phone number on your page.

They can also surmise that you have a daughter in college that, according to you, never answers her phone and…

..BOOM! A slick and effective hustle has just been hatched!

The scammers will even go as far as having an actor playing the part of your helpless daughter in the background pleading with you to send the money.

These are just 5 of many online scams that are used to dupe you out of money or property. This article is not meant to scare you from ever using the internet again. My goal is to bring awareness to you and your family so that you can avoid falling prey to these types of online scams.

If you know of other online scams that you feel should be mentioned please share. I look forward to hearing from you.

Some of you have reached out and want to share your story with others. A blog like this one is a great way to reach those who could benefit from your experience and interests. Blogging has changed my perspective and my life.

It could do the same for you.

I recommend HostGatorwhich in my opinion is the simplest and fastest way to get you started on your blogging journey. If you have any questions about starting a blog or a website, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or email me directly at



A 23-year veteran police officer, Bart spent time as a patrolmen and a violent crimes detective (specialized in strategic intelligence and research analysis). Aside from this experience in high profile case investigations, he has received training from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in Advanced Intelligence Analysis. Bart also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and Strategic Intelligence (Magna Cum Laude) from Liberty University. As a father of four, husband and law enforcement officer, he wants to share his knowledge on safety with you. Bart is also a contributing writer for Law Enforcement Today.


  • Marilyn Woodall January 12, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    Another good read Bart. It amazes me how many people fall for this stuff but the worst part is you can tell them it’s a scam and they still do it. Why? I think it’s denial and greed. Keep’ coming Bart.

  • Bart Proctor January 12, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks Marilyn. The ones that carry out these scams are very good at playing on peoples emotions. Unfortunately, you are right when the thought of an easy buck clouds the common sense of those who fall for these.

    • Angie March 2, 2017 at 7:19 pm

      Emotions sell. Many will use Google voice numbers as well. Another one we see (living in tourist hot spot) is false vacation rentals. show up to learn they have no room/condo/house and everything us booked our the times the cost. Almost all use PayPal (which I believe to be scammer paradise as well).

      I get calls, texts and emails all day every day from these scanners trying to verify my identity(for sale or theft I imagine). Change my numbers constantly after our states dept of revenue was hacked and my information began being used 7 years ago. Had no clue till irs contacted me about reported income being wrong. Turns out 5 people in different states were using my ssn info to work and luckily one was dumb enough to report earnings. They are smart they knew their was no central system to check and I literally had to contact every state to see if my info had been reported within that jurisdiction. Very frustrating and minimal credit lines opened, so thankful for that but will now be lifelong battle.

      • Bart Proctor March 3, 2017 at 7:45 am

        Thanks Angie for the comment. I don’t think people realize how devious these scammers can be. What is also surprising is how well they adapt to efforts trying to stop them. My hope is that education, at an early age, will deter someone from going through what you have. Keep your head up and keep fighting. Have a great day Angie and be safe!

  • Ty March 13, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    Thank you for this article, I came across this on Pinterest. I have received emails before that are similar to the marine funds, the only difference being that it came from a chest that was part of a seizure of a seizure from a ship or something to do with some non existent foreign bank and they will even use names and office addresses of those who run agencies such as the FBI, CIA and IRS. I was just told to ignore them. Other email scams I get are things like qualifying for a grant or I won a $100 gift card for places like Costco, Walmart, target and Amazon, funny there’s no Costco where I live. And a few calls I received claimed that my recent trip qualified me to receive a trip such as a cruise or to Disney, funny because I hadn’t taken any trip recently. Calls like that just want to drain your bank account.


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