People Who Were Scammed Are Sharing The Infuriating Details Of What Happened

Recently an article in the Cut entitled “The Day I Put $50,000 in a Shoe Box and Handed It to a Stranger” went viral, telling a first-hand account of a personal finance columnist who was convinced by a cold caller claiming to be a CIA agent that she needed to give him money or risk her accounts getting frozen. It started a massive conversation about scammers, who are far more numerous and dangerous than most realize.

Woman on phone visibly upset

They usually pull their scams off over the phone or online, but sometimes the scammers are people you know in your own life.

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You may think it could never happen to you, but last year alone scammers bilked a staggering 10-plus billion dollars from Americans. So we asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to share their disturbing brushes with are their stories:

1."My aunt Pat thought she had a Facebook friend and they arranged to meet and go on a holiday together, mind you she only knew this lady over Facebook and didn’t even know her age or anything about her. She agreed to meet and go on a holiday to Spain (we live in the UK) that would cost around £4—5k. This ‘lady’ said that she would book the flight and everything they would do so Pat sent £4-5k to this lady's bank account. Long story short, she never went to Spain and her ‘friend’ never spoke to her again."


2."A scammer sent me an email saying he had hacked into my computer and made a video of me masturbating to porn. He said he would send this video to ALL my contacts if I didn't send him money. The thing is, I'm asexual and sex-repulsed. I never, ever watch porn so I could tell he was lying. I laughed and never answered. And to all the people who get that kind of email, just don't answer. It's a trap."


3."I got a call from the local police department saying that I had a bench warrant out for my arrest after not showing up for jury duty. They told me that I had to stay on the phone and could not talk to anyone and if I immediately got in my car and came to the police station that I would be able to put my case forward and hopefully get it taken care of but I couldn’t get off the phone in case I was fleeing. They knew my address, and when I stated I had served recently they knew the dates. I had two children at home and was scared that going through the court process to get this situation resolved would take so much time and money. I work full time and I was so exhausted that I got totally sucked in."

"The person on the line started getting aggressive and would yell when I asked questions or seemed to push back. When I wrote the number down and called it on another line, the local police voicemail picked up. It felt very elaborate. Once I got into the car they had me stop by a local store that sold a certain type of cash card and they were claiming that was the only way to pay them since the police don’t accept cash to pay off the warrant while they investigate the mistake — as I hadn’t received a notice of selection. I decided on a Walmart that I knew would have a police officer. When I arrived I found the kindest Walmart employee who quickly realized I was being held ransom over the phone. They held my hand and walked me to the officer who assured me that I didn’t have a warrant and took the phone. The second the person heard police on the other line they immediately hung up.

I am a highly educated individual. No, they didn’t get any of my money but the stress and time taken away from me cannot be fixed and it was incredibly scary. I can see how anyone can fall for this."


Woman on phone appears stressed

4."My grandmother got a call from an unknown number, she answered and a caller claiming to be me said I was in Mexico for a quick last minute vacation but had been kidnapped and needed money for ransom. Then another guy told her not to call the cops or they'd kill me...all while the actual me was sitting next to her. She hung up and told me what happened, and I took her cellphone and blocked the number. The nerve of some people, preying on the elderly, thankfully she's wasn't as old then, but I am sure other little old ladies would've fallen for that."


5.My father-in-law, who is in his late 60s, got a call for a week visit to stay in San Lucas, Mexico. For just 35,000 pesos ($1,800 US) he could have the two bedroom suite at X hotel and all inclusive for up to four people. After about 10 minutes on the phone he was given a bank account number to transfer the money to and told he would receive an email with the bank info and then an email with the confirmations. He got the first email with the bank info and sent the money, then got the confirmation with the hotel logo and everything. He printed the email and two weeks later flew to Cabo from Mexico City. The hotel had no record of the reservation and had no idea who he spoke with or what the bank account number was. He ended up spending the night in the airport as there were no rooms available that he could afford at that time."

"We contacted the bank and they said the account was closed. And that they had no idea what we were talking about even though we sent copies of the transfer and the account number. They said the account never existed. But they would look into it. That was the last we ever heard."


6."My auntie doesn’t really know how to work a phone and isn’t confident with any type of technology. She is an older lady and quite shy so she will just go with what other people say. One day she got an email from her 'bank' saying that someone had been on her account and spending her money. They asked for her account details like passwords, card number, CVC, etc. Later that day she got a message warning her about spending over 5k a day — she had been scammed."


Pile of 'SCAM' warning signs with a fishing hook symbol, depicting dangers of financial fraud
Dragon Claws / Getty Images/iStockphoto

7."Luckily I didn't get scammed, but I could have been. My mom's laptop wasn't working so I went online to find a company that would help fix computers. I found some 1-800 number and called them up. I paid with a credit card, and the issue seemed to be taken care of. To my surprise, I received a call from them some time later on telling me they'd been audited and were deemed to have overcharged so they were told to refund their customers. They asked me to pull up my banking information while they were in my computer and this is when I had a sinking feeling. I immediately logged out and disconnected them, told them not to worry about it, and immediately called my bank."

"Looking back it's such a stupid mistake to make. Being newly sober I was still overly trusting and learning how to trust my gut instinct, and in hindsight, I should have probably scanned their website a hell of a lot closer."


8."I had my card cloned around 10 years ago. Unfortunately for the scammer, I was poor so they could literally only take £10 out my account. I would have paid the £10 to see their face when they saw the account balance."


9."My mom got scammed by a financial advisor we considered a close family friend so it was somewhat reasonable she trusted him without questioning his advice. But she is also too trusting and doesn’t have a gut instinct for when something should be questioned. He offered her an opportunity to invest in a building development that would guarantee a significant return — she had no idea what kind of development and just sent him $10,000 because he claimed to be investing in it himself. A few months later he was under investigation by the licensing board, got arrested, then charged with defrauding clients for hundreds of thousands by claiming he was investing their money and just taking it for personal use. He’s about to be sentenced."

"She did get a call from his attorney because he is being ordered to pay restitution so she might get lucky and get back her money."


Moira Rose from Schitt's Creek sits at a table, expressive, with text "IT'S A SCAM" overlaying the image

10."I'm a graduate student, and my supervisor who is absolutely amazing once got an email from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police saying he is being investigated for child pornography and pedophilia, etc. He did laugh and give the scammers credit for 'targeting the statistically correct demographic group' (middle-aged white men) lol."


11."Someone called me claiming to be a sheriff’s officer telling me I had a warrant out for my arrest due to a failure to appear as an expert witness. I was already under a lot of stress that day (was in the ER for pain after a car accident the day prior) so I wasn’t as discerning as I probably would have been otherwise. I was CONVINCED that if I didn’t do what I was told I was going to go to jail. At one point my husband took my phone (I was on speaker phone with the guy) and hung up and I freaked out at him because I was so scared of getting arrested."

"It was finally resolved for me when he went to the sheriff’s office and confirmed that there wasn’t an officer by that name or badge number and that they’ve heard of this scam numerous times before.

After that, my husband took me off of a lot of our joint bank accounts because he said he couldn’t trust me anymore. Things surrounding money have been really tense ever since."


12."Two years ago I followed a lot of ferret accounts on Instagram, and struck up a 'friendship' with a guy who had a lot of pictures of his ferrets on his account. He treated me like a guy, especially shortly after I came out as transgender to my unsupportive parents. One day, the guy asked for $150 for his ferrets' vaccinations, telling me that if he fails to make the payment by the following day, his pets will be taken away. Although I asked him for papers from the veterinarian to make sure, my foolish 19-year-old self still sent him the money."

"Later, when I realized thanks to a friend that he was a scammer, I reported him to my bank, but they failed to return my money to my account. Thanks to him, I no longer trust others, and even sending money to reliable accounts triggers my trauma. I would give anything to go back in time and tell my younger self to think twice. Last year, I reported him to the Federal Trade Commission, and I pray every day that he will eventually get arrested and punished for what he did to me."


An older person looks stressed checking a smartphone
Jason Khoo / Getty Images

13."I'm from China, and 10 years ago I was an international student in the US. At the time we used a platform called QQ for online communication. Someone either faked my account or hacked my account and told my grandparents I got in trouble with the police and needed money to get out. At the time I was in an archaeological field school in the middle of central Illinois valley so communication with family was not daily. My grandparents believed the scammer and, on top of sending money, they were obviously extremely worried. People who prey on vulnerable elderlies deserve a special place in hell."


14."My aunt was scrolling through Facebook when somebody messaged her named 'Brad Pitt.' It was not Brad Pitt, it was a fan account. But she didn’t know that. Anyway, she ended up sending $2k to this person and has been going around telling everyone that she is friends with Brad Pitt."


15."My partner got a call from our bank (the actual phone number as it was spoofed). We were out shopping and it was in the evening (should have tipped us off!), so he's talking to the 'rep' on the phone. She's telling him there are issues with our joint bank accounts and security and she just needs a bit of security info to fix it. In retrospect, I think she was leading for more info than she was providing, but she had some basic info like our names, phone number, address, etc. He mistakenly gave her some security info but at the same time was feeling weird about it, as was I, so I called the bank on my cell at the same time after about 10 minutes."

"The call I had with them was a bit similar to the person who called my husband, so these scammers were good (I suspect a former employee of the bank helped them with the script). They told me to hang up as they would absolutely never do this type of call, had no record of this issue, etc. so we cut the call off and bounced. We immediately locked our cards and accounts down online and the next day, went into the bank to close those accounts and open new ones, get new cards, the WORKS. I can only imagine what would have happened if I didn't make the backup call and/or we hadn't sprung right into action. They almost got us for SURE so hopefully this story helps someone else not get tricked, too. ALWAYS TELL THEM YOU'LL CALL THEM BACK AND CALL YOUR BANK."


And lastly, this explanation of how this can happen is important for us all to remember:

"It's so easy to slap your forehead and wonder how people could fall for this, but remember that scammers are good at what they do. The secret of their success is to get you up to an eleven, an utter panic. At that level of anxiety, rational thinking goes out the window and they make sure to keep you there, and stress urgency. They don't let off the brakes, they don't let you catch your breath, they don't let you stop for a moment and think."