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Learn from their mistakes: 3 stories of people who fell for scams, and what it cost them

Learn from their mistakes: 3 stories of people who fell for scams, and what it cost them
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Being able to learn from your past experiences and avoid the same mistakes in the future is a great life skill to have. It's even better if you can learn from other people's experiences and avoid their mistakes.

A scam is definitely something you want to avoid before it happens to you. That's why today we're going to bring you three stories about people who fell for scams, so you can see how to avoid them in your own life.

1. Sweetheart scam

The Internet has become a legitimate place to find love for millions of people. You do have to be careful, though, because in searching for Mr. or Mrs. Right, you might end up corresponding with a scammer.

This story comes from Geraldton in Australia where a 49-year-old woman entered into a multi-month, long-distance relationship with a man named Mark Gavin Cole. They chatted online and on the phone. "Cole" even sent her long stem roses and chocolate for Valentine's Day.

Then he started sending her gifts, such as expensive clothes, handbags and watches. She thought he was being nice. However, he requested that she send some of the gifts to an address in Bangkok.

Then the woman noticed that the items were purchased with a credit card bearing her name, even though she didn't have a credit card. At that point she reported the scam to the police.

You might recognize this as a variation on a sweetheart scam. In this new version of the scam, the scammer uses the victim as a "mule" for moving stolen money or goods out of the country. The transfers are done in the name of the victim to avoid suspicion from customs or financial institutions. And if law enforcement notices, the victim gets in trouble, not the scammer.

In a more typical variation of the sweetheart scam, once the relationship is established, scammers will often spin a tale of woe about lost money, poor health or other life issues, and ask their online beau for monetary help. Or they'll say they want to come visit, but don't have the money for travel.

How successful are these scams? The FBI recently reported that in the last three years it has seen more than 17,600 reported victims with a total of $2.3 billion in losses. Learn how you can spot and avoid a sweetheart scammer.

Next page: More scams to avoid
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