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The Art of the Steal: Lessons From a Hired Scammer

By Marcus Chan - 2012-03-07T01:44:23Z

Photograph by Howard McAlpine/Gallery Stock

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Red Flags Over Red Lights

The scam: It's after 5 p.m. and people are driving home from work. The scammer parks near an intersection that has red-light runner cameras. Once he spots a car that runs a light, he follows the car home. If the car is parked outside, the swindler takes a picture of the license plate.

Days later, the driver gets a letter in the mail that says the driver ran a red. To make the letter convincing, the date, intersection and photo of the license plate are included. The letter says the driver must pay the fine online, using a credit card. The website that's listed is bogus and the thief makes off with the card number and other personal data.

The lesson: Be suspicious of any letter that says you owe money. Another red flag is if you're required to pay online. Pick up the phone and check it out, says Stickley. Just make sure you call the right number (likely not the one listed in the letter). Stickley used this scam on his friends -- who surprisingly, remain his friends.