17

We have a lot of questions asking "is this a scam", and in most cases the situation and the answer are the same. Someone giving me free money and:

  • Asking me to pass some of it some someone else;
  • Asking me to move it through my personal account for some reason
  • Pay a small fee to receive it

Should we try to write a canonical question and answer to cover these situations, so that we can close future questions as duplicates?

  • It's not always a scam. – Valorum Jun 11 at 20:44
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    Maybe. But when it is we can close as duplicate of the question that says it is. – DJClayworth Jun 11 at 21:34
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    @Valorum Sure. You also don't always die if you're in a plane crash and fall for 3 km (see Juliane Koepcke ) – ChatterOne Jun 12 at 11:52
  • I remain certain that on at least one occasion it's turned out to be legit and everyone said it wasn't... – Valorum Jun 12 at 14:27
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    The trouble with saying "it's not always scam" is that people will be led to think "Maybe this is the time when it isn't a scam", just like saying "You don't always die if you jump out of a plane without a parachute" might lead people to try it, with similar consequences. – DJClayworth Jun 12 at 14:36
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    Maybe instead we could just add a new "Yes" close reason, and just not use in the mythical one-off case. – Matthew Read Jun 12 at 15:40
11

Yes, but it should be short, because the people asking the questions probably have very short attention spans.

For example, take the latest sugar daddy question. Does anyone really think this is a question posed by a scholar of logic? I almost think the question itself is a scam, laughing at serious, literal us.

On English Language and Usage, we get some extremely basic questions, badly posed, with no evidence of research. But these are posed by earnest students of English as a second language, often burdened by a semi-literate teacher, and one should be thankful that one is not among this group, and try to help them. This is done by some with a short answer to the Q in a comment and then immediately downvoting and VTCing, or if the question is elementary but shows some research or thought, voting to migrate to English Language Learners.

Is rapid downvoting and VTCing impractical here? Why did the sugar daddy question get a net of 12 upvotes and a star? How many downvotes did it get besides mine?

I suppose all this attention was because it got on the HNQ. Any way to prevent idiotic questions from going on the HNQ?

This is perhaps the fourth such question I have seen since becoming fairly active on this site, and I am getting tired of them. Not to mince words, they are a slum neighborhood in an otherwise great site.

  • 3
    Moderators can manually remove questions from HNQ. Could you start a meta discussion specifically about establishing a policy that we should always do it for questions about scams? If it's agreed I'd certainly be happy to implement that, either when I see things organically or in response to flags. – Ganesh Sittampalam Jun 12 at 11:42
  • @Ganesh Sittampalam Sure, but I can't do it before mid-afternoon. – ab2 Jun 12 at 12:02
  • It'd take a few days for a discussion anyway, so this is something for future questions not the current one. – Ganesh Sittampalam Jun 12 at 12:04
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    “Sugar daddy” seems to be the ultimate clickbait title phrase. But honestly, the question is causing no problems. Yes, if you can find an exact duplicate (which I don’t think would be too hard), feel free to suggest it. And downvoting is certainly appropriate if you don’t like the question. It is also very easy to ignore questions that don’t interest you. But the site benefits from participation, and it is good to see people participating on questions like this. I bet the HNQ is what brought you here from your other sites, and we’d love to have more users like you here. – Ben Miller Jun 12 at 13:51
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    I agree. It is beyond my comprehension why anyone would upvote that question. – quid Jun 12 at 18:29
8

We do

I agree that something needs to be done. The similar question was discussed nearly 3 years ago, and was part of the motivation for creating the FAQ which sits in Meta. As I look at that, we have 4 questions for scams there. If I recall correctly, these were chosen to try to cover a few different types of scams which would cover some large percent of the new questions. (If we need to edit any of these 4 or add other examples that differ, let’s do it) This is what the FAQ shows -

Scams

The FAQ, in my opinion, serves two purposes. To offer common questions, which can be used as the target for closing new ones as duplicate, and as a place a new member can be pointed to see examples of our best work.

2

The issue to me is that to the question "Is this a scam?" the answer is yes. It really borders on being a stupid question, every time. The answer is yes and the person asking already knows the answer and is really just looking to be reassured.

The question could MAYBE be worth answering if the person actually cared what the scam was; but these are one word answer questions.

"My stranger sugar daddy wants me to forward money to some other stranger, is this a scam?"

Yes.

It borders on offensive to even expect anyone to read the whole scenario laid out in the questions. It has nothing to do with personal finance apart from involving money by simple virtue of being a scam. Should I buy a size 10 shoe or size 11 if I normally wear a 10.5 but this brand doesn't make half sizes? Is equally close to being a personal finance question as it takes money to buy shoes.

These questions wouldn't be irritating if they were less frequent. It hardly feels valuable to entertain a bad question from a 1 rep newcomer who will never come back after being reassured of the scam they've found themselves involved in.

If immediately deleting these waste of time questions is untenable then having "a mark as duplicate" catch-all is the next best thing.

  • 1
    In effect, this suggests that we add "scam / fraud" to the off-topic list. I'd be happy to see an overwhelming agreement from members to do just that. Unfortunately, not likely to happen. In my answer above, I suggest there's not quite one catch-all, but probably a few variations to cover most of these. – JoeTaxpayer Jun 14 at 11:03
  • I understand your frustration with "Is this a scam" questions, but your analogy doesn't make sense to me. Scam questions are of course related to personal finance; it involves money, banking, payments, etc. They are and should be on-topic. Deciding which shoes will best fit, on the other hand, has nothing to do with personal finance. I don't understand the comparison. – Ben Miller Jun 17 at 2:39
  • Also, remember that you are not required to read or interact with any question you don't like. It was suggested elsewhere that you shouldn't downvote questions that are from new users and are duplicates, but I would say that if you really think that an on-topic question is a ridiculously stupid question that is not an asset to the site, feel free to downvote it. Downvotes will keep it off of the HNQ and even hide it from the front page in some cases. Let others answer or hunt for duplicates if it bothers you. I don't answer these types of questions much anymore for that very reason. – Ben Miller Jun 17 at 2:44
  • Finally, remember that the answer to these questions is not always "yes". It would be a disservice to ban them completely. – Ben Miller Jun 17 at 2:45
  • I think this is an agree to disagree situation. I don't think they are or should be on topic. It's a disservice to not opine on "what's a good broker for to trade stocks?" type questions as well. I will definitely continue to downvote these ridiculous questions when I bother to click on them. Our newest scam question is about an unsolicited offer to buy someone's business. – quid Jun 17 at 17:18
2

If a canonical Q&A is created, I suggest it be in the form of outlining the 'smell test', similar to what I've laid out in my answer here https://money.stackexchange.com/a/88217/44232.

Focussing on the mechanics of how any given scam works would not be broad enough to cover any possible solution; instead such an answer should focus on laying out the principles that allow the general reader to immediately see that a scam is in place. Links below each section to typical questions with these situations may also help.

1) No one will give you money for nothing - if a 'job' would take you 5 minutes to complete, it won't earn you a full day's wage; if you've never met someone they won't give you their inheritance; and no 'investment manager' is able to earn guaranteed high returns on your quick investment.

2) Never transfer money on someone else's behalf - even back to that same person! This can be a sign of money laundering, or an attempt to defraud you (see links to check clearing fraud).

3) Online evidence is easy to fake - websites, photos, documents, anything you see online can be created to give you a false sense of security. Don't believe anything you get from someone you've never met.

4) Anyone who opens up, out of the blue after never having met you, to offer you money [either as 'job offer', 'investment plan', 'inheritance', or anything else] is a scammer.

etc.

1

If we attempt to write a fake, broad, canonical “Is it a scam?” question with a “Yes, scam” answer, I think it will be difficult to write one that is convincing and covers a wide variety of situations.

The details of scams are constantly new and changing. If our canonical question is too detailed, it won’t match the new questions and will cause new OPs to think, “That doesn’t match my situation.

If our canonical question is too broad, new OPs will look at it and think, “But my contact said this, which isn’t mentioned here, so does that change things?”

Closing as duplicate is tricky. If there is any room for the OP to think that the duplicate question doesn’t match his situation, then it is probably better to leave it open and offer a new answer.

  • Ben, I agree with you. I don’t think one catchall answer is the solution. To my thinking, we should use the frequently answered question list and just do our best to Ed a couple more as appropriate. There certainly isn’t one kind of scam nor should there be one kind of answer. But again, if five good answers can be used to close 90% plus of the new scam questions, That would be a good solution – JoeTaxpayer Jun 15 at 13:04
  • @JoeTaxpayer Yes, closing as duplicate is a good thing to do where appropriate, but as I said, it is tricky to do so in a way that leaves the OP satisfied that they truly got an answer to their question. – Ben Miller Jun 15 at 13:31
  • @JoeTaxpayer Also, it does require work to hunt for and evaluate duplicates. Your FAQ makes it a little easier, but take a look at the latest “sugar daddy” question. I posted a link to search results for every “sugar daddy” question and personally invited people to close as duplicate in the comments (as did you), but still there are no votes to close as dupe. Is it because there are no true duplicates to this one, or because people just haven’t taken the time to look? (For me, I can tell you that I haven’t taken the time to look.) – Ben Miller Jun 15 at 13:35
  • Between these two meta-answers I believe I have made my position clear. I’ve seen you offer a number of objections and warnings. All are valid, but I don’t see you offering a proposed solution short of “business as usual“ – JoeTaxpayer Jun 15 at 13:39
  • @JoeTaxpayer In my other meta answer, one of my points was that this “problem” is not really a problem at all. So “business as usual” might be the best approach. – Ben Miller Jun 15 at 14:05
  • @JoeTaxpayer If a solution has negative consequences, it might be worth it if the problem it is trying to solve is bad enough. In this case, I haven’t yet seen anyone explain the issues that our “problem” is causing. – Ben Miller Jun 15 at 15:35
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    @BenMiller while I'll agree that the negative consequence to this "problem" is negligible the same logic could be used to excuse any off topic question. What's the downside to answering when someone asks for your favorite brokerage? Because my answer is biased to my opinion or maybe in the future my opinion will be different or in the future that particular broker may not exist? That's a pretty negligible negative consequence. But the positive is that maybe the answer would have been helpful (though off topic) for the person asking the question. – quid Jun 16 at 1:43

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