The 15 greatest scams of all time (2022)

World's greatest scams REVEALED: The £1,000 iPhone app that does NOTHING, popcorn with a 1,275% mark-up and fake TV show phonelines that go direct to conmen

By Daily Mail Reporter


Published: | Updated:

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It's the time of year when we're lured to the sales with the promise of products at a knock-down price. But are those bargains really as good as they seem? Turns out not. Half the time we're getting diddled by dodgy deals that are hardly any cheaper than they were to begin with. It's an utter swizz - and it's not the only one we're subjected to.

Prepare to be enraged as we bring you ten shopper shakedowns that'll make your blood boil...

1. Some very unAppy customers

Would you pay $999.99 (£599.99) for an iPhone app? Presumably it would have to be a very special app. One that would, at the very least, be able to predict stock market fluctuations, or clean your house?

You’d probably be a bit disappointed if it turned out that all the app did was show a glowing red gem in the middle of your screen.

'Not for everyone': To be fair, this $999.99 app did say in the blurb that it had 'no hidden function at all' - but only those with more money than sense made the purchase. Apple pulled the app from sale after 24 hours when only eight had been bought

But that’s exactly what the I Am Rich app did. Launched in 2008 and marketed at the highest price allowed for an app, it was only available for 24 hours before Apple pulled it. But in those 24 hours, eight people bought it.

Two of them asked for a refund but that still meant six people paid up for it (you could buy 869 copies of Angry Birds for that!)

2. Paying a fortune for hot air when you 'pop' to the cinema?

Got a cinema visit planned? Chances are you’ll splash out a fiver or more on a tub of popcorn to scoff during the film - and you won't think twice about it. But you might be more reluctant to hand over the cash when you hear quite how much over the odds you’re paying for it.

These days even the smallest bucket costs around £4 which, when it only contains around 8p worth of kernels, is horribly steep. In fact, even when you take into consideration the cost of overheads - salt, sugar, cooking, staff wages, ground rent, rates etc – the conservative estimate is that cinema popcorn sells at a staggering 1,275 per cent mark-up.

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Some sources say that the box it comes in costs more than the popcorn inside. Next time we’ll be smuggling our own in.

The 15 greatest scams of all time (1)

Cinema popcorn sells at a staggering 1275 per cent mark-up, with some sources saying that the box it comes in costs more than the popcorn inside

3. Cashing in on BGT and I'm A Celeb voters' fat fingers

Did you vote for your Britain’s Got Talent favourite this year? Were you doing your damnedest to ensure Joey Essex got a bushtucker trial in I’m A Celeb? You’d better hope you dialled correctly because otherwise you might just have been lining the pockets of some very clever crooks.

In a scam that’s so fiendish you’ve almost got to admire their cunning, one company bought up a whole load of numbers that were almost identical to the numbers given out on I’m A Celebrity and Britain’s Got Talent.

Designed to take advantage of callers who misdialled, the viewers who called the numbers got a message that said ‘Thanks for voting’ and were charged £1.02 plus standard network charges.

The company behind the con has since been fined £6,000 and ordered to repay anyone who asks for a refund.

4. The great sales scandal

It's the time of year when sales frenzy strikes. But before you snap up that dubious shirt no one else wanted anyway or put down a deposit on a kitchen that's apparently going for a song, bear in mind that a sale isn't always a sale.

According to the law, a 'sale' item only needs to have been offered at the older, higher price for 28 consecutive days in the previous six months, so it's easy for firms to find a store in a remote location (where little is sold anyway), whack up the price for 28 days, then 'slash' the cost and market it nationally as being on sale.

Planning to buy your dream kitchen in the January sales? Make sure the price you're paying is genuinely reduced - and wasn't merely artificially inflated in the run-up to Christmas

In fact, last year, one comparison website found that Homebase, Wickes and Magnet had cranked up the price of their kitchens by up to a whopping 130 per cent in the run up to Christmas so when they went 'on sale', they were actually only a fraction cheaper than they had been originally.

So if a kitchen's on your shopping list, either check out which shows you how prices have fluctuated over the previous three months, or nip to B&Q who promise that they'll beat the price of any other kitchen and bathroom on the market. More money for that slap-up celebratory dinner when it's finally been fitted!

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5. A £145 Monty Python ticket? That'll be £1,300, thanks

You find out that your favourite band is playing a stadium tour next year. Determined to get tickets you’ve got three browser windows open, your mobile and your landline ready for action.

As soon as they’re released you simultaneously call the box office, press redial or get ‘held in a queue’ while your fingers are flashing across the keyboard trying to bag tickets.

But within minutes all you’re seeing is sold out signs.

Monty Python tickets were offered on third party ticketing websites at higher than face value after the official ticket offices sold out in moments

So are the tickets in the hands of fans? Hardly. Check seat resale sites like Seatwave, and you’ll find that touts, who have wily ways of circumventing ticket buying rules, are already offering the seats you wanted at a gob-smacking mark-up.

Take the recent Monty Python shows. Top seats – at £145 plus £16.75 booking fee – disappeared within seconds, but those very seats were on sale at for £1,295.64 per ticket. A walk has to be REALLY funny to justify those prices.

6. Sexist skincare - or the Scandal Of The Pink Premium

Ladies, we hate to break it to you, but when you buy toiletries you can expect to be charged a pink premium on everything from razors and perfume to deodorant and moisturiser.

Recent research shows that despite being virtually identical – except for the smell and the packaging – women can expect to pay up to 75 per cent more than men for the same products.

A well-known razor brand was found to be selling pink versions of the product at £4.39, while over in the men's toiletries aisle the same product - two blades, aloe strip - was going for £3.65.

Shoppers are paying a so-called pink premium on beauty products as identical razors - two blades and an aloe strip - are offered at different prices depending on whether they are in the men's aisle or the women's aisle

Shave gel for men from another big brand cost £2 for 200ml, while for women it was £3.39 for the same amount - that's a 70 per cent mark up. It's a stitch-up!

Almost all big high street firms and brands were implicated - and their justification for the discrepancy was almost uniformly pathetic.


Tammy Wynette wasn’t wrong, sometimes it’s hard to be a woman.

7. Honey by any other name doesn’t taste as sweet

For years honey was just honey – yes,you could get orange blossom or lavender honey, but it was just stuff you shoved on toast.

The 15 greatest scams of all time (2)

They estimated that, worldwide, around 10,000 tons of bog-standard honey is being sold as manuka honey

That was until the world decided that manuka honey – produced by bees who feed on the manuka tree, found only in Australia and New Zealand – was deemed to be The Best Honey In The World, with apparently almost magical qualities.

OK, maybe not magical. But apparently excellent for treating wounds and meant to have antibacterial properties.

As a result manuka honey costs quite a bit more than your common or garden honey. You can get honey as cheaply as 29p for 100g, but manuka honey can cost as much as £25 for 100g. Leaving aside whether or not you believe in the magic of manuka, the problem is that you might not actually be getting what you think you are.

Honey head honchos in New Zealand estimate that around 1,700 tons of the stuff are produced there every year; the problem is that in the UK alone 1,800 tons of ‘manuka honey’ is sold every year.

They estimated that, worldwide, around 10,000 tons of bog-standard honey is being sold as manuka honey, meaning someone somewhere is getting a sweet deal – just not the poor suckers who aren’t getting what it says on the jar.

8. A bitter pill to swallow: Why DO we spend eight times as much on branded painkillers?

When you’ve got a pounding headache do you reach for the unbranded paracetemol, or instead plump for Anadin or Panadol?

If it’s the latter, you’re probably feeling pain in your purse when you don’t need to. Take a quick look at the Boots website and you’ll see that 16 of your basic 500mg paracetemol cost just 19p.

But the same number of Anadin – exactly the same drug, just in snazzier packaging – cost more than seven times that at £1.45.

Nurofen's Express caplets cost £3.10 for 16, or £2 for the normal caplets, while a pack of unbranded Ibuprofen - the active ingredient of Nurofen - costs 40p. That's means at best Nurofen is five times more expensive; at worst, almost eight times.

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That said, if you have been stung for pricey pills, it might be consolation to know that some research has shown that, thanks to the placebo effect, some people do perceive branded painkillers as being more effective.

9. (Not so) cheap flights... and you'd better not try to check-in at the, erm, check-in desk unless you want to pay £70 for the privilege

How delighted we all were when the likes of easyJet and Ryanair swooped onto the scene, promising us international flights at a fraction of the price of the likes of BA.

But it soon became apparent that a cheap flight wasn’t actually a cheap flight after all. Leaving aside the horror of the airports that are about as close to the centre of town as London is to Birmingham, the cattle crush of boarding (no boring allocated seats here) and the filthy aircraft (no time for things like cleaning when you’ve got about five minutes between arrival and departure) it became clear that there was a price to pay for such bargain basement flights.

The 15 greatest scams of all time (3)

Ryanair charge an extra 2 per cent to pay by credit card. Checking a bag, sir? £15. Select a seat? £10

One of the worst offenders is Ryanair. A flight to Genoa in February is £16.99 – want to pay by credit card? That’ll be an extra two per cent. Checking a bag, sir? £15. Select a seat? £10.

Then once you get to the airport if you haven’t remembered to print your boarding pass, it’ll be £15, and woe betide those who don’t check in online, as it will cost a whopping £70.

They'll be charging to use the loos next.

Once you’ve paid £127.83 for your £16.99 seat, you could have bought two and a half £49 flights with BA.

10. The incredible shrinking chocolate bar, or how we're paying 20% more for every gram of Snickers

Nope, you’re not imagining it, your favourite chocolate bar really has shrunk in size.

Both Mars and Snickers bars have been reduced by more than 10 per cent because the company behind them promised that all their chocolate bars would have a maximum of 250 calories.

That means a 58g Mars bar is now a 51g Mars bar, while a 58g Snickers bar now weighs in at 48g.

So far, so public health aware – pat on the back and all that. There’s just one problem. The recommended price has stayed the same at 51p. You’re basically paying 20 per cent more for each gram of chocolate.

(Video) Inflation: The Biggest Scam In The History Of Mankind - Hidden Secrets of Money Ep 4

Leaves a bit of a bitter taste in your mouth doesn’t it?


Who is the most known scammer? ›

Charles Ponzi

Nonetheless, Charles Ponzi is widely thought of as the “original Ponzi scheme”. His scam centred on the postal service, at a time when it had developed international reply coupons (IRC) which allowed a person in one country to pay for the postage of a reply to a correspondent in another country.

What are the 4 most common scams? ›

Common Scams
  • Advance Fee Scams. ...
  • Tech Support Scams. ...
  • Phishing. ...
  • Emergency Scams. ...
  • IRS or Government Imposter Scams. ...
  • Foreign Money Exchange Scams. ...
  • Counterfeit Cashier's Checks. ...
  • Bogus Debts.

What will 2022 scams look for? ›

Top scams of 2022 you need to know about
  • Scams often work, get money from victims. But the truth is that it often works, just like hundreds of new scams targeting people this year. ...
  • LinkedIn scam. ...
  • Subscription renewal scam. ...
  • Voice mail callback scam. ...
  • Amazon scams. ...
  • Text message scams.
Aug 9, 2022

What are the latest scams 2022? ›

Many of the scams in 2022 are variants that have been around for years, but here are the top five hottest scams throughout the year so far.
  1. Cryptocurrency Scams. ...
  2. Online Shopping Scams. ...
  3. Employment Scams. ...
  4. Romance scams. ...
  5. COVID-19 Scams.
Jul 19, 2022


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