) is a bad deal. Usually it refers to an incident in which a person pays too much for something. A ripoff is distinguished from a scam
in that a scam involves wrongdoing such as fraud
; a ripoff, on the other hand, is in the eye of the beholder. A scam might involve, for instance, a scheme in which a person pays $20 for a startup kit related to stuffing envelopes for a living, but the kit never arrives; upon receiving the money, the recipient flees. A ripoff, on the other hand, might be a business opportunity
in which a person pays $375 for bulk vending
machines worth $75. The fact that the advertised product actually arrives – even though it is worth far less than the purchase price – makes it a ripoff, not a scam.
In a related meaning, a ripoff is a blatant or unscrupulous copy or imitation. This is also known as a knockoff. In both senses there is an associated verb "to rip off", but the location of the preposition differs between the two meanings:
In one of his stand up comedy routines, Dennis Miller jokes about seeing an ad in the National Inquirer: "Learn how to avoid ripoffs - send $5."
In South Africa 'ripping off' can be making a joke of something that a person does on a regular basis.