So you’ve just discovered you were scammed out of $1,000. You are feeling emotional and upset, and understandably so. You post about it on Twitter, notifying your friends and family so they don’t become a target of the same scammer. Then, out of the blue, you are contacted by a “recovery agent” claiming they can get your money back. That sounds great…but it’s yet another scam. Don’t let bad actors add insult to injury—here’s what you need to know about “recovery scams,” and how to avoid them.
How do recovery scams work?
After being victimized by the first scam, you will be contacted by phone call, email, or via social media by someone claiming to be a government official, attorney, or a “recovery agent.” They might claim to have your money in hand already, or be working with official agents or a court to distribute the recovered funds. Getting your money back, they tell you, will only require you to pay an upfront fee. Once you’ve been roped in, they will likely come back to you seeking more handouts to cover additional “fees” or to pay taxes. The scammers will keep asking your for money until you are wiped out or finally realize what’s going on.
Recovery scammers prey on your frustrations at having been ripped off by promising to fix everything for you. They may claim not only to be able to get your money back; if your online accounts were hacked, scammers might claim to be an “account recovery agent” experienced in wresting a compromised account out of the hands of bad actors.
These scammers are quite prolific in the realms of cryptocurrency, a relatively new market with a lot of unexperienced users who have become easy targets. The scammers will seek out people who tweet or post publicly about being ripped off in order to locate their next mark.
Scammers might also find seemingly gullible victims via a “sucker list”, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Circulated within the scamming community, these lists will include much of your personal information, including your social media handles, your phone number, your email address, and more. (This explains why you might be contacted soon after falling victim to a scam, even if you didn’t post publicly about it.)
As we have advised in the past, unless you personally know the person you are transferring money to, never send money through Zelle, PayPal Friends and Family, or Peer-to-peer Venmo, as there is no way to get money back from these services if something goes wrong. This is especially risky if this person claims to be able to give you back your account or have the ability to refund your money.
Can anyone helped me if I’ve been scammed?
The sad reality is that there is no scam recovery police, and law enforcement generally has no duty to recover money on your behalf, particularly when the scammer is likely to be located in a different state or even another country. Never believe an “official” agent who claims to be able to help you recover funds, or even your social media account. Never pay an upfront fee or give anyone your bank account information.
What can I do if I was scammed?
The best thing you can do is to contact your bank and let them know what happened so they can lock down your accounts to protect them from additional abuse. Next, report the scam to the FTC and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. You can also inform your state’s attorney general, which can help others avoid suffering the same experience. If the scammer claims to be from a legitimate business, report the business to the same agencies and the Better Business Bureau.
Before providing any of your personal information (or money) to a business, research it on reputation sites like Scam Adviser, Website Validator, and URL Void, which will tell you how reputable (or not) these recovery businesses are.
Quickly reporting the situation and contacting your financial institution may improve your chances of getting your money back, notes the National Consumer Law Center, though depending on how the scam was carried out, your chances of being made whole may not be great.