Have you ever fallen victim to a scam? Maybe someone emailed you promising you easy money through a new job or because you’ve “won a lottery.” Or maybe someone called you and said you owed money to someone and scared you into paying a fraudulent bill? Whatever the reasons or circumstances, if you’ve ever been a scam victim, trust no one.
According to a recent list published by the National Consumers League, “refund and recovery scams,” as they’re known are the fastest growing non-internet fraud. Here’s how it works: Scammers will trade or sell lists of consumers known to have already fallen for some type of scam. Whether it originated from a phone call, an email, or a letter doesn’t seem to have any impact. Once this list is acquired, a criminal will use these lists to contact the victim claiming that they can help recover their lost money for a nominal fee. Of course, as I’m sure most of you have figured out by now, this is in and of itself a con and any fee paid out is just another lost sum the victim can chalk up to criminals.
So what can be done? Well to put it simply: if you’ve been scammed once you need to be that much more suspicious of any sort of contact with folks you don’t recognize because your chances of being contacted again by scammers is a fairly high probability. Below are some additional tips on how to spot a scam as it happens:
- Never give personally identifying information when you’re not 100% sure who you’re giving it to: If you receive any sort of unsolicited call where a request is made for your personal information or for some sort of payment, never give it out no matter what they say or threaten you with. In fact, the more threatening they sound, the more they attempt to scare you into giving them what they want, the more you can be sure that the caller on the other end of the line is not who they say they are.
- Pay for goods and services with credit cards as much as possible: Unlike a wire transfer or a debit purchase, credit transactions can be easily disputed with your card processor or your bank and your money can be refunded. With a wire transfer or pre-paid cash card (think Western Union, PayPal, or Green Card) once you send that money, it’s gone. There’s no getting it back, no disputing the disbursement of your hard earned money after it’s been paid. Debit transactions can be disputed in much the same way credit purchases are, but while the dispute is being processed (something that can occasionally take several months) you’re out actual cash from your pocket. Credit purchases are nothing more than micro loans you agree to pay back at a future date with interest. In that case, during the course of a dispute you’re not missing a percentage of your actual earned income. Instead, you’re only disputing the necessity to repay on the purchase at some later date.
- Ignore them: Once you have identified the patterns of a scammer, you’ll know what to look out for. Once they start harassing you, hang up. Talk to them, even to fight with them, and they’ll never leave you alone. Inform them you’re aware that this is a criminal attempt at fraud, and inform them you’re going to notify authorities and then just hang up. Don’t answer their phone calls, don’t respond to their emails. Total silence is the clearest way to send the message that you’re not falling for it, and they may as well move on.
If you’ve been a victim of a scam, please contact the ITRC at (888) 400-5530, or for more information visit the website at www.idtheftcenter.org.
"Refund Recovery Scams: Beware of the Scammer Double-Dip" was written by Matt Davis. Matt is Director of Business Alliances at the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to the author and linking back to the original posting.