What to Do If You're a Scam Victim
If you suspect a money-making opportunity is a scam, cease all contact with the fraudster. Sometimes he or she will string you along by asking for even more money so you can get back the funds you're already owed. Then report him or her. Although it's only natural to feel embarrassed when a scammer takes advantage of you (and your finances), it's important to take action.
If you've sent a check or scheduled a payment using your bank account or a credit card, contact your bank or card issuer to stop the transaction. Tell them of the fraud, so they can monitor your account for suspicious activity. If the scammer has accessed personal information and opened credit or checking accounts using your identity, review your credit report and institute a fraud alert [source: Caregiver Stress].
The next crucial step is to alert the authorities. In the U.S., report the fraud to the attorney general's office in the state where you live and, if different, the state where the money-making schemer lives. You also should contact the county or state consumer protection agency, the Better Business Bureau (in your area and the schemer's area) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a U.S. organization whose aim is to prevent deceptive business practices [source: FTC].
In addition, if the scam involved an Internet or e-mail component, you could report it to the FBI's Crime Complaint Center. If the scammer used a legitimate Web site or Internet auction site to involve you in a money-making scam, lodging a complaint with the site -- no matter where in the world you live -- may give you an avenue to recoup some of your funds. Even so, it's unlikely you'll see much, if any, of your money returned.
Finally, don't rely on Web sites offering scam recovery services. You could be entering into another scam. Not only will you not get your money back, but you may be asked to front more cash in an effort to recover your investment [source: Texas Attorney General].
Author's Note: Is there an easy way to spot money-making scams?
I've received my fair share of e-mails from African consulates promising that, in exchange for a small sum, they will be happy to relay my multimillion-dollar inheritance. Once I even received a check, an actual paper check, in the U.S. mail from a scammer. It was made out to me and included instructions. All I had to do is deposit the $5,000 and relay $1,000 to the sender. Like some scams, this one not only targeted unsolicited recipients, but threatened to turn them into criminals, too. Thankfully, I steered clear of launching a money-laundering career. I do have to admit, though, I stared at that check a long time ... wishing it were true.
- Better Business Bureau. "Scam List." (Nov. 15, 2012) http://www.bbb.org/us/scams
- Caregiver Stress. "What to Do if You've Been Scammed." July 9, 2012. (Nov. 15, 2012) http://www.caregiverstress.com/senior-safety/con-cheat-seniors/reporting-scams/
- Federal Trade Commission. "Bogus Business Opportunities." November 2011. (Nov. 15, 2012) http://business.ftc.gov/documents/inv02-looking-earn-extra-income-how-avoid-bogus-business-opportunity-offers
- Jamieson, Dave. "The Culler of Money." Washington City Paper. July 17, 2005. (Nov. 15, 2012) http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/cover/2005/cover0617.html
- Maranjian, Selena. "Avoiding Job Scams: How Not to Fall Victim to the Con Artists." July 7, 2012. (Nov. 15, 2012) Daily Finance. http://www.dailyfinance.com/2012/07/02/avoiding-job-scams-how-not-to-fall-victim-to-the-con-art/
- Texas Attorney General. "What to Do If You've Been Scammed." (Nov. 15, 2012) https://www.oag.state.tx.us/consumer/scammed_list.shtml