Scammers contact you and ask you to pay a fee up front.
Scammers contact you and ask you to pay a fee up front. Regardless of how you communicate—by mail, online, phone, or text—it's never a good idea to pay up front, especially when someone contacts you out of the blue. And telemarketers who sell recovery services can't ask for or accept payment until seven days after they give you the money or item they recover scammed funds for you because that's prohibited by law.
Scammers say they work for a government agency, nonprofit group, or some other organization and they need payment or your personal information. Government agencies and legitimate organizations will not ask you for money to help you get a refund. They will never ask for your financial account numbers or any other personal information, nor will they guarantee that you will get your money back. Anyone who does any of these things is a scammer.
Don't trust calls, letters, emails, or social media posts from someone who tells you can get money back from a scam for a fee? You will lose even more money.
Never pay up front for a refund or in exchange for help getting a refund. That means you never have to give out your bank account, credit card, or any other payment information to get a refund. Anyone who asks for your financial information or pays up-front fees is a scammer.
Know that only scammers will tell you to pay with a gift card, cryptocurrencies, or money transfer through companies like Western Union or Money Gram. Anyone who asks you to pay in any of these ways is a scammer.
Be suspicious if you receive a purported refund check for more than the amount you lost. Some scammers will tell you there was a mistake and tell you to cash the check, keep the amount you were owed, and pay back the difference. It can take weeks for the bank to discover that a check authorized for crediting was counterfeit. If you use the money in the meantime, even to pay it back to the scammer, the bank will want it back.
Research the organizations and companies that contact you, and if they say they are calling from a government agency, verify by calling that agency. Do an internet search by entering the name of the organization or company along with words like “complaint”, “scam” or “review”; if you search in Spanish, add words like “complaint”, “scam” or “comment”. Also contact your state attorney general's office to find out if they have other people's complaints about that organization. To call government agencies, look up the phone numbers on your own. And call to confirm if they made contact with you. Do not call the number given to you by the person who called you.
Scammers often ask for payment methods that will hinder your chances of getting your money back. If you paid a scammer, it's best to act as soon as possible. This link outlines some steps to try to stop or reverse a transaction, or get a refund.
If you lost money to a refund or recovery scam, or if you have information about the company or scammer who called you, report it:
By reporting these scammers, you help law enforcement intervene to stop them and alert others in your community to the scam.
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