Lose money to a scammer? Another one will promise to get it back.


There’s probably not an agency anywhere that can recover money lost in a scam

How can I scam thee? Let me count the ways.

There’s the grandparent scam, the tech support scam, the “something’s wrong with your bank account” scam, lottery scams, romance scams.etc.

Not to give these miscreants any props, but scammers have now figured that there’s a way to play Robin Hood and pretend to “help” the victims of a scam.

Introducing “recovery scams” – an extremely vicious form of fraud that targets people who have already been victimized by another scam. It's also known as "reloading."

And scammers have lots to work with, too. They can buy thousands of hacked accounts on the Dark Web and they’ll often sell information about their victims on "sucker lists" – lists containing details like your contact information, the type of scam you fell for, and how much money you lost.

If you’ve ever been scammed, you were no doubt furious about what happened and would give anything to get your money back. These “recovery scammers” know that and play to that anger.

"The recovery scam often comes from the same criminals behind the original investment scam, or else the victim’s personal information has been passed on or sold to other criminals," Niamh Davenport, Head of Financial Crime with BPFI, said.

"The fraudster, using the information from the previous scam, can 'helpfully’ tell the victim about the earlier fraud, which can make them sound credible."

Real-life stories

The United States Postal Inspection Service began warning Americans last year about the IRS version of this "recovery" scam.

RTE – The Irish Radio and Television service – also tells the story of one man who lost more than $100,000 in an investment scheme, then was contacted six months later by what was claimed to be a "refund recovery firm".

He was told that the person on the other end of the line could recover the money lost if the target paid an administration fee of $10,000 – an amount which would be refunded later.

But, after forking over the $10k and several days had passed without hearing from the so-called “refund recovery firm,” the man grew skeptical. Too late? Yep.

The pitch to watch out for

The primary con is one where a scammer will pose as a recovery agent, law enforcement, or government agency. They contact you with the promise of helping you get your lost money back – for a fee, of course.

They’ll tell you it’s for “taxes,” or “processing costs,” or “legal fees” and that you have to pay it upfront or they won’t be able to process the claim.

You already know where this is going, but once you send them the money, they vamoose with it, leaving you scammed a second time.

There are several red flags to watch out for include:

  • A sense of urgency: Just like with the run-of-the-mill scam variety, recovery scammers will work you hard and fast, trying to create a sense of urgency to drive you into making rash decisions.

  • Unsolicited Contact: No one from a legitimate agency – the IRS or FBI for example – would probably never, if ever, contact you out of the blue offering to recover funds. It’s not something they do.

  • Guaranteed Recovery: It’s nearly impossible to recover money lost in a scam. Don’t count on it. 

  • Requests for Payment Upfront: A legitimate agency does not charge to help fraud victims recover funds.

  • Unusual Payment Methods: Cash, check, credit card… or gift card? Like with every other scam out there, cryptocurrency, gift cards, and wire transfers are how they want you to pay because they are nearly impossible to trace and recover.

How to protect yourself

Keeping yourself safe is pretty easy: just verify everything the person is telling you before you do anything.

If you do think the contact might be authentic, jump on the web and search for the organization's official contact information and call them to verify.

And whatever you do, don't use any phone numbers or links provided by the person who contacted you. 

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