Scammers have become more sophisticated which means their schemes are more successful, victimizing more people.
But once someone has lost money to a scam, the danger is just starting. Successful scammers sell data about their victims to other scammers on the dark web. Sooner or later, the victim may be contacted by someone who claims they can help them get their money back.
It’s just part of another scam known as “reloading.” The criminals believe that if someone was tricked into handing over money they can be tricked again. In fact, scammers consider these people to be high-value targets.
If someone has lost a lot of money, perhaps tens of thousands of dollars, they are not only feeling the pain of that loss they want retribution. So when a scam “recovery agent” contacts them and promises they can be made whole again, the temptation is strong to bite once again.
Who these scammers claim to be
Authorities say criminals running reloading scams may claim to be fulfilling many different roles. They may say they are from the FBI or your local police department.
Most often, they claim to be independent investigators “hot on the trail of scam artists.” Because they make their living retrieving stolen money, it seems logical that they would charge a fee for the services. And 10 times out of 10, they’ll ask for that fee upfront before disappearing.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports Americans lost more than $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021, an increase of more than 70% over the previous year. With more victims, there are more people who may be targeted in a reloading scam. Some of these second attempts may not occur until months, even years later.
People who have lost money to scams should report it to local law enforcement. However, that information is never made public.
What to watch for
If someone contacts you and knows about your loss, you should ask yourself how they know. The only way they could have gotten your contact information is from another scammer.
The sad fact is, once money has been lost to a scammer it is rarely retrievable. Scammers require untraceable payment methods such as wire transfers and gift cards.
To avoid being scammed a second time, the FTC offers this advice:
Don’t trust calls, letters, emails, or messages on social media from someone who says they can recover the money you lost in a scam for a fee
Never pay upfront for a refund or help with a refund
Know that only scammers will tell you to pay by gift card, cryptocurrency, or wire transfer through companies like Western Union or MoneyGram. Anyone who asks you to pay in any of these ways is a scammer
Be suspicious if you get a supposed refund check for more money than you lost
Research any organizations or government agencies that contact you. For organizations or companies, search for the name online, with words like “complaint,” “scam,” or “review.”