There’s an old saying that goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” The idea is that if you have already been a victim of a con artist or other crook, you should be wary enough to avoid getting duped a second time. Unfortunately, that’s not always how it works. There are actually scammers (I refuse to call them scam artists, because to do so would defame the term artist) who prey on people who have been victimized previously. And they’re apparently successful, because they keep doing it.
Certain of these criminals have found out they can buy and sell “sucker lists” of people who have been victimized previously. They’ve been known to call people who have lost money, with promises to recover the money you lost. In some cases, they target people who have paid for items, but who have never received them. They offer to help you “recover” your money or item, for a fee. This practice is illegal, because federal law (known as the Telemarketing Sales Rule) prohibits a telemarketer from asking for or even accepting payment until seven business days after they deliver the money or other item they recovered.
There’s a really good consumer resource hosted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has some tips to help you recognize “recovery scams”.
Here are some of those:
- Don’t believe anyone who calls offering to recover money, merchandise, or prizes you never received if the caller says you have to pay a fee in advance. Under the Telemarketing Sales Rule, it’s against the law for someone to request or receive payment from you until seven business days after you have the money or other item in hand.
- If someone claims to represent a government agency that will recover your lost money, merchandise, or prizes for a fee or a donation to a charity, report them immediately to the FTC. National, state, and local consumer protection agencies and nonprofit organizations do not charge for their services.
- Before you use any company to recover either money or a prize, ask what specific services the company provides and the cost of each service. Check out the company with local government law enforcement and consumer agencies; ask whether other people have registered complaints about the business. You also can enter the company name into an online search engine to look for complaints.
- Don’t give out your credit card or checking account numbers in an attempt to recover money you have lost or a prize you never received.