Have you ever been scammed online? It can be a devastating experience. You spend money and time on what was supposed to be an honest, straightforward transaction. But it turns out that the company is a scam, or your information has been compromised, or something else has gone wrong. You’re likely filled with anger, confusion, or frustration. How do you get your money back?
Step 1: Report the scam to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)
Step 2: Identify the true identity of the scammer
Step 3: Search their assets across all asset classes
Step 4: Obtain a writ of garnishment for located assets
Step 5: Deliver the writ of garnishment to the proper asset-holding authority
Watch out for recovery scams
Recovery scams occur when scam companies pose as asset recovery companies and claim to be able to recover your lost funds when in actuality, they are just taking more of your money, and they’re likely the ones who scammed you in the first place. If they reached out to you first, how did they know who you were? A random legitimate company won’t know that you’ve been scammed unless they’re the scammers.
How to identify a recovery scam
Typically these scammers will reach out to you, not the other way around. They’ll say they can get your money back by hacking into the scammer’s bank account, but first, they need $10,000 from you to recover the funds. Alternatively, they may simply pose as an asset recovery firm that can help you, but they’ll still want a large sum of money upfront. When presented with this type of service offering, given your situation, ask the following questions:
- If the hacker can get into the scammer’s bank account and pull out as much money as they want, why wouldn’t they just take the money for themselves? Also, why do they need the $10,000 from you if they can get into the scammer’s account?
- If the hacker can get into the scammer’s bank account, what’s stopping them from getting into yours?
- If this company knows you’ve been scammed out of thousands of dollars, why are they charging you an extra $10,000+ to secure their services without a guarantee of recovery?
Should you hire an investigator to assist in scam recovery?
You don’t have to hire anyone to assist in scam recovery unless you want to. Understandably, many people who are scammed are uneasy about giving more money to another company. If you decide to hire a professional investigator to assist in scam recovery, make sure to thoroughly vet the company to ensure its legitimacy.
When considering an investigative agency to assist in scam recovery, consider the following:
- Are they licensed? Have the investigator provide you with their license number and state. Verify their legitimacy with the licensing agency in your state or country. Don’t let them verify it for you, get the license number and run it manually.
- Do they have a physical address? Check out where they are supposed to be domiciled. Is it a physical address or a PO box? Is the address even a real address? Search for the company’s name in your state’s Secretary of State corporation database to match the address listed on the website to the address on the official documents with the state.
- How long has the website been active? Scammers go through websites quickly to avoid being caught or to receive bad reviews that blow their cover. Look up the WHOIS domain record for the website. If it’s been up for a short amount of time, it’s very possible that this is not a legitimate website for the company.
- Are you able to speak with someone on the phone or by video? If they’re giving you the runaround about speaking on the phone or by video, this is a huge red flag. A legitimate investigative agency will be 100% transparent with you about its process for your case and will happily communicate with you via phone or video.
It’s very important for the future of online business that scammers are identified and prosecuted. If a scammer can get away with it once, they will likely try to do it again. It’s also important that consumers be educated about the basic steps they can take to keep themselves safe and increase their chances of recovering funds when they are taken advantage of by a scammer. Working with investigators is an essential part of that process, but it’s wise to carefully vet new investigators before making any hires or paying them any money. And always take the time to document everything—it could prove invaluable when you decide to go down this road.