Scams, whether they are over the phone or Internet, or through the mail, occur frequently, and are only continuing to increase with the ready public access to phone numbers and personal information. Although much can be said about avoiding scams – tips such as don’t give out personal information over the phone, shred unwanted mail and documents, and check your bank and credit card statements regularly – you may still fall prey to any number of new strategies. The key to avoiding scams, beyond these basic tips, is to stay aware of the new scams that are out there.
Checking sites such as scambook.com, hoax-slayer.com and the FBI’s listing of recent e-scams at fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud is a good way to stay aware and avoid scams, as well as to verify if you’ve been the victim of one of them.
But what do you do if you’ve already fallen prey to a scam? A lot of people just let it go, but you owe it to yourself and to others to fight for your money and to report the site, company, or individual for their illegal activity. Here’s some advice on how best to handle a few possible scam situations.
In any type of scam, you’ll want to keep records of all your receipts, bank and credit card transactions, emails and other proof of purchase and communication with the seller. Records are the key to proving the transaction was a scam and getting your money back. For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep records of all your purchases for up to a year.
Contact the company that scammed you and request a refund. Avoid in-person confrontations, if possible. If these people are capable of scamming innocent victims, they may be capable of more. Try to keep this as formal and non-hostile as possible. They may be scared simply by the act of confrontation and refund your money without a hassle, but don’t count on it. If they’ve been scamming people for some time, confrontation may not faze them; and, if the scam is really good, you might not even have a point of contact – they will have vanished into thin air.
If you are the victim of a scam involving a purchase from a website such as eBay.com which protects the privacy of both sellers and buyers, your best bet is to keep in contact with the seller through email to let them know you aren’t just going to give up, as well as to follow the site’s guidelines for reporting a scam. It’s best in this situation to let the site deal with the violator, which will likely affect their reputation as a seller on the site or even their ability to sell at all. One good point of using these sites is that you will be more likely to get your money back, especially if you use PayPal for your transactions, because you can file a dispute with PayPal as well.
Dispute the charge with your credit card company. Most companies allow disputes of charges within 60 days of their hitting your statement. Call and request information about filing a complaint by mail as well as over the phone so that you have proof in writing. Provide your credit card company with all the information they will need to prove the charge is fraudulent. Keep in mind a dispute may take a while to resolve, so you won’t be getting your money back immediately.
Report scams to law enforcement offices in your area and other areas that might be affected to save other people from falling into the same trap. Uncovering and bringing down a scam may take a little time; meanwhile, a scam alert will keep them from hurting more people.
Take it to court. In more extreme cases, you may need to sue the individual or company. Don’t be afraid to use this as a threat in your negotiations, if you intend to follow through. As a consumer, your right to satisfaction with your purchases is protected; if not by the seller, than by a court of law.
Whatever the case, don’t give up. Persistency is the key to being reimbursed for your losses and ensuring that those who scammed you won’t be able to do it again, to someone else.