Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me – so the saying goes. And when it comes to phishing and telemarketing scams, it seems that those fooled once may have unintentionally put themselves on a short list to be fooled again. It’s the Internet scammer’s big secret: the “suckers list.”
As if it weren’t bad enough to be scammed, anyone who has already been taken in by a fake sweepstakes, a credit consolidation scam, or a bogus charity may end up on a scammers’ “suckers list” of people who have been fooled before.
The “suckers list” includes victims’ name, address, phone number, and often the amount they’ve been swindled for. Information like that is obviously worth money to other scammers looking to find likely targets, so unscrupulous promoters will sell that information to the highest bidder.
Recovery Scam Targets Previous Victims
And the most popular scam being run on “suckers list” members is the “refund and recovery” scam.
Knowing that people on the scammer’s list have lost money to other scams in the past, fraudsters claim they can help recover lost money, prizes, or products.
They charge a fee in advance and never deliver. In other words, you don’t get your original lost money back — in fact, you lose more.
The FTC explains:
They use a variety of lies to add credibility to their pitch: some claim to represent companies or government agencies; some say they’re holding money for you; and others offer to file necessary complaint paperwork with government agencies on your behalf. Still others claim they can get your name at the top of a list for victim reimbursement.
For the record, it’s illegal to charge an upfront fee to recover stolen or lost goods.
Under the Telemarketing Sales Rule, legitimate recovery agents can’t ask for – or even accept – payment until seven business days after delivery of the recovered money or item.
3 Tips to Stay Off the Scam Artist’s “Suckers List”
Follow theses guidelines to avoid being deceived by a recovery scam:
Tip #1: If someone contacts you claiming to be from a government agency, and then offers to recover your money or services for a fee, that’s a big red flag. Know that state and national agencies, like the FTC, will never charge for these services.
Tip #2: Before engaging a recovery service, be clear on what services they’ll provide, and the payment rates and terms. Check to see if the company has had complaints registered against it with local law enforcement or check online.
Tip #3: Don’t give out your bank or credit card information – not for payment, or in an attempt to track down the offenders. And never use cashier’s checks, Western Union or other money transfers to send money to someone who emails you out of the blue. That’s always a sign of a scam.
Have You Been Scammed?
If you’ve been scammed before, and have received a suspicious offer to help you recover your money or prize, let us know. Tell us about your experiences in the comments section and help warn others!