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home : community : community Friday, May 24, 2019

9/6/2017 4:31:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
How Can Scam Victims Get Their Money Back

By Macy Yang

Losing money to a scam can be frustrating and embarrassing, yet each year millions become victims. In 2016, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there were 1.3 million complaints filed totaling $744 million in losses. In most cases, recovery is difficult because the scammer cannot be found or the money cannot be traced in situations where money wire, prepaid debit cards or gift cards are used to pay the scammer. While the FTC, Better Business Bureau and other government agencies that deal with fraud do not represent individual cases, they do represent the general public's interest in impacting cases.

Each victim and scam situation is different so whether a victim can get back their money varies between each of these scenarios. Victims can file a complaint with federal agencies that handle fraud and hope they bring attention to the fraud and are able to recover some money through the efforts of these agencies, or they can try to get their money back on their own.

In cases in which a complaint is filed, money may be returned to victims even if it's just a portion of the victim's loss, says Joannie Wei, an attorney at the FTC. One of the main goals of the FTC is to return money to victims, Wei adds, so we try our best in each case to do this whenever possible. In other cases, there's not enough money to be returned to all the victims. Still not all scam cases are compensable and the loss remains a loss.

"It's important to distinguish a scam from a bad business experience," cautions Dan Hendrickson, Communications Coordinator at the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB). Further adding that reputable companies will take those complaints seriously and try to resolve it with the consumer either by refunding the money or replacing the product unlike fraud situations.

The FTC may file cases because of a violation of the law and where consumers have not lost money because of the scam. According to Wei, the FTC will pursue a court order to stop the scammers from doing what they are doing and, in those cases, no refund is involved.

How do victims know when there is a refund due from a scam they were involved in? "The FTC," says Wei, "will do its best to notify consumers who may be eligible for a refund using its website, press releases and blogs." Yet, refund checks are sometimes just mailed out to victims. Other times, letters or notices about how to file a claim is sent out. "The disbursement of refunds various from case to case," adds Wei. Hendrickson, suggests watching for headlines in the news. If a refund is available, there is no requirement that the victim first file a complaint with the FTC prior to receiving the refund. "If you do report your experience," says Hendrickson, "and don't get a refund, you are still helping ensure that others won't fall victim to the same scam."

There are other ways victims can also try to recoup their loss directly from their scammer. If you suspect a scam, ask for your money back right away. If you cannot resolve it directly with the scammer, and you used a credit or debit card to pay for the product or service try to dispute the charge with your credit card company or bank. Credit card companies have the greatest protection. Unfortunately, you can't always get your money back if you paid using a wire transfer directly from your bank or through Money Gram or Western Union, a prepaid card or gift card.

Small claims court is also an option when trying to recover your money, if you are dealing with someone you know or someone at an arm's length. Most legal services in your local area can provide free service and assistance to consumers who are victims of fraud.

"Scamming people is their business and many of these scammers are good at what they do," says Hendrickson. Further adding that "consumer education, learning about common scams, is what we like to see happen."

For a list of current case refunds from the FTC you can visit their web page at: https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/refunds.

This is a Hmong Times series on consumer scams and fraud schemes.

St. Paul, MN



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