A scammer is a criminal who masquerades as a legitimate business. Be careful; they’re not.
If you’re reading this, the scammer has already violated your trust. They have your money and they aim to keep it. Expect them to do everything this side of the law, and what they think they can get away with on the other side.
Prepare for battle
- Act and follow up quickly. Every day that passes lessens your chance of getting a refund.
- Beware. They may try to trick you into delaying until you can’t get your money back from your credit card issuer, or the refund period date in their Terms and Conditions expires. One trick is fake shipment tracking numbers. Another trick is a fake, official-looking notice that you’ve been credited with a refund.
- Keep a dated list of each action you take and each response from the scammer. Keep copies of all correspondence, and take notes during each phonecall. You may need this information as evidence at some point.
- Brace yourself. This isn’t going to be a quick or easy process. And despite everything you try, you may never get your money back. if not, chalk it up to education; you’re less likely to get conned out of your life savings.
Have a strategy
To get your money back and avoid future problems, I suggest you follow the strategy shown in this chart. In the following paragraphs I’ll explain the strategy in more detail.
1: Read the scam site’s Terms and Conditions (T&Cs). Nearly all scam sites have T&Cs tucked away in some corner. I’ve seen some that go to great lengths to hide them. But omitting them is rare; I’m guessing that some federal law requires them.
You may have to work a bit to understand them. In other posts I’ve summarized scammer T&Cs. Don’t go by my summaries at this point; do your own homework. What to look for:
- Guarantee terms
- Cancellation terms
- Refund terms
- How to return products
- Which state’s laws the scammer operates under
If you see that you don’t qualify for a return or refund, don’t give up. Scammer T&Cs are usually blatantly unfair. That may give you leverage with the State Attorney General or Better Business Bureau.
Cancel your order
2: If you haven’t received the product, this is good; your credit card issuer is more likely to agree to reverse the charge. Now you have a choice to make:
- Choice A: Cancel the order, then reverse the charge. This method is risky. One respondent told me that, upon receiving his cancellation request, the company shipped the product. They told the credit-card issuer that they’d shipped it a week before they actually had. Then the credit-card issuer refused to reverse the charge, reasoning that he’d received what he’d purchased.
- Choice B: Cancel the order and hope that the scammer will refund your money. This choice means you still trust the scammer; think about that before going on.
- Choice C: Reverse the charge, then cancel the order. Tell the scammer you’ve reversed the charge, so you don’t need a refund. This method is the best choice for your interests. But the card issuer may tell you to try to resolve your problem with the vendor. Here’s where your correspondence list and copies may be useful, as proof that you already made a good-faith effort to deal with the scammer.
How to cancel the order: Notify the scammer that you are canceling your order. If you can’t contact them quickly, don’t wait. Send them a registered letter with receipt required, canceling the order. This way, you’ll have proof of the date they received your cancellation request. Refuse to accept any packages you receive from the company, and return them unopened.
How to reverse the charge: Call your credit card issuer’s fraud department, and request that their charges be reversed and your card blocked (to stop the scammer from stealing even more). The issuer will initiate a dispute procedure with the scammer. There’s a good chance that the scammer will let go of the money without a fight, figuring that going after other suckers is a better use of their time.
Request a new credit card. You’ll have to move any scheduled or automatic payments that you’ve set up on your old card over to the new card yourself. Yes, pain! Removing a credit thief is worse than removing a tick.
BTW, PayPal is no better protection than a credit card. PayPal once denied my request to reverse $600 of charges racked up by a hacker. Fortunately, my PayPal account was linked to Visa, and Visa agreed to reverse the charges.
Get a refund
3: If you received the product, you probably can’t cancel your order (tho you might gamble on it anyhow). Don’t open the package or use the product. This way, the scammer can shrug you off and sell it to somebody else. Return it per the T&C instructions, or just return it. Choose to hope the scammer gives your money back, or to try to reverse the charge on your credit card (see above).
4: If you didn’t block your credit card and get a new one, watch your credit card account for more unauthorized charges; particularly small charges for services you don’t remember ordering. Keep in mind that you’re dealing with criminals, not a legitimate business. If you merely complain to their “Customer Support” but keep your credit card active, they may steal again. They may also sell your credit card data on the black market for other thieves to use.
If none of this is working for you, reach out for help. The Federal Trade Commission has published an advisory, “How to report online shopping fraud.”
- Warn your friends.
- Name-shame the company on forums and social media. Another good outlet is PissedConsumer.com .
- Blog about web scammers. Link to other blogs about scamming, like this one.
- Send me a message or reply.
Are you embarassed about your gullibility? That’s just how the scammers want you to feel. Be strong and stop others from falling into their trap. Nobody is going to think less of you for saving them money and grief; there’s no credibility like experience.
Sincerely: Good luck!