There are many articles containing essential advice on how to avoid the plethora of scams which pour into our lives on a daily basis. This article is going to walk you through some of the steps you should consider once you realize you have been scammed.
It happened to me!
Between my years in law enforcement and the experience I had responding to a scam in my family, I have prepared a template for the response I made when my family was confronted with this crime.
You may think your scam doesn't merit any follow up. You may be embarrassed to admit you fell victim to a scam thinking that, with hindsight, you should have been able to detect. It happened in my family where a bad guy posing as a police officer told a family member that my daughter had run a red light, sustained serious injuries when she crashed her car as a result of running the red light, caused a great deal of property damage to a residence, and was currently in jail. The imposter continued to say that the residential property owner requested several thousand dollars before he would allow my daughter to be released from jail. This began a series of thefts because the bad guys attempt these scams all day every day until they find someone who believes their story. Try to get past these reservations.
I feel that scams of all sizes should be reported for four reasons:
- Prosecution of the perpetrator
- The information you provide may bolster an ongoing police investigation
Once you are aware of the suspicious activity, contact the police to file a report. The police will give you guidance on how to proceed.
- Try to get a handle immediately on what happened and start contacting financial institutions to block accounts. With MoneyPak card scams, call PayPal. They helped me immensely when a family member was scammed.
- Prepare a detailed report of the events. Do this right away while all the details are fresh in your mind. Don't omit a single detail. No matter how insignificant it may seem, it may be important later. Include photocopies of supporting documentation with your report. This includes anything you collect along the way. It might be a check, a phone record, an email, a text, a MoneyPak card, a financial statement, and on and on. We were able to recover some of the money scammed from my family member whhich involved a MoneyPak scam. MoneyPak is like a prepaid card you can get at stores like CVS and RiteAid. You take cash to the store and buy a MoneyPak card which looks just like a credit card. You can then transfer the money from your card to a PayPal account which then you can use like cash and can be accessed anywhere in the world. Thankfully, MoneyPak imposes daily limits on the redemption of MoneyPak cards. PayPal helped us tremendously to recoup the money on cards that hadn't been redeemed yet because of the daily limit. By the way, I contacted PayPal the day of the scam which is the only reason there was still money on the cards for us to recover. The police were amazed that we were able to get any money back.
- File the written report of events with the police. This can supplement the original police report if you have already contacted the police. The police will be forever grateful if you hand them the report of events you wrote. This will save them precious time taking copious notes and writing a lengthy intake report. Even if the police tell you they can’t open an investigation, you can let them know you felt it was your civic responsibility to report it. You know the police are required to report these incidents for the sake of statistics and you know the police would appreciate knowing if a bad guy under investigation had committed another crime. You can also formally request that a criminal investigation be conducted or speak with the prosecutor's office in the jurisdiction of the crime to discuss the pursuit of criminal charges in your case. Make sure you get the name and number of the police point of contact so you can get an update on their progress.
- Get additional resources involved. The police may not be able to accept your case for investigation for numerous reasons. Sometimes it is because they are bombarded by these scams and sometimes it is based on investigative priorities. If the police can't accept your case for prosecution, go public! Send your report of events to all of your Senators, Congressmen, and members of the State Legislature. Send it to the President, the Mayor, local politicians, and all of the centers that cater to vulnerable individuals, such as senior centers. Here http://hq-salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5950/getLocal.jsp?zip=08752&zip4= is an excellent link for the names and contact information of your elected officials. The search is by zip code and the results include federal, state, and local officials.
- Retrace your steps. If you haven't already done so, go to the banks, stores, or other entities that were involved and let them know what happened. The information may put them on alert to increase security in this area. In my case, I spoke with the managers of the stores and banks involved. Their personnel followed the protocols in place at the time, but, if they hear enough stories of their customers being scammed, they may do more to deter these crimes from occurring. If a company has clearly been negligent in allowing a scam to take place, consider contacting the consumer fraud agencies, the Better Business Bureau, or the Chamber of Commerce.
Ask for help with this process if you need it. Always keep in mind not to put yourself in harm's way.