Victims get taken again and again by reloading tricks: Internet Scambusters #553
Reloading is like a form of haunting -- a crook repeatedly returns to and preys on his previous victims until they've got no money left.
Mostly, the scammers rely on the gullibility of their victims and their yearning to make good on their painful loss.
We hope you never fall victim to a scam, but, just in case, make sure you don't get taken a second time by the tricks outlined in this week's issue.
Let's get started...
Top 3 Targets for Reloading Scams
Way back in the 1920s, the term "reloading" was coined for a scam in which investment fraud victims were hit for a second time by a con artist.
Sad to report that, more than 90 years later, reloading is still around. But now the crooks target more than investors.
Just about anyone who has previously been scammed is a potential target.
As we reported in an earlier issue, Recovery Scams, crooks and rogue telemarketing companies maintain what they call "sucker lists" of people who are known to be particularly susceptible to con tricks.
Believe it or not, these lists are actually traded between criminal organizations, who then have all sorts of tricks up their sleeves to catch victims out again.
Reloading scams are sometimes called "double dipping," another subject we explored in a previous issue covering con tricks on the Craigslist classified ad site, Rental Car, Travelers' Checks Used in Latest Craigslist Scams.
But the fact is that doubling may be just the start. The same victims are sometimes scammed over and over again until they have no money left.
Don't let that happen to you.
Here are the three most common reloading tricks they'll try:
The Special Investigator
In this scam, the crook returns to his original victims claiming to be an investigator either from an official organization or from a firm that specializes in recovering lost money.
This happens mostly with lottery scams -- most recently with victims of the Publishers Clearing House con trick we reported on a few weeks back in One Simple Rule to Avoid a Lottery Scam.
But crooks have also posed as bank investigators, targeting people who've had their bank accounts drained or confidential information stolen.
Sometimes, the scammers will demand an upfront fee to supposedly recover the losses.
Other times, they say they've got the money but need the victim to pay a court fee or customer's fee.
They may even claim they're going to donate their fee to charity.
Action: It's illegal to charge an upfront fee for cash recovery, so anyone who asks for an advance payment is breaking the law.
Whether they're legit or not, they can't be trusted. Don't pay.
Most recovered scam earnings actually come from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which makes no charge for its services.
And don't give any confidential information to a supposed investigator unless, and until, you've confirmed they're from law enforcement or another official agency.
The Lottery Bonus
In addition to the phony special investigators, lottery scammers also try to reload their own "winnings" by telling victims they're in with a chance to win even more than their (non-existent) original prize.
They say they haven't forwarded the victim's winnings because they're in line for a bonus prize.
In fact, they've even been known to approach genuine lottery winners, spinning the same tale of further potential prizes, for which they charge an "entry fee" or the usual customs / processing fees they demand before supposedly paying up.
In a few cases, the crooks actually do send a small prize as a way of trying to convince victims of their authenticity.
Action: What more can we say about this insidious crime?
In most cases, you can't win a lottery you didn't enter.
But even if you do, no legitimate lottery charges you for collecting.
They may deduct taxes before sending your money, but nothing should ever come out of your pocket.
The Gullible Investor
Yes, 90 years later, crooks are still using the original reloading scam.
In this swindle, investors are persuaded to buy a block of worthless shares -- let's say 1,000.
Then, out of the blue, they're contacted by a supposedly different person saying they want to buy the stock, but are only interested in a block of 2,000 shares.
The victim goes to the original "seller" and buys another 1,000, only to later learn that the buyer now wants a block of 5,000.
And so it goes on, feeding on the victim's hunger to make a profit.
But this isn't the only investment-related reloading scam.
People who bought worthless land sight-unseen are later told by the scammer that similar parcels of land are now being secretly snapped up by a speculator.
They're lured into buying more or charged a fee for supposedly being put in touch with the non-existent buyer.
And in another variation, pump-and-dump victims -- people who were tricked into buying worthless stock to force up the price so the crooks can then sell their holdings -- are bitten again.
This time, the scammer pretends to be full of remorse for his bad tip and offers an inside tip on a "surefire" investment to make up for the loss.
But it's just another pump-and-dump scheme.
Here's another one: Stockholding victims of a company that's gone bust are told the firm can be revived and their stock value rejuvenated if they will just contribute a few dollars per share to get things moving.
Action: Investment can be a risky game but throwing good money after bad is inviting trouble.
Always seek guidance from a reputable investment advisor.
In fact, throwing good money after bad is at the heart of all the scams we've reported on this week.
If you've already been scammed, the chances are high you're being targeted again by any approach that promises to put things right for you at a cost.
No matter how tempting, keep your money in your pocket and you won't fall victim to reloading.
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.