According to Creators Syndicate, an organization that works with home-based workers, for every legitimate online job posting, there are 61 scams. They also claim that bulletin boards like Craigslist are filled with consumer scams, with legitimate jobs outnumbered 100 to 1.
So, as careful as you may be while researching job opportunities, there is the high likelihood that at some point you may get scammed.
How can you fight back if you become a victim of a consumer scam?
To begin with, most “helpful” online sites out there will tell you that you’re stuck and can’t do much beyond file a report to an agency like the Better Business Bureau. However, you may already know that I don’t have the highest opinion of the BBB. So, here are some alternative methods I’ve come up with:
How to Fight Back If You’ve Been Scammed
Make Google et al. your besties.
There is a TON of online information out there, and some of it may even give away the actual identity and contact information of your scammer. Input the name and “business” of the scammer and see what turns up. Don’t stop at the first page of Google either (Where is the best place to hide a dead body? On the second page of Google).
LinkedIn is also a wonderful search tool; for example, by doing a few quick searches of David Clabeaux and The Six Figure Program, I was able to find not only him but his receptionist Jessica. I even found out that his business partner Ben Moskel owns a side business called CYA Denim, Inc.
Finally, don’t forget to add another powerful search engine, Amazon, to your arsenal of sleuthing tools. Yes, Amazon is a search engine in its own right, especially regarding product reviews. Just mentioning The Six Figure Program one more time, I located two books written by David and Ben, complete with some really bad reviews. These books are a great find for an online detective, however, because they contain contact information on the authors and their publishers.
Why do you want to gather as much online information as possible about your scammers? Because federal bureaus and agencies can’t do much if they can’t actually find or even accurately name the scammers in question. Which takes us to our next step:
File a complaint.
Filing a written complaint with your state or local consumer agency gets the ball rolling with shutting the scam down and preventing others from also being scammed. Similarly, you can also file a complaint with the FTC.
In some cases, the FTC may have already sued the scammer in question and won some money for those affected by the scam. Check this list of recent FTC cases resulting in refunds.
Don’t forget to also file a consumer complaint with your state’s Attorney General. I’ve perused many court proceedings involving scam artists and many cases are filed -and won- by the state Attorney General’s office. On a similar note, the District Attorney can also take legal action against a scammer and represent the U.S. government in the lawsuit.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is also a great place to file your complaint; this FBI-affiliated agency can do further online sleuthing to link various scams together and stop them at their source. Incidentally, the FBI also publishes some very useful cyber-crime and online scam information that you can use to inform yourself about ongoing scams and those who have been arrested for perpetrating them.
If the scam is posted online, don’t forget to notify Google and petition for the content to be removed. Google also posts submission forms for reporting sites that are engaged in phishing, downloading of malware and selling/buying links.
Finally, if you were mailed any scam materials like sweepstakes or lottery “winnings,” a fake check, etc., you can file your report with the Postmaster General. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service works very closely with government and law enforcement agencies to stop scam letters at their source- which in many cases might actually be the scammer’s home.
Go to court.
Sometimes, you may have enough information to take the offending party to small claims court; doing so can be the most direct route to getting your money back (up to $7,500, with some states allowing up to $10,000). You also don’t need to hire a lawyer.
To determine if you have a viable case, first use the tools outlined above to find out if the defendants (i.e., scammers) already has a case against them. If yes, you can just add your name to the list of plaintiffs/wronged parties.
If there is no case yet, you will first want to actively petition the defendant for your money or property; i.e., reach a settlement before going to court. It will help if your petition is officially documented by a certified and signed letter being sent to the defendant or, at the very least, an email.
More than likely, the defendant will not wish to settle at this point in time, which means you’ll be going to your district or municipal court and filing a claim. It is imperative that you know either the home or business address of the defendant; otherwise, the defendant will not be able to be served his/her summons. This is also why I recommended that you do a lot of online research.
Because each state and county has its own rules regarding small claims court procedures, you are best advised to look up your own state’s Department of Justice before proceeding with a case.
Due Diligence is Key
While hindsight is always 20/20, you can use the resources mentioned above to avoid consumer scams in the future. Even something as simple as typing in the name of the “opportunity” followed by the word “scam” into Google’s search engine can bring up a wealth of information for you.
Of course, once you uncover a scam, don’t just leave it alone. Be a concerned citizen and do your part to report the scam to local and federal authorities. Alert Google. Or even, leave a comment here on I’ve Tried That. By taking these steps, you help others avoid becoming victims of scams.