It starts innocently enough. You just want to help. Or that prize money seemed like a dream come true. But soon you realize you’ve been scammed. Then out of the blue, someone wants to help get your money back… just pay them up front, first.

Don’t do it.

It’s called a Refund and Recovery Scam. And experts say it’s the worst of the worst. It targets the most vulnerable — those who have already lost money to a scam.

So how does this happen and what can you do to protect yourself? CEFCU has many resources and tips available to help you avoid being a victim to these scams.

Refund and Recovery Scams work like this: After a victim has been scammed, their information goes on a list kept by scammers that may include victim names, phone numbers, and other information that was used originally to scam them. Scammers then contact the victims through phone, online, or mail. They offer to help you get your money back or help you get that prize you never received. Or, they say they will get you a refund or reimbursement. It all sounds legit. They use many ways to get you to trust them, including saying they are with a government agency, a charity, or law firm.

But experts say don’t fall for it. It’s all targeted to gain your trust and to separate you from your money — again.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, scammers tell you to pay up front before you can get your money back, calling it a “processing fee” or “administrative charge” or even a “donation” to a charity. They ask for your financial information, including bank account numbers or checking and debit information. Or, they will tell you to pay by gift card, a wire transfer, or even by cryptocurrency.

Experts warn to never give out your financial information no matter how convincing the scammers may be. And don’t trust any letters, calls, emails, or online messages from those promising to help you get your money back or a refund for a fee upfront. Above all, never hand over your money to these scammers.

What if you have already given out your financial information or money upfront to these scammers? The key is to act fast.

  • If you paid by credit or debit card, contact your financial institution or credit card company immediately. Tell them you were scammed, that it was a fraudulent charge, and ask for a reversal of the transaction.
  • If you paid with a gift card, contact the company that issued the card, inform them it was used in a scam, and ask for a refund. Keep the gift card and the receipt.
  • If you paid through a wire transfer such as MoneyGram or Western Union, contact the company and inform them it was a fraudulent transfer. Ask for a refund.
  • Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.