It seems the more research that is done into wrongful charge return scams, the more variety can be found. More and more people are being told that they are owed money due to wrongful charges. They are then asked to send a small fee in order to receive the check in the amount of the overpayment. If a company calls you and says you need to send them money in order to get money, you need to hang up. No company who is legitimate would request money in order to send money that was rightfully yours to begin with.
One of the most frequently seen of these types of scams is where an individual calls to say that each time a bill was paid using a card, an overcharge of $10 to $20 accrued. It is further explained that since this has been going on for some time, an enormous amount of money is due to the customer. It seems the amount usually quoted is around $5000 which, the customer is assured, has already been written and signed and is ready to go in the mail.
The twist is that in order to get the check, administrative and processing fees of a couple of hundred dollars must be paid in advance. When challenged, the con artist will explain that taking the fees from the check before it’s sent isn’t possible since it’s already been written and the amount paid must go into a different account from the one from which the check was drawn. Although it sounds plausible, the old adage “if it sounds too good to be true it usually is” should raise concerns.
A second indication that a scam may be going on is that the money is requested through an electronic transfer such as Western Union or MoneyGram. This is because, even though the location of the receiver may be noted on the form, in actuality it can be picked up anyway one of these offices may be found. Although the destination given by the thief may be Springfield, Missouri, it can even be drawn on a branch in Nigeria since they also have a Western Union office. Unfortunately, these electronic transfer companies cannot be held responsible for misdirection of funds since they indicate in their terms and conditions that the money can be collected from any branch in the world within minutes.
Just to ensure validity, many of these scammers will include business names and phone numbers which also turn out to be fraudulent. According to the FBI Cyber Crimes Unit, international scams are especially hard to shut down and the perpetrators are rarely caught. Once identified their host websites can shut them down within a matter of minutes, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t have other sites running. Additionally, they can start a new site with minimum effort within about 10 minutes and rarely have to pay upfront. These sites are often used for phishing expeditions in which they acquire enough personal information about consumers to make the con sound legitimate.
In one case, people ordered items from a legitimate website, but a hacker gained access to customer orders. Even though card numbers were secure, they did acquire the names of financial institutions issuing the cards along with the last four digits of each card used and customer names, locations, phone numbers, and even addresses. In reciting this information to customers they contacted, there was no reason to believe their financial institution was not on the other end of the line resulting in thousands of victims worldwide.
For those confused by the number and variety of scams currently ruining the lives of many people throughout the world, it’s important to remember that just because home computers connect you to the world, does not guarantee confidentiality. They should only be used as a tool with the understanding that once personal data goes into space, anyone may be able to gain access to the information you hold most dear.