How to Get Your Money Back If You’ve Been Scammed Online

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Scams have always existed, but since the internet took a toll, scammers have found a way to expand their “business” online. In many ways, scammers prefer websites because they can trick multiple people at once from far away.

This scamming technique commonly comes through as “phishing,” so through emails. Last year, the FBI counted a total of almost 250.000 cases of phishing attacks.

So, how do we protect ourselves from online scams, and what do we do if we realize we’ve fallen for one? In this article, you’ll find more about online scamming and how to get your money back.

What is an online scam, and how does it look like?

We previously said that phishing is a synonym for online scamming. But this is just the most common of the many types of cybercrimes committed. In fact, most criminals wish to make easy money, so they go straight to tricking people into monetary transactions.

How to Get Your Money Back If You’ve Been Scammed Online_

Other kinds of cybercrimes also involve identity and personal data theft for a variety of illegal activities. In some cases, the scams can even target one’s bank account and identity altogether.

So, how does an online scam look like? Studies show that most attacks come from emails.

Therefore, phishing emails take the format of any other email. The cybercriminals want to make it seem that you’ve nothing to be afraid of, hence the template. Unfortunately, this mimesis makes phishing emails challenging to recognize, but not impossible.

 Most of these online scams have these topics: request, urgent, attention, payment, important. The phrasing may put the user in distress, thinking they need to solve some issue quickly, so they don’t have time to think twice.

Here’s a more in-depth look at the phishing topics: 

  • Annual Asset Inventory
  • Health benefits adjustments
  • Security alert on Twitter
  • Amazon declined membership
  • Zoom error of a scheduled meeting
  • Google payment sent

In addition to a text of “urgent” matter, these emails contain clickable links for malicious files in the form of Windows executables (.exe) and script files (text type documents)

Who can become a target?

When we’re talking about online scams, no one is truly safe. Some scammers work alone, and on a small scale, so they target individuals. Other scammers have entire clandestine groups that aim for medium to large companies.

The Health and pharmaceutical industry seems to be a reoccurring victim of these phishing scams. Meanwhile, the Education industry, like schools, assignment help online sites, or online courses could be second on the list.

Moreover, since the pandemic, scammers have tried to take advantage of the crisis and invent new Covid-19 related scams. For instance, you might get emails about medical equipment such as face masks at extreme prices. Or emails from the “government” about life insurance requesting personal data. Lastly, some scammers might even ask for charitable acts pretending to be some charity association.

How can you get your money back if you’ve been scammed online?

If you’ve ever been scammed, you know that it may take you some time to realize what had happened. Specifically when you don’t really have much knowledge about internet scams. In many cases, when a user understands that they fell for it, they panic. However, as with most situations, panicking isn’t going to help. Try keeping an optimistic mindset and approach the issue rationally. 

What is an online scam and how does it look like

It’s easier said than done, sure, but we have a few solutions for getting your funds back in case of an online scam. Remember that not all rip-offs can have a “remedy,” as some can’t be totally traced. Nonetheless, the most common ones involve a decent degree of traceability.

1. Bank or PayPal account suspicious activity

Since most scammers wish to access your bank account, many phishing attacks target the victim’s funds. So, your bank account may seem like an obvious objective. If you find unauthorized payments on your bank account, or you have trouble accessing your bank account, call your bank quickly. They will freeze your account until the issue is solved. They may start an investigation, change your passwords, or even involve the police if they think it’s a severe attack. 

Usually, they either stop the transaction from finalizing or reach out to the scammer’s bank account and recuperate the amount you lost.

One interesting question could be, “Scammers have bank accounts?”. Since online transactions consist of the transfer of non-physical money, your bank can’t give money to something other than a bank account (except rarely).

In most cases, this process is a success in getting your money back, but it depends on how fast you act. Also, it depends on how quickly your bank is when it comes to transactions. Sometimes, banks take one or more business days to complete transactions and totally pause during weekends. So, make sure to call as fast as you can and give all the details.

Lastly, if you find suspicious activity on your PayPal account, contact PayPal. Here, time is also essential: the sooner you act, the higher your chances to get your money back.

2. Gift cards and vouchers

In most cases, gift cards and vouchers are nonrefundable even when used correctly and safely, but in the case of a scam, they’re almost guaranteed to be lost. The good news is that vouchers and gift cards often don’t involve a significant sum and are (by definition) not your money. Also, scammers usually go for direct transactions, such as cards or PayPal, not vouchers.

Gift cards and vouchers

If you want to get your gift cards back, you can report the scam on the site you’re using. Usually, if you get scammed by someone for vouchers and gift cards for a specific site, you can report the scam on the site itself.

For example, suppose you have a voucher for academic services, Ninjaessays, or virtual courses. One day, someone promises you access to multiple discounts in exchange for your voucher code. They might go the extra mile and offer you a series of codes for those discounts to gain your trust. If you gave them the voucher and realize you’ve fallen for a scam, try to report it to the academic service that offered you the voucher. They might give you another one for having informed them of the fraud.

3. Other online accounts

Sometimes, online scams happen on different virtual platforms which have their own monetary systems and policies. In this case, you should report the scam and seek help through whichever customer service contact is available. Many platforms have a money-back insurance policy that covers your monetary losses up to a certain amount. This happens because many sites try to keep their customers safe while browsing on their website for mostly marketing reasons.

The key, in all cases, is to seek help from people. Specifically, ask for support from customer services. Don’t try to solve it on your own because you may not have the knowledge and the means to do so. 

Next step: report and spread the word

After solving the matter or attempting to, you should try to report the incident online. When the issue is closed, there’s nothing you can do about it anymore. Nevertheless, you can help people stay safe.

If you’ve been scammed or just dodged a bullet, go on the site where it happened. Next, find the report page and tell the shop what happened. This way, they might revise their page, their vendors and maybe find a breach within the security of their domain. Also, you can spread the word in comment sections and warn people about potential scams. There’s nothing better than saving other people from falling for online tricks and making the site a safer place for everyone, including yourself.

Moreover, you can even contact your local police and other institutions because they might gather data and open an investigation to find a “serial” scammer, for instance. Sometimes, a few details like your computer’s IP can help the police track them and put them away.

Lastly, since most online scams start from phishing emails, you can report them to Yahoo, Gmail, or other virtual mail companies. This might help them sort dangerous emails before they even get to your inbox. 

How can you defend yourself from future scams?

Even if it happened to you already, don’t think you’re crossed on the “to scam” list. So, try to take action and protect yourself from future attacks.

How can you defend yourself from future scams

Since over 90% of scams come through emails, here’s a list of preventative methods when you get a weird email:

1. Remain calm.  Most phishing emails start with “urgent” and other synonyms because scammers wish to put you in a stressful mood where you don’t think twice about your decisions. They want you to believe that there’s no time for second-guessing. So, if you get a similarly themed email, scrutinize it and don’t click on anything in it.

2. Read the address. Is it an official email address, or is it full of numbers and strange words? Remind yourself that official emails come from official addresses. So, if you’ve never seen that username or just seems sketchy, delete the message.

3. Examine the logos. Many phishing emails mimic the logos of companies like Yahoo, Amazon, Google, and more. Nevertheless, if you look close, without clicking the email, you might see that the logo is low-quality, not centered, or simply looks fake. You can compare it to an old official email from the company they claim to be. But unfortunately, more and more scammers are perfecting their emails, making it almost impossible to detect a fake one.

4 .Call the real company. If you’re still unsure about the email, try to contact the company they claim to be. If it seems an email from your bank, call your bank and ask them about the email. Obviously, don’t call the contacts from the email, as you may fall directly into the lion’s den. Use the numbers you have on your phone and that you know are safe. Your bank may confirm or tell you that it’s fake.

5. Use your knowledge and instincts. If you know that you haven’t done anything that has to do with the email, think about it twice. If they’re a company you’ve no ties with, or they came out of the blue, delete the email.

6. Everything can be fixed. In most cases, if it’s an actual urgent matter from your bank, they might call you, and you’ll recognize both the phone number and operator talking. So, even if you delete their informative email, they’ll find a way to come back to you. On the other hand, if you clicked or accessed the phishing email, simply close the tabs and block any downloading malware. Don’t get discouraged or stressed. Seek help, and you just might solve your issues.

Other than emails, online scams can come in numerous shapes and forms. Here’s a list of overall great advice to keep yourself safe while browsing online: 

  • Be secretive about your data. Don’t give up information to people you don’t know, especially usernames, passwords, codes of cards, and other personal information. Even when it comes to relatives, you should keep private things for yourself. If you disclose your sensitive data, it can quickly end up in the wrong hands. So, it’s better to keep strong passwords in secret places.
  • Don’t make payments on sketchy sites. Don’t complete the transaction if you think the site looks weird or has something off about it.
  • Don’t load your card. A good strategy is to keep your card at a minimum, so you won’t suffer too much if you get scammed. Also, don’t permit direct transfers from your main account, where you have most of your funds.
  • Use antivirus software. A colossal cyber security must is antivirus software. Sure, it can be expensive, but it’s a wise investment. Your antivirus software can extend onto all the devices of your house, ensuring that none of them get infected with malware. Also, most of these apps can trace the origin of links and sites and alert you of any threats. Your antivirus can also provide VPN and secure browser mode. This can be particularly useful if you make a lot of payments online. 
  • Avoid strange sites and ads. A decent amount of scams happen on “underground” sites that have a lot of ads. So, try to stay away from them.
  • Always ask for help. If you don’t know how to navigate sites well or have trouble, ask for help from family, friends, and customer services. This way, you won’t risk clicking on something that you don’t know.
  • Help others. Kids and older people are usually less used to the web, so they might fall easily for scams. Try to help, educate, and supervise them.
  • Call the police. If you feel like you’re in danger because you may have received threats or the scammers know where you live, call the police, and they’ll help you navigate the situation better.

Final thoughts

If you’ve been scammed, contact your bank, custom services, or authorities as soon as possible. Try to stay away from strange emails, sites, and ads.

Lastly, keep yourself and your family safe with antivirus apps and secret passwords.

About the author 

Peter Keszegh

Most people write this part in the third person but I won't. You're at the right place if you want to start or grow your online business. When I'm not busy scaling up my own or other people' businesses, you'll find me trying out new things and discovering new places. Connect with me on Facebook, just let me know how I can help.

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