So you've been scammed... Me too! And guess what, I got my money back! You need to read this fast because you need to act fast.
First and foremost, there are two things you can do right now to help your situation.
1. Call your bank or credit card company immediately after you realize you have been scammed.
2. Call your Police non-emergency number and file a report. Explain your situation and see what they can do for you. Filing a report is a good idea in case you need to provide it to your bank and/or credit card and credit agencies (depending on your circumstances).
I'm writing this tutorial because I was recently scammed in a domain sale at SitePoint.com. I paid $275 via Paypal for a certain domain name promised to me at Sitepoint.com. Once I sent payment, the "seller" (let's call him Mr. McScammer) private messaged me and said that he was going to go to dinner and send the domain after he gets back. Red flag #1.
I'll admit that I fell into this scam partly due to my ignorance. The best thing you can do to prevent this kind of nonsense is simply keep caution when you participate in ANY online transaction. Although there are times where you just get caught up in a shady transaction. I'm not calling you stupid, you can be the judge of that. Either way, there's hope. Read on.
"How do I get my money back if I've been scammed online?"
Step number 1:
How did you pay? If you paid via Paypal like I did, log into your account and view the details of the payment you just sent. Scroll down and find where it says:
Need help? If you have problems with a transaction or would like assistance settling a dispute with your seller, visit the Resolution Center. PayPal strongly recommends attempting to resolve this issue directly with the merchant or seller whenever possible.
Click 'Resolution Center' and open a dispute. Do whatever you need to do, write whatever you need to write to get the dispute open. The point is to get the dispute opened ASAP.
Step number 2:
Call or go to your nearest bank location. Don't hesitate with this, time is crucial. I was lucky enough to get this taken care of in time. I actually emailed at first (not smart), then they told me to call them.
Speak to one of your bank representatives and explain your situation. I told my bank that I was recently scammed out of $275 and would like to issue a Stop Payment. This is what you need to get as well. They should give you a "dispute form" of some sort. If you're at the bank in person, have them walk you through it. The form they give you is a legal contract that you'll want to carefully fill out. Basically the Stop Payment does exactly what it's titled, it stops the payment from your bank to whoever (in this case Paypal). Your bank will most likely charge you a fee to do this (mine was $25). You will also need to get this notarized if they can't do it for you. Since I wasn't at my physical bank in person, I had to go to UPS and have them notarize it for $10. Just do this as fast as you can and don't think twice about the fees. It's worth it assuming you've been scammed out of a decent amount of money.
Stay in contact with your bank. Just make sure they're processing the form as soon as possible. They should be doing all they can to help you. If you get scammed, they get scammed in a sense.
Step number 3:
You've now done all you can do really. From here, I do my best to in any way try to contact the actual scammer and tell him/her that you're willing to escelate the situation with legal action if your money isn't returned within 24 hours. Don't give them more than 24 hours. If they don't give it back to you within that amount of time, they'll never give it back most likely. DO NOT BEG. Depending on the amount at stake, it may be tempting to get on your hands and knees and beg for your money back. It won't work. You expect that it will? Scammers have no heart. I don't even consider them real people :). Overall, keep your cool. Your bank will now take care of it.
You might have to wait between 24-72 hours for the stop payment to take affect. Once it does, Paypal should email you a message like this:
Dear Your Name,
You recently attempted to transfer funds from your bank account to your PayPal account.
Your bank has declined the funds transfer.
We were unable to cover your payment to email@example.com with funds from your PayPal balance.
While this transaction had already been flagged as unauthorized, our external processor could not be prevented from completing the representment process. Your Back-up Funding Source will not be charged to make up the funds. This could mean that your PayPal account balance will go negative, but this is merely an interim accounting step that will be corrected when we have completed our review of this transaction.
For current information on your account balance and transaction history, please login to your PayPal account.
Don't freak out. This is a good thing. Paypal is saying that your bank has declined the transfer of funds for the transaction specified in the Stop Payment Dispute form you filled out from your bank.
Paypal will most likely limit your account access due to the situation involving fraud. You'll need to change your password, security question, and confirm you're really you by having them call you and enter a PIN number they give you. It's just a security procedure. Do that and you're account will be back to normal.
That's all I had to do to get my money back. I ended up having to pay a total of $35 for the notary and Stop Payment fee from the bank.
I hope this helps at least ONE person. If it does then this article is deemed useful. Good luck to everyone.
Stay safe, stay smart.
Top 10 Scams
The Better Business Bureau published an Infographic that gives you good insight into the top 10 scams to avoid. Although it's dated (2010), it's still relevant.