Scams: What to Do if You’ve Lost Money in a Scam

Scams are widespread and ever-evolving, but most are aimed at tricking you into parting with your money. Scammers use a variety of approaches. For example, they may appeal to your sympathies by posing as a charity and asking for donations in the wake of a tragedy or disaster; use scare tactics, such as telling you that your account has been frozen or that your loved one is in danger; or play on your excitement or hopefulness by telling you that you’ve won a prize or by claiming they have an investment opportunity that is guaranteed to deliver high returns with no risk. These con artists often make it hard for their victims to get their money back by insisting on payment via cash, wire transfers, prepaid debit cards, gift cards or cryptocurrency. It may be difficult to get your money back once it’s in the hands of a scammer, but here are some steps you can take to boost your chances of recovering your funds.

Immediately Report the Fraud

As soon as you become aware of the fraud, contact the appropriate financial provider, money transfer company or gift card provider immediately so you have the best chance of recovering your money and minimizing any damage done to your finances or credit record.

Read on to see which scenario below applies to your situation.

Did you send a wire transfer through your bank?

Contact your bank and report the fraudulent transfer. Ask them to reverse the wire transfer and give you your money back. You should also fill out a report at IC3.gov right away in order to document the details of the theft, being sure to include all account numbers involved in the fraud – where the money came from and where the money went. If the theft was recent, especially within the last three to four days, you should also reach out to the FBI field office as they may be able to work with the bank to reverse the wire.

Did you send a wire transfer through a company like Western Union or MoneyGram?

Contact the wire transfer company. Tell them it was a fraudulent transfer. Ask them to reverse the wire transfer and give you your money back.

  • MoneyGram at 1-800-926-9400
  • Western Union at 1-800-448-1492
  • Ria (non-Walmart transfers) at 1-877-443-1399
  • Ria (Walmart2Walmart and Walmart2World transfers) at 1-855-355-2144

You should also fill out a report at IC3.gov right away in order to document the details of the theft, being sure to include all account numbers involved in the fraud – where the money came from and where the money went. If the theft was recent, especially within the last three to four days, you should also reach out to the FBI field office as they may be able to work with the bank to reverse the wire.

Did you pay with a credit card or debit card?

Contact the company or bank that issued the credit card or debit card. Tell them the charge was fraudulent and ask them to reverse the transaction and give you your money back.

Did you pay with a gift card?

Contact the company that issued the gift card. Tell them it was used in a scam and ask them to refund your money. Keep the gift card itself and the gift card receipt.

Did a scammer make an unauthorized transfer from your bank account?

Contact your bank and tell them it was an unauthorized debit or withdrawal. Ask them to reverse the transaction and give you your money back. You should also fill out a report at IC3.gov right away in order to document the details of the theft, being sure to include all account numbers involved in the fraud – where the money came from and where the money went. If the theft was recent, especially within the last three to four days, you should also reach out to the FBI field office as they may be able to work with the bank to reverse the wire.

Did you send money through a money transfer app?

Report the fraudulent transaction to the company behind the money transfer app and ask them to reverse the payment. If you linked the app to a credit card or debit card, report the fraud to your credit card company or bank. Ask them to reverse the charge.

  • Cash App - Cash App recommends chatting through their app for the fastest service. To do so, open the app, go to your profile, and choose Support. You can also get help through cash.app/help or by calling (800) 969-1940.
  • Venmo - Venmo recommends chatting through their app for the fastest service. To do so, open the app, go to your profile, and choose Get Help. You can also email Venmo through their contact form or call them at (855) 812-4430.
  • PayPal - Report it online through PayPal’s Resolution Center or call PayPal at (888) 221-1161.

Did you pay with cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency payments are typically not reversible. Once you pay with cryptocurrency, you can only get your money back if the person you paid sends it back. Nevertheless, you should contact the company you used to send the money and tell them it was a fraudulent transaction. Ask them to reverse the transaction, if possible. You can also report fraud and other suspicious activity involving cryptocurrency to the following entities:

Did you send cash?

If you sent cash by U.S. mail, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at (877) 876-2455 and ask them to intercept the package. If you used another delivery service, contact them as soon as possible. 

Report the Fraud to Law Enforcement

If you haven’t already done so, you should report the fraud to local law enforcement, as well as to the Georgia Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division and to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

If Scam Transactions Are Hurting your Credit

Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to request your free credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. If you notice any unauthorized collection items, loans or credit cards, contact the three major credit reporting agencies – ExperianEquifax, and TransUnion to dispute them.

Learn the Signs of a Scam

Your best protection against fraud is to educate yourself about how to detect and avoid scams. Common red flags of a scam include:

  • Being asked to pay money in order to receive a prize or get a job
  • Pressure to act immediately
  • Use of scare tactics, e.g. telling you a loved one is in danger, that your computer has been hacked or threatening arrest if you don’t act now
  • Insistence that you pay via wire transfer, gift cards, or cryptocurrency. For more information on how to spot a gift card scam, go to https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/avoiding-and-reporting-gift-card-scams#contact.
  • Receiving a check or overpayment and being asked to wire a portion of the funds back
  • Being asked to provide your password, PIN, Social Security number, account number or financial information to someone who contacts you out of the blue
  • Get-rich-quick and other promises that sound too good to be true

Scammers often pose as reputable companies or government agencies to try to win your trust. If you are not sure whether a contact or solicitation is legitimate, hang up the phone or, if it’s an email or text, do not reply, click on any links, or download any attachments. Instead, look up the actual contact information of the company or organization and call that number to verify whether you need to take any action or provide any information.