A recovery scheme occurs after a victim has already been defrauded of some money by another telemarketer or mailing scam. When the victim is at the point where he will no longer fall for the old sweepstakes scam, he or she may get a call from a recovery service. The recovery service operates by having a telemarketer call the victim and offer to find and return the money for a small "finder’s fee."

How Do Recovery Services Work?

Recovery services can operate in a variety of ways:

  • They may claim they have already found your money and will make sure it is returned to you for a fee
  • They may claim they are  working closely with government agencies to recover your money
  • They may even claim to be a part of a government agency that is searching for your money
  • Some may say they will merely give you the addresses of where to file a complaint for a fee

What’s the Catch?

Most of the time these services are either totally fraudulent, if they are legitimate the services are usually not worth the price you have to pay for them. Sometimes the telemarketer trying to get you to pay for the recovery service is the same person who defrauded you. They are simply trying to get your money again and after they get it will either cut and run or provide a simple service for an over-inflated price. 

For example, while these recovery services may offer to give out addresses of consumer protection groups and government agencies for a price, you can normally get these addresses at a library free or for an extremely low cost. Sometimes the services will give you some money, but you can bet the amount you paid for the service is significantly more than what you got back. 

What Should I Do If I Have Been Contacted by a Scam?

If you have been contacted by a sweepstakes scam, you can report it to local or state consumer protection agencies. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC oversees deceptive advertising and can bring an action against the defrauders.

Additionally, if you have been contacted through the mail about a scam, you should also file a complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which will investigate any potential mail fraud. Finally, filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau will help alert other consumers.

Should I Contact an Attorney?

If your money has been taken by one of these services without them upholding their end of the deal, or proceeding in a manner that is different from what they originally offered, you may want to contact a consumer lawyer. Your attorney will be able to advise you of your options and let you know if you may be entitled to compensation in a lawsuit against the scammer.