Reloading schemes are used to try to squeeze more money out of victims who have already fallen prey to other telemarketer and mailing schemes. Usually they will come in the form of some kind of "promotion" or "upgrade" for a product you have previously purchased from the same company. For example, if you purchased "discount" vitamins from a company, they may try a reload scheme in which they claim that since you have spent a certain amount of money you are entitled to a special prize for a small fee.

Sometimes the telemarketer or mailed offer will say that you can recoup your expenses from your first purchase as well as any new expenses from the current fees you must pay to claim your prize. These fees will usually take the form of "taxes" or "handling fees" for the prize, which might be something like a car, a fully paid vacation, or another prize that sounds too good to be true.

What’s the Catch?

The catch is that the prize offer usually is too good to be true. As mentioned before, this is simply another scheme to extract more money out of victims. More frequently than not these offers turn out to be scams. The telemarketer might persuade the victim to send in money to receive the prize. These fees are usually very small when compared to the alleged prize value. Once the con artist obtains the money, the company may disappear or may continue to scam the victim. Even in the rare instances where the scammers provide the prizes to the "winners," the prizes turn out to have some defect or be of poor quality that makes them virtually worthless.

How Can I Report a Scam?

If you have lost money by falling prey to one of these scams you should contact your local authorities such as the police. 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. Your state may also have an agency that deals with consumer fraud. Finally, filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau will help alert other consumers.

Should I Hire an Attorney If I Have Been Defrauded by a Reloading Scam?

You should consider hiring a consumer lawyer if you think you have been a victim of a sweepstakes scam. Your attorney can advise you of your options and help you decide what action to take next, including the possibility of compensation in a lawsuit against the scammer who took your money.