Don’t Fall For These 7 Nasty Refund & Recovery Scams

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Yaniv Masjedi

Organic Growth at Aura

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    Can You Really Get Your Money Back After Being Scammed? 

    That’s the question one Reddit user posed after losing thousands of dollars to a cryptocurrency scam [*].

    Within minutes of reporting the scam on a public forum, the victim received multiple messages from people claiming to be (or know) “crypto recovery specialists” who could help get the money back. All the victim needed to do was send some personal information and $100 in Bitcoin to pay for these services.  

    Luckily, the victim recognized these “do-gooders” were really scammers in disguise. 

    Fraudsters know that you’re desperate to get your money back after being scammed. Refund and recovery scams take advantage of your desperate state by charging for bogus services or getting you to give up account passwords and sensitive information that can be used for identity theft. 

    Insidious double scams like these are more common than you might think. 

    The unfortunate truth is that almost 30% of identity theft victims have been targeted at least twice [*]. So, if you’re thinking of hiring a “recovery specialist” to recover your lost money, cryptocurrency, or hacked accounts, slow down and take a deep breath.  

    In this guide, we’ll explain how recovery and refund scams work, how to spot the most common scams, and what to do if you’ve given money or information to a refund scammer. 

    How Do Refund & Recovery Scams Work?

    It’s bad enough to lose money to an online scam. But what’s worse is getting scammed again while trying to recover your money. 

    Refund and recovery scams are a type of online scam in which fraudsters target previous online scam victims with the promise of helping them recover money, assets, or access to online accounts. 

    Here’s how these scams typically work: 

    • Scammers find victims of online scams. Most recovery scammers look for victims on social media sites or forums who post about getting scammed. In other cases, scammers sell a “sucker list” of past victims who lost money or had their accounts hacked. Some cybercriminals even set up “asset recovery companies” online and promote their services on Google. 
    • Next, they reach out and offer their services. Scammers will email, text, call, send direct messages (DMs), or post comments claiming they can “recover” your lost funds or account access. Sometimes, fraudsters create fake accounts pretending to be happy customers in order to promote their own services. 
    Example of refund scammers on YouTube
    Refund scammers on YouTube posing as “happy customers.” Source: Aura YouTube
    • Once you reach out or respond, they ask for either money or information. You’ll need to pay upfront for their services — usually something in the range of $50–$100. Or, scammers will ask for your account password, banking details, and other sensitive information.  
    • After you pay or give them information, they disappear. In the worst case scenario, you’ve given a scammer everything needed to steal your identity and take over your online accounts

    The bottom line: Most “recovery specialists” are scammers who will never actually recover your lost money or accounts. But they will try to profit from your desperation — which is why you shouldn’t interact with them when they offer their “help.”

    If you’ve been scammed out of money, contact your bank, creditor, or crypto exchange. If you’ve had an account hacked by a scammer, reach out to the platform (i.e., Gmail, Amazon, Facebook, etc.) and follow the steps of the their account recovery process. 

    Take action: If refund scammers have your personal information, your bank account, email, and identity could be at risk. Try Aura’s identity theft protection free for 14 days to secure your identity against scammers.

    How To Spot a Scam Asset Recovery Company

    It’s not uncommon for victims of online scams to reach out to asset recovery companies to help them recover lost funds. Unfortunately, the majority of these companies are fake or won’t be able to deliver on what they promise (after you’ve already paid them).  

    There are generally three ways an asset recovery company can scam you: 

    1. You pay for services that you could easily do for yourself. This could include regaining access to a hacked Instagram account or contacting your bank to report fraud.  
    2. They disappear after you pay an upfront fee. This is called an “advance fee” scam. You pay scammers a fee for services, and then they disappear. 
    3. They steal your personal information to commit further identity theft or financial fraud. Some recovery companies will request your personal information, passwords, or bank details (to deposit the “recovered” money). But any information you give them will be used to scam you again. 

    This doesn’t mean that all asset recovery companies are scammers (although the majority of them are). But you do need to be careful. 

    Whenever you engage with an asset recovery firm, watch out for these warning signs: 

    • They ask for an upfront fee. Don’t pay for services you haven’t yet received — ever
    • They offer services you can easily do for yourself (and do for free). Research your options before reaching out. 
    • They claim to have “special” access to government officials, agencies, or companies. This is a lie. No private companies have special access rights to government agencies.  
    • They demand that you keep the process a secret. This is simply to delay the scam being uncovered. 
    • The “company” uses a Gmail or other public domain address. Official companies will have email addresses that use their own domains (i.e. “john@lawfirmname.com”).
    • You’re asked to provide other banking details so the “recovered funds” can be deposited into your bank account. Don’t ever give up bank account details unless you’re absolutely sure the company is legitimate. 

    💡 Related: Did You Give Your Social Security Number To Scammers? Do This Now →

    The 7 Latest Refund Recovery Scams To Avoid 

    1. Cryptocurrency recovery scams
    2. Overpayment scams (i.e., refund scams)
    3. Recovery “specialists” on social media
    4. Stolen vehicle recovery scams
    5. Tech support refund scams
    6. Investment fraud recovery scams
    7. Amazon refund scams

    Recovery and refund scams target you when you’re most vulnerable. Here are descriptions of the most common scams to watch out for, how to spot them, and what to do instead. 

    1. Cryptocurrency recovery scams

    According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 46,000 Americans have lost over $1 billion to crypto scams since the start of 2021 [*]. That’s a 60x increase since 2018. 

    Crypto scams show no signs of slowing down — and recovery scammers are using this to their advantage. 

    Example of re
    Scammers will respond to your messages claiming they can help recover your funds. Source: Twitter

    Crypto recovery scams often take place over social media (like Twitter and Reddit). Scammers set up bots to automatically respond to messages about crypto losses — and then offer the services of a “crypto recovery guru.”

    🔎 How cryptocurrency recovery scams work:
    • Scammers contact you directly, promote their own services using hacked accounts, or set up fake crypto recovery websites.  
    • Then, they ask for your wallet details and seed phrase to return your lost crypto. You’ll also be asked to pay a fee for their services, usually via cryptocurrency transactions that can’t be disputed or reversed. 
    • Once you send the money, they vanish — or worse, they transfer out all of the crypto in your wallet. 
    🛑 Don’t get scammed. Look out for these red flags:
    • Anyone claiming they can get your crypto back from a scammer is a scammer themselves. Crypto can never be retrieved once it’s sent. So, anyone saying otherwise is trying to scam you.
    • Be especially cautious if you are asked for either an upfront fee or your wallet information. 

    💡 Related: Investment Fraud: 22 Scams To Know Of (And Avoid) Right Now →

    2. Overpayment scams (i.e. refund scams) 

    Overpayment refund scams target people selling items online or via online businesses. In this scam, fraudsters overpay for a product or service and then ask you to refund the “extra” payment. 

    But after you do, it turns out that the initial payment was made using stolen credit card numbers. When the legitimate cardholder files a complaint, the amount is withdrawn from your account. 

    🔎 How overpayment scams work:
    • You’re contacted by a fraudster who wants to buy an item that you’re selling. 
    • The scammer sends you more than you listed the item for — via check, money order, or an online payment processor (CashApp, Zelle, Venmo, etc.). 
    • Then, the fraudster asks you to refund the extra amount to a different account via wire transfer, cryptocurrency, or some other method that can’t be reversed or disputed. 
    • After you refund the money, it turns out that the original payment method was fraudulent and you’re out both the money they sent and the money you refunded. 
    🛑 Don’t get scammed. Look out for these red flags:
    • Anyone who overpays you for a product or service online is trying to scam you. If this happens, either cancel the entire transaction and return the money, or leave it in your account. 
    • Never refund overpayment amounts using a different payment method. Be especially cautious if buyers ask you to refund them via wire transfers, gift cards, or cryptocurrency.  

    💡 Related: 2022 Banks Scams: 15 Ways To Protect Your Bank Account →

    3. Recovery “specialists” on social media

    Asset recovery scammers scour social media sites looking for recent victims to target. If you post details about your account being hacked, losing money to a scam, or falling for an investment scam, they’ll crowd your DMs with promises to help. 

    Example of a crypto refund scammer
    Scammers on social media pose as fellow victims to gain your trust. Source: Reddit

    But these “fraud recovery gurus” will only scam you out of more money. 

    🔎 How the social media recovery specialist scam works:
    • You post on social media about losing money to a scam or having an account hacked. 
    • Scammers flood your inbox claiming they can help you get your money or account back. 
    • They’ll request an upfront fee for their services, as well as your personal information to “help” them with the recovery. This could include your bank account information, crypto wallet, Social Security number (SSN), or more. 
    • Ultimately, the scammer will either overcharge you for basic services you could’ve done yourself, or disappear with your money and sensitive information. 
    🛑 Don’t get scammed. Look out for these red flags:
    • You get instant replies to a post about getting scammed from people claiming to be (or know) recovery specialists. 
    • You’re asked for sensitive information — financial information, logins, passwords, SSN, etc. — in order to help facilitate the “recovery.”
    Take action: If you accidentally give scammers your personal data (or its leaked in a data breach), they could take out loans in your name or empty your bank account. Try an identity theft protection service to monitor your finances and alert you to fraud.

    4. Stolen vehicle recovery scams

    In some U.S. cities, vehicles are stolen every 48 minutes [*]. Scammers target vehicle theft victims and claim they’ve found their missing cars. But to get it back, you need to pay an “arrangement fee” for the tow truck. 

    This entire scenario and transaction are all part of a scam. Any money you send will be lost. 

    For example, when Lisa Olson’s motorhome was stolen, she posted on Facebook looking for help. Someone suggested a company on Instagram that asked for $1,500 to retrieve her vehicle. Luckily, Olson didn’t fall for this ruse and stopped chatting with the scammer. 

    🔎 How the stolen vehicle recovery scams work:
    • Scammers find contact details for people who’ve had their vehicles stolen. Sometimes this information is available in “sucker lists” sold on the Dark Web
    • You’ll receive a phone call or message claiming that the fraudster has recovered your vehicle. They’ll ask for information such as your driver’s license and plate number to “confirm” your identity. 
    • The scammers may even find photos of your car (or a similar vehicle) and photoshop it in a fake location. 
    • Finally, they’ll ask for a fee to reveal the location and facilitate the return. 
    🛑 Don’t get scammed. Look out for these red flags:
    • You receive an unsolicited message from someone on the internet claiming they’ve found your stolen car — but you need to pay a fee to find out the location. 
    • If anyone has information about a stolen vehicle, you should report it to the police. Ask for their contact information, and give the information to your local law enforcement. 

    💡 Related: What To Do If Someone Steals Your Driver’s License →

    5. Tech support refund scams

    Tech support scams often involve some form of a refund scam. Scammers will send you a fake invoice for tech services — but when you call them to dispute the service, they’ll “accidentally” refund you too much money (and try to get you to send back the “extra” amount).

    For example, scammers may pose as the Best Buy Geek Squad and claim that you’ve “auto-renewed” for a service you never signed up for. But this whole scenario is just a scam to get you on the phone with them. 

    Example of a tech support refund scam
    Scammers pose as tech support specialists to run refund scams. Source: Aura team

    In one example of this scam, a Rochester man lost over $168k to fraudsters who posed as tech support from the antivirus software company, McAfee [*]. 

    🔎 How the tech support refund scam works:
    • You receive an invoice for a product or service that you never requested. Attached to the invoice is a contact number to call for “technical support” if there are any issues. 
    • When you call, scammers will ask you to download software that will help them facilitate the refund process. But what this software really does is give them access to your computer
    • Next, they’ll ask you to log into your bank account to show you that the refund has been processed. 
    • Scammers will then use the software they’ve tricked you into installing on your device to show you a different number in your bank account than what’s really there. For example, it will look like you’ve been accidentally refunded $20,000 instead of $200. 
    • Now, the fraudster claims that you need to refund the overpayment — usually through a payment transfer app like Zelle or Venmo. 
    • But after you refund the amount, you’ll discover that the whole thing was a scam — and all of the money you sent to the scammer was lost to a fake refund scheme.
    🛑 Don’t get scammed. Look for these red flags:
    • If anyone asks you to download software — especially remote access tools such as AnyDesk or TeamViewer — they’re trying to scam you. 
    • The scammer uses urgent or threatening language to get you to act. 
    • They ask you to refund an overpayment through a different payment method than the one originally used — especially methods that can’t be reversed, such as payment apps, cryptocurrency, or gift cards. 

    💡 Related: How To Avoid the "Pig Butchering" Scam Costing Victims Millions →

    6. Investment fraud recovery scams

    Investments promising huge returns within a short period of time are major red flags. Yet, nearly 100,000 Americans fell victim to investment scams last year, with losses of more than $1.5 billion [*].

    Victims of investment fraud are always looking for ways to get their money back, which makes them prime targets for recovery scams. 

    🔎 How investment recovery scams work:
    • Scammers reach out to you and claim to be representing a law firm or government agency that can help you recover your money. 
    • Then, they ask you to share personal information as they pretend to set up a process to help you file a report. 
    • To start this process, they’ll ask for an advance fee. Some even ask for 10% of the amount lost. 
    • Despite the promises, companies offering asset recovery services don’t help victims recover their money. In fact, most victims end up losing more as these scammers continue to extort them. 
    🛑 Don’t get scammed. Look for these red flags:
    • The purported investment recovery company doesn’t have a valid website, email address, phone number, registered office, or any means of identification.
    • You’re asked to pay an upfront fee or provide sensitive information such as your bank account number or Personally Identifiable Information (PII).
    • They want you to keep their involvement secret.

    💡 Related: How Does Identity Theft Happen? (and How To Prevent It) →

    7. Amazon refund scams

    Amazon scams aren’t uncommon to many of its customers — from merchants selling fake products to couriers stealing customer packages and sending fake pictures of them to “confirm” delivery. However, a new addition to the collection of schemes is the Amazon refund scam.

    🔎 How Amazon refund scams work:
    • Fake Amazon representatives contact you to say there’s an issue with your account. They’ll often claim there’s signs of fraud or transactions that you didn’t approve. 
    • To fix this issue, the scammer requires you to download an app that grants them remote access to your computer. 
    • Then, they’ll direct you to log in to your Amazon account. Unbeknownst to you, the scammer is using the remote access app to show you a “fake screen” that displays the fraudulent transaction supposedly in your Amazon account
    • The scammer then tells you that you’re owed a refund and directs you to sign in to your online banking account.
    • Once you sign in, the scammer takes full control and moves money between accounts to make it appear as if you’ve received a refund. 
    • Later, the scammer tells you that they accidentally overpaid you and would like you to refund the excess.

    If you follow the steps laid out by the fake Amazon representative, you’ll not only lose your money — but also compromise your financial security. 

    According to reports from the FTC, between July 2021 and June 2022, people lost over $36 million to this type of Amazon scam [*]. 

    🛑 Don’t get scammed. Look for these red flags:
    • You receive a phone call from Amazon asking you to verify personal details of a transaction. Amazon will never call you and ask you to share personal information or passwords. 
    • You receive unsolicited texts, claiming to be from Amazon, that contain grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.
    • A fake Amazon representative asks you to download an app to gain access to your computer. 
    • If you are contacted by a suspicious Amazon “rep,” you can report suspicious activity here

    💡 Related: Was Your Amazon Package Stolen? Here’s What To Do

    Did You Give a Refund Scammer Money? Here’s What To Do

    Unfortunately, if you’ve sent money to a refund or return scammer, there’s not usually much you can do to get back your lost funds. Scammers use payment methods that can’t be reversed or disputed — such as gift cards and cryptocurrency. 

    Even worse, scammers who have access to your banking information or sensitive data could continue to scam you, or even steal your identity. 

    To protect yourself against further fraud, follow these steps: 

    • Freeze (or lock) your credit. Contact the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) and freeze your credit. A credit freeze means no one can access your credit file — which can stop scammers from opening new accounts or taking out loans in your name. You can also instantly lock and unlock your Experian credit file with a single click by using Aura’s credit lock tool.  
    Aura credit lock
    Aura’s all-in-one digital security solution includes a one-click credit lock. Learn more →
    • Secure all your online accounts. Change all of your passwords to be more secure (not just the ones you know have been compromised). Make sure you use a complex password; and enable two-factor authentication (2FA) using an authenticator app (instead of text or SMS), whenever possible. 
    • Report the fraud to the FTC. File a fraud and identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission by visiting ReportFraud.ftc.gov and IdentityTheft.gov. Print out the report and keep a copy to have ready when reporting the fraud to your bank, credit card company, or the police.
    • File a report with the police. Gather all of your reports from the credit reporting bureaus, an affidavit from the FTC, and a valid ID (and, if possible, screenshots of your conversations with the scammer), and give it all to your local law enforcement. They’ll walk you through the next steps. 
    • Notify your bank or credit card issuer. Contact your bank or lender to report the fraudulent transaction. They’ll help you close the account and process new accounts and debit or credit cards. If you file to dispute the charge within 60 days of the transaction, the credit card company will refund you. 
    • Regularly check your credit report and bank statements. Scammers are almost always after your financial accounts. Check for the warning signs of identity theft — such as strange charges on your bank statement or accounts you don’t recognize. An identity theft protection service like Aura can monitor your credit and statements for you and alert you to any signs of fraud.

    The Bottom Line: Don’t Become a Repeat Victim of Fraud 

    Scammers are deceptive and can always find new ways to con people. In today’s digital world, it’s unrealistic to think it can never happen to you — even fraud experts fall for scams. 

    If you’ve been scammed, don’t get caught in the trap of believing you can easily recover your money. In most cases, that money is gone. And the best thing you can do is move forward and secure your accounts and identity so that nothing worse can happen to you. 

    For added protection, consider signing up for Aura’s all-in-one digital security solution. 

    Here’s what you get with Aura: 

    • Proactive protection against scammers and phishing attacks. Aura gets ahead of scammers with antivirus software and a virtual private network (VPN) to protect against hackers and phishing sites. Aura also provides you with a powerful password manager that will warn you if your accounts have been compromised. 
    • #1-rated identity theft protection. Aura constantly monitors your most important information — including your SSN, banking, credit, and investment accounts (and more) — for signs of fraud. 
    • 24/7 credit monitoring with a one-click credit lock. Keep your credit safe from scammers with fraud alerts sent to you in near real-time that are up to 4x faster than the competition. 
    • Access to a dedicated team of U.S.-based fraud resolution specialists. You don’t want to go through fraud on your own. Get access to a team of fraud resolution experts who are ready to provide help whenever you need it. 
    • $1,000,000 insurance policy. Every adult member on an Aura plan is covered for up to $1 million in eligible losses due to identity theft. 

    As they say: once bitten, twice shy. Don’t become a repeat victim of fraud. Sign up for Aura today, and protect yourself from scammers online and in the real world. 

    Stay one step ahead of scammers. Try Aura FREE for 14 days!

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    1. Financial identity theft and fraud
    2. Medical identity theft
    3. Child identity theft
    4. Elder fraud and estate identity theft
    5. “Friendly” or familial identity theft
    6. Employment identity theft
    7. Criminal identity theft
    8. Tax identity theft
    9. Unemployment and government benefits identity theft
    10. Synthetic identity theft
    11. Identity cloning
    12. Account takeovers (social media, email, etc.)
    13. Social Security number identity theft
    14. Biometric ID theft
    15. Crypto account takeovers