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Scam victims often become targets of recovery scams

Scam someone, and they feel plenty of shame, maybe so much that they hand over more money to the next round of con artists promising to help get their money back.

Of course, you have to pay an upfront fee. And of course, it’s another scam. And the victims are usually the elderly, already suffering from a financial loss.

It’s bad enough losing thousands to a fake timeshare investment or some crooked business “opportunity” to be your own boss.

But scammers are now running something called “asset recovery” cons that target consumers.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau noticed a pattern in its complaint data of scam victims getting scammed again. It discovered a company charging fraud victims anywhere from $500 to as much as $8,000 for this “service,” which usually involved filing a complaint they could file themselves for free. These victims already had lost from $1,000 to $30,000 and ranged in age from 62 to 82, the bureau reported.

It’s hard to know if the same scammer hit on people the first time and then again as part of some “asset recovery” scam. Some consumers suspected maybe that was the case.

Stacy Canan, deputy assistant director of the Office for Older Americans at the CFPB in Washington, said in an interview that some consumers tried to recover their money after losing investment dollars to a vacation timeshare that turned out to be a fraud. Some consumers also complained that they got involved in a bad business deal that involved selling credit card processing equipment to some businesses.

Canan said many consumers found the original losses financially devastating so they were attracted by the possibility of trying to recover some money.

Some state regulators have issued similar warnings. Last year, the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office said scammers are contacting victims of investment fraud and promising to help recover losses for an upfront fee.

One major tip: Don’t pay upfront fees for services that you’ve not received.

Another tip: Never get involved with a company or group that asks you to keep your relationship a secret from your family or friends.

If you have trouble with a financial product, such as a payday loan or mortgage, you can submit a complaint to consumerfinance.gov/complaint.

You can also file an online complaint at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov on everything from romance scams to sweepstakes scams to impostor scams, where someone claims to be from the Internal Revenue Service or even Homeland Security.

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