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 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.
One consumer complaint involved a man who lost several thousand dollars on an investment in an online shopping mall, she said.
Then, he was approached by an outfit that offered to help him recover that money. But he paid money to the firm upfront and lost money there, too.
The scams didn't stop there. After that, he was approached by the original people who said they actually had found a buyer for his online shopping mall. Supposedly, the buyer was willing to pay $25,000 for that mall. But all the consumer had to do was send another $3,000 to facilitate the sale.
Wisely, he avoided that third scam.
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.
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.
The con artists go so far as to buy and sell what they dub "sucker lists" with names of victims of fraudulent promotions, according to the FTC.
The call or email might even offer a way to recover a prize or some merchandise that you never received, if you pay an advance fee.
"Once the older consumer pays the upfront fee, the company fails to perform any service that the consumer could not have done themselves," the CFPB stated.
But if you unknowingly paid money for such things upfront, your contact information can be sold down the line to other scam outfits, the FTC said.
The theory: If you can be scammed once, there's got to be a way to scam you twice and maybe even three or four times, too.
Get a contract upfront. Read it. Ask for specifics on what service would be provided for that fee. Verify first that any legal services would be provided and ask for names and license numbers of any attorneys that could be providing class actions.
Susan Tompor, the personal finance columnist for the Detroit Free Press, can be reached at stomporfreepress.com.