Older consumers who have lost money to scammers in the past may find themselves targeted for further fraud.

According to an advisory from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, so-called asset recovery companies prey on victims of bogus timeshare investments, fake work-from-home schemes, or similar scams in which the victim handed over money for services that were never delivered. These firms call those who have already suffered from a scam and promise to recover those lost funds for an upfront fee ranging from several hundred to thousands of dollars. But after taking the money, the asset recovery company does nothing or takes steps that consumers could do themselves at no cost.

For example, if a consumer used a credit card to pay the original scammer, the asset recovery firm may dispute the charge with the credit card company—something the consumer can easily do for free. Or it may submit a complaint to an agency like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which doesn't charge anything to process a complaint. Adding insult to injury, the firms may file claims that are too old to be legally valid or lack proper documentation.

Older consumers are frequently targeted for fraud and having been scammed once, may be susceptible to offers of getting their money back. In an article in The New York Times, Amy Nofziger, director of regional operations with the AARP Foundation and manager of its Fraud Watch Network call center, explains that criminals often return to the same victims because they know they have a greater chance of success. Scammers also maintain and sell “sucker lists” of people who have been previously tricked. 

Avoid Being Scammed Again

If a so-called asset recovery firm contacts you, watch for these red flags of possible fraud:

  • The firm charges upfront fees to recover money. Don’t pay for promises of service. 
  • The firm claims it has industry expertise. The process of submitting a complaint to federal agencies, state attorneys general offices, and credit card companies is free and, generally, easy to do. Private asset recovery companies do not have special access.
  • The firm demands that you keep the asset recovery process secret. If a firm wants you to hide your actions from family members, friends, or trusted advisers, it’s usually because they have something to hide.

If you suspect you're the target of a phone scam, submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission at ftccomplaintassistant.gov