Once in a Lifetime

You've Been Scammed! Now What?

Sadly, even if you report a business opportunity scam to an agency like the National Consumers League, there's very little chance of getting your money back, according to Grant. "We don't make any promises about getting money back from them," she explains. "We do stress the importance of reporting actual fraud whether or not they get the money back, because that's what law enforcement needs to take action against the scammer and make sure it doesn't happen to someone else. And most consumers are happy to give that information."

Of course, documenting your interaction with the scammer is the best way to increase your chances of recovering money from them and provide the FTC and law enforcement with evidence that may be vital to their investigation, says Fountain. "Every conversation, everything you do, document it with notes. Whenever I interact with a company, I write down what took place and put it into a registered letter and send it to them, saying, 'This is to confirm the conversation in which you said so and so.' "

Fountain also suggests organizing with other victims. "There's power in numbers. It's important to find others who have been scammed and organize if you really want to take action. The Internet is a good forum for that."

Perhaps the best advice on dealing with scams comes from Jeff, a homebased business owner who lost nearly $6,000 in a 15-month period to a multilevel marketing scheme promoted by one scheming company. "You should think the opportunity through more thoroughly then I did," says Jeff, who declined to give his last name for this article. "I wanted to believe their promises because they just sounded so good, even though my intuition was telling me something wasn't right."

The company that gave Jeff problems was eventually investigated by the FTC, and declared bankruptcy in late 1999. The lesson? Trust your instincts.

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