Scammers come up with creative ways to steal billions of dollars from their victims annually. According to the IC3, there were 791,790 reports with $4.2 billion lost, and this is just data from people who have reported their scams. At Social Catfish, we believe that there was actually more money lost and more scams that have surfaced based on a poll we conducted this year. 73% of 693 people stated that they did not report the scam they were a victim of. Out of just the 693 people we polled, it was estimated that millions of dollars were lost. Therefore, I wanted to conduct more research to see “is scamming illegal?”, what reporting a scam can do, how often do these scammers get caught, and how can someone recover from a scam.
Is Scamming Illegal?: There are Both Federal and State Laws Regarding Fraud
Is scamming illegal? Depending on the circumstances of the crime, online scams can be punishable by either federal law, state law, or both. When scammers are caught, they are most often caught doing wire transfer crimes, which is when they trick their victims into wiring money. If scammers are caught phishing, it could also mean a five-year prison sentence according to the 2005 Anti-Phishing Act. However, the 2005 Anti-Phishing Act is not a law federally but is a law in certain states such as California or Texas.
Depending on the crime, where it took place, and how much money was stolen, there a variety of punishments that could occur if the scammer is caught. They could be subject to incarceration, which means that they could be subject to a jail or prison sentence. Usually, if a scammer commits a misdemeanor they go to their local jail, and if it’s a felony they go to prison. If the crime they committed is a federal crime, they could face up to ten years in prison. They could also face probation which means that you serve your sentence without needing to go to jail. This limits your freedom significantly since there are a lot of restrictions you need to follow on probation.
There is also the possibility of needing to pay fines for committing the fraud. These fines could differ significantly depending on the case. Violations of misdemeanor crimes could mean needing to pay a few thousand dollars in fines, while a felony crime could mean needing to pay $10,000 or more. Finally, a scammer might need to do restitution, which means to pay the victims back for the money that was stolen from them. These could be paid in addition to any fines the court decides to impose.
Is Scamming Illegal?: What Can Reporting My Scam Do?
You can report the scam that you’ve been a victim of to either local law enforcement, the FTC, or IC3. Police can take the information down about the scam in case they catch the scammer or can recover some of your money back, even though this is rare. In most cases, police officers can’t do anything other than using the information to educate the public regarding scams.
You can also report the scam to the FTC and IC3 to get more information on what to do. They will look into your case and try to catch the scammer, but most likely won’t be able to. However, it is still helpful to report the scam so that the government can improve its ways of getting rid of online scams. It also provides accurate information to the public to showcase the dangers of online scams.
How Often Do Scammers Get Caught?
According to Detective Brant Devey, jurisdiction is the biggest issue when trying to catch scammers. Usually, the scams are outside of one’s state and country. Once that happens, they are done. These scams are being documented sometimes. You can report them to the FTC, but usually, nothing happens. They usually just take the report and use it to educate the public.
If I send money through my bank or gift cards, is there any recourse? Even in such cases, the most they are going to end up doing is get a report. They cannot do anything since it is not traceable or is outside of the country.
There is no way for them to prosecute it. Even if it is local, depending on the money lost, there is nothing they can do. There is a very minimal rate of recourse. The victim can take them to court, and they can arrest them depending on the amount lost or get fined. Scammers go to jail and they will be out within a few hours. Other states have better chances of recourse. Law enforcement authorities will do what they can.
How Can I Recover From a Scam?
- Report the scam to local law enforcement, FTC, and IC3. Even though they most likely won’t be able to do anything, they can still use your story to educate the public. They can also help you recover emotionally and financially after you have been scammed.
- Talk to your bank or law enforcement about possibly being able to recover your funds. While this might not happen all the time, there have been times where victims can recover their funds after a scam.
- Report the scammer’s fake profiles on the dating apps or social media platforms that you were communicating with them on.
- Talk to a therapist if you are dealing with a series of emotions after being scammed. They will be able to get you back on the right path and allow you to heal properly after being scammed.
- Talk to your loved ones if you are having a hard time after the scam. If you can’t talk to a therapist or only get to talk to them for an hour each week or two, then your loved ones might be the next best thing. They will be able to help you process your emotions and allow you to find the tools to move on from the scam.
Social Catfish is Here to Help You!
At Social Catfish, we want to help you verify the identities of those who might seem suspicious to you. If you have their name, email address, phone number, social media username, or image, you can reverse search and see who the suspected person was that you’ve been in contact with if you’ve been wondering “is scamming illegal?”