Yes, Imposters and Online Criminals Do Get Caught

Not all imposters and online criminals are clever. Many slip up, get caught and are brought to justice.

The most common questions scam victims ask when they contact us at MyChargeBack may very well be these:

1. Do scammers get caught?

2. Do police ever arrest them?

3. Will they ever serve time in prison?

The answer to all those questions is “yes.” Some scammers do get caught, and the chances are excellent that those who are will wind up in prison. Others, perhaps most, are luckier, and get away with it.

Amateur Scammers Do Get Caught

You may have missed it, but earlier this month two Mississippi men tried to fake a winning lottery ticket. Their story sounds like an Abbott and Costello routine, but it’s absolutely true.

The dynamic duo from the Magnolia State pasted the winning numbers on their lottery ticket in a vain attempt to claim the $100,000 prize. That was a fatal mistake, since it was a “scratch ticket.” The numbers on scratch tickets are invisible when you buy them because there is a silvery film that hides them. Buyers literally have to scratch it off with a coin or their nails to uncover the numbers underneath, so lottery agents will immediately spot anything pasted on them. And that’s exactly what happened. Police arrested the two after they showed up at the lottery office to collect what they expected to be their ill-gotten gains.

International Cooperation

In October 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice made a dramatic announcement. Extensive international coordination resulted in the arrests of 281 scamming suspects across four continents. A total of 167 in Nigeria, 74 in the United States, 18 in Turkey, and 15 in Ghana. Police in France, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom arrested the remainder. The codename of the joint effort was Operation reWired, and it was the largest such bust of scammers in history. But it wasn’t the first such international effort.

A few weeks earlier the Department of Justice indicted 80 others and charged them with money laundering. Authorities succeeded in locating and arresting 14 of them by that time.  And a year before, another international operation called Wire Wire succeeded in nabbing 74 alleged scammers.

Yes, You Can Catch a Scammer Yourself

It sounds like the theme of a comedy film, but yes, there are instances in which the intended victim turns the tables and winds up catching the scammer. The most notable (and probably the most comical) case involved an intended victim named William Webster. If that name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, he happens to be the only man in history who served as director of the FBI as well as the CIA.

In 2014, a Jamaican named Keniel Thomas contacted Webster (among, it turned out, many others) claiming he was calling from Mega Millions, one of the two main jackpot lotteries in the U.S. He congratulated the former FBI and CIA director for winning several million dollars and a Mercedes-Benz in the jackpot. To collect the cash and the car, Thomas told Webster that he had to send him $50,000 to cover taxes and other assorted fees.

Webster understood immediately that it was a scam. He alerted the FBI, which arrested Thomas in New York in 2017 when he stepped off his flight from Jamaica. A court convicted him and the judge have him a prison sentence of more than six years. Webster, of course, never paid Thomas, but others did. All told, Thomas succeeded in scamming hundreds of thousands of dollars from his victims.

What You Can Do

The moral of the story, however, is that you too can catch someone who attempts to scam you. If you suspect that someone who contacts you is a scammer, report it to your local law enforcement authorities. If the scam involves investments or trading in stocks, bonds, forex, CFDs, binary options, or other type of financial instrument, report it to your relevant national financial regulator.

But if you are the victim of a scam, know that we at MyChargeBack are on your side and are ready to assist in recovering your funds.