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I played a guessing type game. I won and ended up giving them all this info. I got $9500 in my account but now they are asking me to send it back through different means.

They say it's to prove to the company that they can trust me and that I will get more money back.

Is this a scam and if so what should I do? Am I allowed to keep what they gave me considering they are not saying it was by mistake?

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    @ceejayoz In UK and Europe at least, an account number is not sufficient to take money from an account. (A joker can set up a direct debit in favour of a utility company or a charity - but those will refund the money if it wasn't done by the account owner, and there is no way for the joker to get the money.) In Germany (where I live), many businesses / councils / churches put their bank account details on their website. Apr 21 at 9:49
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    @RBarryYoung I would say that is a terrible idea if you suspect it is a scam. You arent stealing from the scammer, and if you suspect the money isn't legit, I'd say it's pretty immoral to try to take it. (Plus like the other person said, youd still be on the hook, the bank probably has your info even if the account closes. It would look suspicious, and they would rightfully assume you did it on purpose)
    – JMac
    Apr 21 at 11:58
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    Out of curiosity, what was this "guessing type game"? If it was a "Guess what number I'm thinking" kind of situation, you almost certainly did not "win" - they would've told you that no matter what number you picked. You were marked just for playing. Even if it was a game that required actual knowledge, and not just picking an arbitrary random number, they probably designed the questions to be easy enough that many people would get them right, but still feel accomplished for having done so. Apr 21 at 13:38
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    "...and ended up giving them all this info" - What kind of info??
    – MrWhite
    Apr 21 at 15:08

8 Answers 8

178

It sounds like a new variant of an age-old scam.

The way they want you to return the money will be non-reversible. But in a few days, you will find that the $9500 payment into your account is reversed by the bank.

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    Which means "don't touch that money, don't try to spend it, don't withdraw it, don't transfer it". Leave it where it is, and notify the bank that you suspect you may have received a fraudulent payment. OP may also want to notify the police. They probably won't be able to do anything, but at least it shows good faith, and lessens the chances they knock on your door asking about your participation in some kind of fraud.
    – jcaron
    Apr 21 at 12:31
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    Maybe this should be a question, but in case other people have the same thought, is there a way to tell if a deposit is reversible or non-revisible? Apr 23 at 10:36
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    @BenAveling a deposit is always reversible because if it was fraudulent, it will be reversed by the bank. A outgoing payment may or may not be reversible by you. Credit card payments are often reversible (you can claim a chargeback), though the details may be complex and depend on local laws and much more. A direct debit is always reversible. A bank transfer (under its many forms) usually isn’t.
    – jcaron
    Apr 23 at 21:42
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    @BenAveling Some means of payment are not even reversible by the bank: once you get to cash, there is usually nothing the bank can do. That’s why scammer love Western Union. Bank transfers to accounts abroad are also an issue.
    – jcaron
    Apr 23 at 21:48
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This is a minor variation on an old and well-known scam, the overpayment scam.

Someone has sent you some money and asks for it back using a different payment method. The crucial aspect is that the payment method to be used for the "refund" is non-reversible, while the method through which you got the money, is.

While the money has shown up in your account, it will soon disappear again. Meanwhile, your money will be gone, without any means to get it back.

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    How is this answer different from the other one (posted 18 hours earlier)?
    – Surb
    Apr 21 at 18:34
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    @Surb This one’s non-reversible. Apr 21 at 19:20
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    Other answer similarly states 'non-reversable'. Maybe there was an edit, but I don't see it. Apr 22 at 0:29
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    @SBQ Great, and please excuse my unnice comment. But when I first read your answer, there was only one other answer which was the exact same content with a couple of less words. Happy to delete my comments in a couple of mins
    – Surb
    Apr 22 at 7:45
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    @Surb no, your comment was correct and I didn't perceive it as unnice.
    – SQB
    Apr 22 at 13:19
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If you happen to live in the USA:

To add to what's already been stated about it being a scam, the amount of the prize is suspect.

With it being $9500, it's (just) under the $10,000 limit where the bank has to file a report about the transfer. Why wouldn't a prize be a round number like $10,000, or even $9,000? There may be valid reasons, but it sends up a yellow flag for me. Not a red flag, but it's a bit sketchy.

I can't find the actual statute, but the FBI website mentions it in a report about a federal case against a former bank manager in 2009.

Federal law requires banks and other financial institutions to report large currency transactions to the United States Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. This reporting is done on a Currency Transaction Report which is required for all cash transactions over $10,000. Federal law also prohibits individuals from causing a financial institution to fail to file such a report. The law specifically prohibits any individual from structuring a currency transaction in any manner designed to avoid the filing of the report.

https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/neworleans/press-releases/2009/no082609.htm

This seems to be confirmed by another article, which is much more recent.

Depositing a big amount of cash that is $10,000 or more means your bank or credit union will report it to the federal government. The $10,000 threshold was created as part of the Bank Secrecy Act, passed by Congress in 1970, and adjusted with the Patriot Act in 2002.

https://money.usnews.com/banking/articles/if-you-deposit-a-lot-of-cash-does-your-bank-report-it-to-the-government

Reporting Cash Payments of Over $10,000
The general rule is that you must file Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business, if your business receives more than $10,000 in cash from one buyer as a result of a single transaction or two or more related transactions.

https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/bank-secrecy-act

With the limited time I took to research, I couldn't find what the US News article was talking about in regards to the "adjustment" with the Patriot Act in 2002.

As stated in comments, you'll want to change as much of the info you gave them as possible as they may be trying to set you up for other scams, identity theft, or who knows what.

Have your bank start up a new account for you, change all your passwords, change all your security questions, and maybe even change your email and phone number. The email and phone might be a little much, so feel free to wait that out. If they don't start harassing/spamming you or sending out messages to others pretending to be you, then you're fine. Otherwise, swap them out, too.

And definitely find a way to restore any money you've spent. Your other question leads me to think that you've spent some of it. If you don't replace it, you could get overdraft and possibly other fees when the scammers reverse the transaction, unless your account doesn't actually go negative.

You can also file a report with the FBI about the scam. You might not get anything out of it, but you might be able to help stop this scammer from hurting someone else.

https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety

And most important of all, don't beat yourself up too hard. Scammers are getting real sophisticated. It's almost hard not to spot some of them. Yes, there are many that only feed off the least intelligent people that fall for the most obvious scams, like pyramid schemes or the Nigerian Prince email, but there's plenty that are still trying to be at the top of their craft, whatever that means for them.

Yes, right now sucks, so try hard not to get into this same situation again. Use this as a learning experience to not do it again and to help others avoid the same pains you're going through.

I wasn't thinking about it when I originally wrote this answer, but returning the money through "other means" could be through a transaction that could be considered cash. Money orders, travelers checks, and other transactions are considered cash (and are fairly standard scam transactions), so that could also trigger a IRS 8300 form being filled out. And the transaction can be less than $10k, if it's deemed "suspicious".

Cash - “Cash” generally means the coin and currency of the U.S. or of any other country. For purposes of this reporting requirement, “cash” also includes a cashier’s check,1 bank draft, traveler’s check, or money order having a face amount of $10,000 or less if the instrument is

  • received in any transaction in which the recipient knows that such instrument is being used to avoid the reporting of the transaction, or
  • received in a “designated reporting transaction,” which is defined as a retail sale of a consumer durable,2 a collectible,3 or a travel or entertainment activity.

https://your.yale.edu/policies-procedures/other/reporting-cash-transactions-definition

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    The US reporting requirement with threshold $10k is for cash transactions, not electronic transfers; see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bank_Secrecy_Act . Notice the word cash or currency in every one of your links. Banks and other financial institutions report to FinCEN on form 104; IRS 8300 is only for nonbank businesses that (sometimes) receive large cash like car dealers and jewelers. Banks/FIs are separately required to report suspicious transactions (or patterns) of any amount and any type, which this Q might or might not trigger. Apr 22 at 2:17
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    @dave_thompson_085, I wasn't thinking about it when I wrote this answer, but returning the money through "other means" could be through a transaction that could be considered cash. Money orders, travelers checks, and other transactions are considered cash (and are fairly standard scam transactions), so that could also trigger a IRS 8300 form being filled out. And the transaction can be less than $10k, if it's deemed "suspicious". your.yale.edu/policies-procedures/other/… Apr 22 at 16:10
  • I must have missed something. I don't see any indication in the question that the OP is in the United States. Apr 23 at 10:26
  • @DawoodibnKareem, part of the point of answering questions is to make the answer apply to more than just the single instance of the question. In fact, questions generally are supposed to be about topics that are generic enough for more than a single person to have the same problem. Even when a question mentions a specific geographical location, it's generally acceptable to write answers that apply to more than that one location or apply to other locations so others can learn about what to do outside of the one location. Apr 25 at 14:56
  • @computercarguy How would it be received if I wrote an answer about the laws in Liechtenstein? Or are Americans somehow the only really important people? Frankly, an answer like this is downright racist. Apr 25 at 18:50
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There's a high chance that you're not entitled to ANY of the so called prize money because it was illegally obtained. Let that idea go, completely.

The best thing you can do right now is to start a new account. Move all your money to the new account, minus the $9,500 which you should leave in the old account untouched. Change any direct deposit (payroll), bill payments, Paypal, and so forth to use your new account. If you have ATM cards, get your bank to switch the new account to be the one linked to your card.

You want to do this quickly, BEFORE the bank gets into its investigation. The bank will probably freeze the old account completely, which would include ALL funds left in the account.

Once you are done setting up your new account, THEN notify the bank. Whatever you do, don't disturb that $9,500. It's bad for your health.

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  • The reality is that if the new bank account is with the same bank, the new one is likely to get frozen as well. There's absolutely no reason for them to think you aren't part of the scam or trying to scam them in some way. Apr 25 at 23:01
  • @computercarguy I was a victim of stolen check fraud, where someone intercepted a $60 check I wrote from a mailbox right in front of the post office. They generated a new check for $3500 and stupidly deposited it at an ATM with the same bank that I bank with. I have multiple accounts, and the bank only froze one of them.
    – Xavier J
    Apr 25 at 23:24
  • You do realize that's a completely different situation, right? Only one of your accounts was involved and you weren't trying to move money around between them in conjunction with the theft, right? By creating a new account then moving money into the account at the same time as you are reporting a scam, as you suggest, it would likely seem suspicious that the new account was involved. Even if you reported it a day after creating the account, the new account would still look suspicious. That's definitely not the case with your check fraud anecdote. Apr 26 at 14:56
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Scam. The money you "received" will soon disappear.

The money that appeared in your account was stolen from another victim whose account they hacked, and will be taken back in the next few weeks most likely.

If you gave them "remote desktop" access to your PC, the money was never there in the first place - they manipulated the web page they were showing you. Common trick.

Make them wait 30 days

In the world of real, actual finance, a scenario like this nobody would care about a 30 day delay. That is just normal business. I have 3 similar matters open right now, and nobody is in a rush. They haven't even called once.

However a scammer will be in an absolute frenzy, they need to get you to send an irreversible payment before the payment to you reverses.

So toss in arbitrary delays and see how they react.

Now, the money might disappear, but then reappear on day 30 from a different account. They just found another victim. In that case, don't listen to their lies, restart the clock and make them wait another 30 days.

Snow them with paperwork

(The law requires this anyway) I would also ask them to send a filled-out and signed W-9 tax form, and to provide the state in which they incorporated.

Tell them your lawyer will only mail the check to your registered agent address.

A legit company would go "ok". A scammer will... probably have a problem. Most likely they will buzz off, because you sound too sophisticated to fool.

But if they do, then states keep the registry of corporations online, so you can Google the state name and "corporations database" and fact-check what they gave you.

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Well, I would be very, very careful with your next steps..

  1. They might have set up a scam website in order to fish people out on answering questions.

  2. After they answered, they will get in contact saying that you won a prize, and to supply your bank details in order to get paid the prize. This is where the problem starts. (Because they might well be some hackers with some money stored online on some sort of cryptocurrency which is being monitored from online victims, and they need a current physical bank account in order to try to cash in – or maybe from another victim or fake website which accepted payment online directly inside your own physical bank account.)

  3. And at last, to finish off the scam, they ask you to refund the money back to them, on another different account. This way, they try to hide... and difficult traceability steps on the money laundering directly to them... and pointing out to you.

So I would be very, very careful with your next step.

-2

Of course it's a scam. Think about it--a total stranger contacts you out of the blue and gives you free money without you really doing anything in exchange for it. How can you know it's a scam? Because the universe simply does not work like that.

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Of course it is a scam.

It is probably not even them. This is important. Or they may have never intended to pay you. But someone has your details. A bird in the hand is still a bird in the hand. Keep your money, and notify your benefactor through a trusted, independent channel that this is going on.

But do not send them any money back. Do not enter into any correspondence regarding sending it back. They might be persuasive.

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    Odds are, the money is either stolen, being laundered, or simply non-existent. Trying to keep it may get you into serious trouble.
    – Mark
    Apr 21 at 23:34
  • Except that such games are regulated and would have required some oversight. Calling it a "guessing" game makes it a game of skill, rather than chance. It may be that insiders are leaking details of the winners. A little like being burgled for the first time a week after taking out insurance for the first time. They have to pay the prize, but if you are foolish after that it may not be their problem.
    – mckenzm
    Apr 22 at 7:39
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    @Mark I think by "keep" mckenzm doesn't mean to keep it by all means and fight back if it gets reversed but rather not spending it and not sending money to them. In this case they ask to "send it back trough different means" - which leads to them reversing their first payment and a victim with 9500$ less. Apr 22 at 10:00

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