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I was contacted by a woman on Instagram who told me I could make a $50,000 profit after sending in $500. This has been going on since August 2022. The senior trade manager told me that my account had been disabled, and she asked me for my driver's license, which I did not give her. She has an active Facebook account, but she uses her first and middle name and not her full name. I researched the company, and every time I googled it, it said "cannot find page". I have contacted the FTC and the IC3. I have seen some posts where people have gotten their profit, but they look fake to me.

I asked her where my money was and she told me that she would "approve" it now and all of a sudden all of the money I had invested showed up in my account mysteriously a few days ago. Why she had to approve it after so long is questionable. She continually contacted me through WhatsApp app and then disappeared for a month, changing her phone number. She told me that she got mugged and her phone was stolen, which I don't believe.

I was then contacted by another woman through WhatsApp app who works for the same trade company, or claims she does, because there are so many scammers on WhatsApp app. She said she was the platform manager and noticed that I hadn't received my profit. This was December 2022 and this woman mysteriously disappeared from WhatsApp app. So now the senior account manager is now asking me for $2450 to receive a profit of $60,000. I asked if this was a commission fee and she said no. I asked her if there are any more fees involved and why I couldn't just withdraw my profit since it was mine. She told me I had to pay first before the withdrawal. She said that I would pay her the commission fee once I receive my profit.

Is there such a thing as an insurance fee, international trade fee, or an IMF on a wire transfer? Why does she need $2450 in the first place for me to withdraw my money, since my account balance is $12,450? No, $2450 is clearly a commission fee to me. Is this a scam?

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    You mention $10,000 in the subject line, but the first sentence says $500. What happened to the other $9500?
    – RonJohn
    Feb 27, 2023 at 5:52
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    What is a "tree company"? Did they tell you you would get rich quick by investing in oaks?
    – kaya3
    Feb 27, 2023 at 11:48
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    Does tree company mean multi -level-marketing? Even when they are honest, those are rackets that make money only for the first few people involved, since they're glorified chain letters ... and many are straight-out scams
    – keshlam
    Feb 27, 2023 at 16:16
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    Did you pay $500 (what the body seems to say) or $10,000 (from the title)? It's a scam either way, but maybe clarify that bit. Feb 27, 2023 at 18:30
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    If they're ambitious, they might contact you again as the police, claiming to have arrested the scammers and offering to return your money -- if you'd just pay a holding-charge or transfer-fee or whatever. Or maybe they'll just need your personal information to "verify your identity". Or maybe they'll just send you your scammed $500, but accidentally send $1000, requesting that you return the $500 over-transfer before they reverse the charge. Or maybe they'll just target you in future scams, believing you an easy mark.
    – Nat
    Mar 1, 2023 at 2:25

6 Answers 6

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I was contacted by a woman on Instagram we told me I could make a $50,000 profit after sending in $500

Yes, you're being scammed. Didn't even read the rest. As long as you keep sending them money they'll keep telling you stories. Once you stop sending them money they'll stop responding to you as you'll be of no more use to them.

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    This answer is completely correct. But a good answer would also explain how to tell it's a scam, and how the scam works. Feb 27, 2023 at 16:39
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    @DJClayworth The first sentence in the question is the answer to how to tell it's a scam.
    – Herohtar
    Feb 27, 2023 at 17:51
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    The first sentence contains two entirely independent ways to determine something is a scam. 1) Ridiculous promised profits. 2) Approached on social media. Add 3) "fee to release money" - nobody does this, fees are generally deducted from the amount, and at most they need to get your authorization to do that. They never ask for money up front.
    – Ben
    Feb 27, 2023 at 17:59
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    Re the last sentence, it's possible that they (or their buddies) could target you for other scams in the future on the assumption that you might bite on another one, so it's worth using this time to learn more about how scams work and to be even more extra cautious in the future in case they try again. Feb 27, 2023 at 20:47
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    In my experience, "Am I being scammed" is a sufficient trigger to stop reading the question and confidently answer "yes". Feb 28, 2023 at 21:00
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Yes, this is a textbook scam.

You're viewing an "account" but the account only shows on their website, right? Well, they control that website and they can make it say anything they want. The profit is fake.

It only feels real because you want it to be real.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!

So they already tricked you into sending $500. Now they want you to send $2500.

This is a standard ploy for scammers. They talk you into sending a small amount on the promise of making much more. Then, they talk you into sending a larger amount - generally 2-3 times larger but I guess these guys are ambitious. If you did send it in, their fake website would report much higher "profits" and they would come with another excuse for sending in 2-3 times more money, so $5000-7500.

If you sent that, they'd hit you again looking for $10,000 to $20,000.

They do this because it works. It's a confidence game - it's about your confidence that it is real. Notice how you do believe it is real - you have never said "wait, is that $60,000 even real?" You assume it is. It's not.

Real companies don't work that way.

I'd like you to walk into a branch of your most reputable local bank.... and open an account. See how banks actually operate. Then do it again with your nation's most reputable discount brokerage and see how that flows.

Now how do they interact with you? Do you deal with individuals on social media platforms? ROFLMAO of course not. You deal exclusively through face2face, phone through an automated system as a gatekeeper, or via their reputable web site - there might be chat on the site, but it's inside their site. They would never have chats with you on a third party platform like WhatsApp - it'd be illegal to do that actually due to confidentiality laws. (what prevents a rogue employee at WhatsApp the company from surveilling you? Much easier for a bank to run its own chat platform on their own metal).

I know you want the money to be real. But it simply does not work that way. $500 does not turn into $60,000 because you met some random person on WhatsApp. There are no secret hidden bargains like that, investment does not work that way.

Since you are interested in investment, clearly, I strongly urge you to read John Bogle's book "Common Sense on Mutual Funds" so you can see for yourself how the sausage is made.

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    While this is obviously a scam. On "They would never have chats with you on a third party platform like WhatsApp" lots of companies have actually started doing that. It's not with a named individual, it's with their corporate account, but still Feb 27, 2023 at 15:56
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    @RichardTingle Companies answering questions or pizzerias taking orders, sure. But banks handling financial transactions? I doubt that.
    – gerrit
    Feb 27, 2023 at 16:57
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    @RichardTingle Right, but notice their domain is extremely constrained and doesn't go within miles of personal banking info. No transactional data, no PII. Feb 27, 2023 at 23:40
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    I agree on everything else, but I've absolutely had WhatsApp chats with my assigned banker. Sure, both identities were well established, and I think since we're not in the US no one is suffering the advanced paranoia of being sued for everything under the sun, so this was just easier. So, yeah, maybe not standard, but at least that part is plausible.
    – Davor
    Mar 1, 2023 at 9:55
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    "what prevents a rogue employee at WhatsApp the company from surveilling you?" Or your phone company, or the post office?
    – JiK
    Mar 2, 2023 at 9:36
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This is a classic Advance Fee Fraud.

They took your $500 and ran with it.

They built a nice looking website where you can log in with a personal account and they can show you your "profits", but what you actually see is a fantasy number they entered and can change to whatever number they want.

Now they try to convince you to send them even more money to withdraw that non-existing money. When you do, they will keep that money as well and invent another reason why you need to pay them even more. This will go on until you either give up or go bankrupt.

In general, when you see an investment opportunity that is too good to be true, then it probably is. There is no magic way to turn $500 into $50000. That's just not a reasonable return of investment. If you want to invest money, work with your bank, not with someone sending you spam massages via WhatsApp.

What can you do now?

You already did the best you can do by reporting everything you got to law enforcement. But don't expect to get your money back. It probably already went through a dozen money laundering schemes across the globe making it impossible to find out who really has it now. But reporting it was a good thing to do anyway, because the more the law enforcement agencies are aware of these scams, the more reason they have to invest some time and money into preventive information campaigns to prevent more people from falling for these schemes. And who knows, perhaps the scammers made some mistake while covering their tracks that gives the cops the opportunity to arrest one or two of them.

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    They made one mistake when they set up a website. They placed an asset within your reach. If nothing else; get a judgement against them and seize the domain.
    – Joshua
    Feb 27, 2023 at 17:03
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    @Joshua That's fine to do, but don't expect it to matter. Domains are cheap ($15 a year or so), not really a big investment that you're depriving them of.
    – Corrodias
    Feb 27, 2023 at 17:48
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    @Corrodias: Nah. Putting up a scam education page there will cost them a lot more.
    – Joshua
    Feb 27, 2023 at 17:51
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    @Corrodias I have done web development for a while. Website domains are worth 25 cents a year to the domain registrar. The rest of it is just pure margin.
    – Nelson
    Feb 28, 2023 at 5:45
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    @Joshua You won't be able to get control of a website just because they scammed you. If the domain gets seized by court order, it will go to law enforcement, not a random victim.
    – Philipp
    Feb 28, 2023 at 8:47
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Contact the police. Now. This is simple fraud, and you are a victim of a crime.

The chances of you ever seeing that money again are basically zero. Your $500 is gone. But if the criminals are in your country, at least there's a chance they might be stopped.

Of course most criminals are aware of this, and tend to victimise people in other countries. The police do still track this though, so it's worth reporting.

It was unwise to give $500 to someone you'd never met. Do you walk down the street giving $500 to random people who start a conversation with you and then ask you for money? If you don't, then don't do it online either.

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    your DA might even get the domain used seized, if there's enough political will to prosecute it. justice.gov/usao-edva/pr/… Feb 27, 2023 at 13:42
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    Is the final paragraph really necessary?
    – gerrit
    Feb 27, 2023 at 16:54
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    @gerrit From the OP's question, I truly don't believe that they understand this. They're actually asking whether the "commission fee" is a scam, and they clearly can't see that the $500 was the original scam. So yes, IMO it's necessary. We can answer a question for one specific scenario, but unless they can apply that lesson to the next time that scenario happens, we haven't really helped them. It sucks to have to say it, but I'd rather be unpopular than an enabler.
    – Graham
    Feb 27, 2023 at 17:53
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    @Bart Which is why I only ever use a credit card online, because if I do run into a vendor who screws me over, I can claim it back.
    – Graham
    Feb 28, 2023 at 0:37
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    The last paragraph has got flagged a few times as "rude or abusive". I have edited it to try to get across the message in a less judgmental way. Mar 1, 2023 at 23:48
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I was contacted by a woman on Instagram who told me I could make a $50,000 profit after sending in $500.

You can throw away everything else what you've written because it's totally irrelevant. That sentence alone screams for scam. It would scream for scam even if the promised profit would be 50 times lower. With such absurd promise it's hardly to believe people won't notice it's far beyond 'so good that's impossible to be true'. Unfortunately, they don't.

Hopefully you've learn the important lesson (because it was an expensive one):

Anybody who promises you easy money is a liar.

Money is always hard earned. Either by hard work or by heavy risk. You can be also extremely lucky and win in Lotto, but it still falls under risk category (you can be almost 100% sure to loose).

Another lesson to learn

Any stranger contacting you wants something for them

Nobody contacts stranger to give them money, offer them business or criminal opportunities etc. People who want to give money go to charities, people who want business partners look for people they know and trust, people who want to fund criminal band look for people they have strong bond with. What they can offer you, is to be scammed or muled.

As for money you've paid, it's most likely already transferred abroad, payed out in cash or pumped through dozens of mule account (another scam: being paid for making money transfers*) so that the chances of getting them back is almost null. The organizers of the scam are most likely beyond your jurisdiction.

*) https://money.stackexchange.com/a/67946/11328

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    Logically why would I ask random strangers for money and then give them the profit? I'll max out all my credit cards, remortgage my home, sell everything I possibly own, turn around and become a billionaire. The reason they don't do it, surprise, is that it's a scam.
    – Nelson
    Mar 2, 2023 at 3:00
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    @Nelson This might be true for MOST people... but MY benefactor is a PRINCE! He assures me his word is his bond! Besides: I have noblis oblige: I'm obliged to help his noble personage get his money clear of the tyrannical, despotic rule of his royal family! Now, if you destitute losers will excuse me, I have a cashiers check to get to Western Union. Hey - on an unrelated note - what country code is 419? Anyone?
    – NerdyDeeds
    Mar 2, 2023 at 8:42
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Since you deleted an "answer" you made where you ask again if there is such a thing as a transfer fee, I am "answering" myself now in the hope you do not believe that there is a fee you need to pay to get your money back.

Not sure of you spent 500, or something around 10.000. Either way, do NOT, I repeat NOT, pay them another 2450 so that you think you you get 10.000 back. If there is a fee, they should deduct it and send you the rest. If you transfer money internationally, there are often fees but you pay them with the money in the account. Say you transfer 100, but only receive 95 because they charges 5 for the service.

In case I wasn't clear, do NOT send another 2450 to them (or anyone else).

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    OP really asked again if there is such a thing as a transfer fee? Oye.
    – DKNguyen
    Mar 2, 2023 at 1:37
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    @DKNguyen, unfortunately yes, even after I wrote this in a separate question that was closed as a duplicate. The only difference, the "fee" was now 4800. I literally only wrote this in the hope OP finally stops paying them more money.
    – AKdemy
    Mar 2, 2023 at 5:27

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