August 10, 2005

[Last Updated: March 02, 2006 ]

Refunds: How To Get Your Money Back or Get Out of a Contract

Introduction

Many parents visit this website and find out for the first time they were scammed. Then they send a complaint and sometimes ask, "How can I get my money back?" Some parents have paid a deposit, and are expected to pay more, then found out they were scammed, so they not only want a refund, but they also want to know how to get out their contract, so they don't have to keep paying additional fees.

Easy Background Check previously has helped one family get over $4,000 in refunds and another get back over $500. In another case a $300 deposit was returned. People continue to ask, "How can I get my money back?" In response to the continued public interest and refund success, the following free easy refund tips and tricks anyone can try are worth considering.

Stop Payment

Many parents know about this option, but not all teens. It is very simple. If you paid by check recently, there may still be time to do a "stop payment" by calling your bank immediately. There is a small window of time to do a stop payment--you need to contact the bank before the company cashes your check. Scammers move quickly--they know you could find the truth about them online--so you need to move more quickly. Some banks let you initiate the stop payment from their websites by online banking, but you may want to phone your bank if it is still open and you feel that is more reliable. Stop payments initiated by phone may be processed faster. The "stop payment" fee varies but is typically about $20.

Refund Demand

Demand your money back from the firm which took it. Give them a good faith chance to return your money. You can start by making a polite request. Be professional even if the business wasn't. Don't escalate the situation if it is not necessary. Let them blame a rogue employee or a "misunderstanding" and return your money. Unfortunately, scammers often deliberately ignore direct contact with their clients. You get the runaround. They make it extremely difficult if not impossible to contact anyone at their office. They want to keep your money and hope you'll give up.

If repeated attempts to sort out the refund over the phone or by email fail, simply send a refund demand letter, including copies of your contract and receipt, etc., and an explanation of why you want your money back. Include statements about important issues like fraud, things the company told you or deliberately omitted, lies of omission. Steer clear from any statements which sound like buyer's remorse; these are generally unconvincing and ignored.

You should send the letter by certified mail to make sure the business receives it and cannot claim they never received it. If it is ignored, you could ask an attorney to send a refund demand letter. Many businesses know it costs them more to be sued than to issue a refund. A refund demand letter on a law firm's letterhead can get their attention quickly. Good lawyers know how to make convincing demands. (It may only cost you $150 for a letter from a lawyer, which is not bad, if you get $1,500 back; you may pay less if you actually write the letter and the firm edits and sends it.)

Chargebacks

If you paid by credit card for modeling products and services, as many consumers do, chargebacks are often a very good idea. A chargeback is a simple way of charging a payment back to the business. It is very common and a very popular refund method. Thousands of chargebacks take place every day in America. All you have to do is call your credit card company and say you'd like to dispute a payment. They will then typically send you a form to fill out.

When you dispute a payment, the bank or credit card company often wants some kind of evidence you paid and were scammed. It is usually easier to convince a cc company you were scammed than to get the scammers to refund your money, but you still need to show them the reason you want a refund is not just buyer's remorse. Critical news reports, BBB records, legal records, etc., all make a good case; these can be a good resource to dispute a credit card payment. Collect material, news clippings, etc., from the internet, BBB, etc. (Email for more information and records if you are in this situation; not all records are online.)

There may be a deadline for chargebacks, so you have to check with your bank/cc company, but if you recently made a payment by credit card, chargebacks are a good thing to consider immediately. You can ask your cc firm about their deadline. Depending on your credit card, you could have anywhere from six months to one year after payment to dispute a purchase and initiate a chargeback. AMEX is most pro-consumer. The general six-month guideline for VISA and MasterCard may not be set in stone; AMEX has allowed one year in the past. Your bank may be more accommodating than any distant cc firms. Call to get the most current information and determine your options. The longer you wait from the time of payment to attempting a chargeback, the more difficult it can become.

Better Business Bureau

A lot of people get their money back after filing complaints with the Better Business Bureau. This is especially true when the company is a member of the BBB. You can check the online database to see which businesses are BBB members and also review their complaint record. While many modeling agencies can ignore you, they cannot ignore the BBB if they are members, otherwise their membership will be revoked. If the company's BBB record shows many complaints, but they are all classified as "resolved," this usually means they issued a refund. It costs you nothing to file a BBB complaint seeking a refund. When unresolved complaints stack up, BBB offices typically forward these to the Attorney General's Office, which starts investigating them.

Attorney General's Office

Give a business that has your money a warning with a deadline saying you will file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office if they do not return your money. Filing the complaint costs you nothing.

Illegal Contracts

If you signed a contract which is illegal--violating state law, for example--it is void and unenforceable. The trick is to find out if your contract is illegal and, to do this, you need to know state laws. Scammers often don't get their contracts approved by attorneys before they start their business, so they don't know if they are legal. If you have done no legal research, you too may assume the contracts are legal, just because they look technical and legitimate.

If you would like to find out if the company you paid is charging fees illegally, email to ask for copies of earlier legal decisions or to discuss your state's law. There are companies in California, for example, which use illegal contracts. No firm can legitimately enforce an illegal contract, so this is the easiest way to get out of a bad contract and get your money back and not have to pay additional fees the bogus contract says you must pay. The government can void contracts and demand refunds. In some cases there are records of government-voided contracts but the scam company is still using the same contracts; therefore getting a copy of the government's decision is a simple way to dispute a payment and do a chargeback.

Police

If you paid for a product or service you did not receive, and you have documentary evidence you made the payment, but the company didn't deliver, you were robbed. Theft is theft. Call the police and file a theft and fraud complaint if the firm has passed the deadline to deliver the goods, or there was no agreed deadline, but a long time has passed, and they are not answering your calls, refusing to communicate, leaving the clear impression they have no intention of giving you what you paid for.

Documents

One of the most important things you need to get your money back is documents, such as receipts and contracts--proof that you had dealings with the company and paid them. Many times the agreements are in writing, but not always. Even if there was no written contract, or you can't find it, you are still in a position for a refund if you have proof that you paid the company. If you have neither a contract nor a receipt, there may not be a lot that can be done. If you can't find your receipt(s), ask your bank for a copy of an old bank statement.

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