Definition of a scammer: Someone who is extremely savvy and willing to devote hours to work, day and night. And we wish would put all that knowledge to better use.
Scammers are money and identity thieves who are after you 24/7, and you have to be cognizant of that. Yet despite articles, seminars and other reminders, even the wariest of consumers can still be victims of a scammer.
Here’s what to do if you’ve fallen victim to money or identity thieves.
What to Do When You’re Scammed Out of Money
Don’t hide what happened, even if you feel embarrassed. This is common mistake consumers make – they don’t want anyone to know they’ve fallen for a scam.
Consumers should take action as soon as they realize that fraud occurred:
- Disconnect your internet connection and turn off your computer. Turn off your phone.
- Using a “safe” computer, make a report online to USA.gov website page. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) takes fraud very seriously and investigates it vigorously. It is free to make this report on the website.
- Do a credit freeze. Freeze all financial accounts, including bank accounts, investment accounts, credit card issuers, PayPal, and others, such as a money transfer app.
- Report to local law enforcement and make a police report. This is also free to do.
- Make a personal recovery plan, which includes establishing new accounts, such as at your bank and with your credit card company.
- Have your computer checked by an IT specialist.
What to Do If You’ve Been Scammed Online
Again, act immediately. Follow the steps listed above. In addition, notify your antivirus carrier.
What to Do If You Gave a Scammer Your Personal Information
Act immediately and follow the steps listed above, including notifying law enforcement.
Go to USA.gov and make an Identify Theft Report. You’ll need this later. This can’t be done by a phone call – the identity theft report must be done online. Use a safe computer.
Make a Fraud Alert Report to your credit card company. This will become part of your credit report. It will help you as you attempt to recover lost funds from a fraudulent charge. But, a fraud alert becomes part of credit reports, and it will let credit card companies know that you’ve been a victim of identity theft. When a fraud alert shows up, credit bureaus see it as a “red flag” which can impact the likelihood of potential creditors extending credit as you attempt to get a loan or credit card.
Notify the Social Security Administration and report the scam. If a scammer gets your social security number, all sorts of bad things can happen in addition to identity theft. The social security number can be used to file fraudulent income tax reports.
What to Do When a Scammer Accesses Your Computer or Phone
Immediately disconnect from the internet and turn off the device. Use a different device to update passwords to help protect you from scammers. Don’t use the same password. Ever again.
Follow the steps above to report a scam. In addition, you may have to change phone numbers. Yes, it’s a pain in the butt but once information is out there on the dark web, you can’t get it back. Another scammer may access your phone and get all sorts of information, such as credit card information and financial information.
Who to Contact After Being Scammed
We’ve listed the main contacts consumers should make after becoming victims of a scam. Here’s another entity to contact, which may protect others from also becoming scam victims:
Contact local media.
You hear about it all the time. Often, the elderly are victims of scams via phone calls. The most common scams involve requests by phone calls for a wire transfer. The wire transfer is “urgently needed” to help a relative who is in jail, etc. (the drama may vary depending on the information the scammer has gleaned from the internet.
By making your situation public, you may protect others by reigniting their vigilance.
Here’s a review of who to contact:
- Account Providers
- Your Work IT Department
- Your Antivirus Provider
- Social Security Administration
- Federal Trade Commission
Other Steps to Take If You’ve Been Scammed
Take charge of every account you have that involves finances, credit, and personal information.
1. Freeze Your Credit Report
Freeze credit reports so that credit bureaus will know you’ve been scammed.
2. Monitor Your Bank Account
You may want to change your account number with your financial institution. Even after changing account numbers, continue to monitor your account for any suspicious activity.
3. Obtain Identity Theft Protection
This is a no-brainer since it’s practically free. Weigh the minimal cost against how much you’ll have paid to clean up an identity theft incident. Plans that will give you $1 million of protection cost as little as $8 a month (with Norton/Lifelock). So in a year, you’ll have paid just under $100 for peace of mind.
4. File a Police Report
Do this in person at your local police department.
5. Change all your passwords.
Consider signing up for a password monitoring service, which will automatically change all your passwords on a monthly basis. You’ll only have one password to remember – the one that lets you access the password-monitoring service.
6. Report to the IRS
Go to IRS.gov and make a report. The IRS will issue you a 6-digit “protection pin.” This will prevent someone else from filing an income tax return using your social security number. You’ll be able to file your return, only by using the pin the IRS has provided.
Will You Get Your Money Back If You Get Scammed?
In many cases, you won’t get your money back. It’s much more likely to happen if you’ve taken all the steps to report that we’ve listed.
If you carry an Identity Theft Protection Service, that’s like having insurance against a claim. If you have such a service, it’s likely that you will get your money back.
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