Courtesy of Travelers Insurance
If you’ve been the victim of an online money scam, it can be embarrassing to admit it and scary to know what to do about it. However, being the victim of an online scam is all too common, with over 2.1 million people reporting fraud in the past year.1 Scammers exploit vulnerabilities and take advantage of good-natured victims. Seniors are particularly attractive targets for scammers, as many are generally financially secure, own homes, and have good credit.2 The keys to getting your dignity and your money back from an online scammer are knowing what to do when you get scammed and acting fast.
Who to contact if you have been scammed
Recovery starts with making the right contacts and knowing how to report a scammer. Here are the organizations to contact if you have been scammed:
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Typically, the FTC will create a custom recovery plan for you to help you know what to do next. The FTC uses the information you provide in your report to build a case against online scammers, notice trends, and educate the public.3 Depending on the facts of your case, you may also choose to file a report with your local police department.4
- Your financial institutions
It is important to report any fraudulent activity on your accounts to your financial institution as soon as possible so that they can attempt to reverse the transaction and recover your money. If you paid a scammer by credit card, your credit card company will usually allow you to dispute the charge. Bank transfers can be harder to cancel, but you should contact the bank transfer company and try to get your money back.
Place a fraud alert on your credit report by contacting the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax or TransUnion. The one you usually contact will share the information with the other two.5 A fraud alert will make it more difficult to open a new credit account in your name. Also, review your credit report for items you are unfamiliar with and report them to the credit bureau as fraudulent.
4. A victim support group
Victims of financial crimes can often experience shame or a loss of self-confidence. It is important to understand that online scammers are usually sneaky and hard to spot. They are trained in the art of taking advantage of the innocent. Contact a victim support group to get the help you need to recover from this very upsetting incident. You can find support groups online, on social media, and in your community.
How to avoid future scams
Now that you know what to do after being scammed, there are some precautions you can take against future scams. Scammers are smart and tend to target vulnerable people. Learn more about how to avoid scams, especially when using your smartphone. Continue to monitor online scam news as new trends are recognized and reported by organizations like the FTC. Awareness can help you stay safe.
Protect yourself against future scams
Cybercrimes are widespread, but there is plenty of information on the internet about how they are perpetrated and how to avoid them. Do your homework: Educate yourself on cybercrime and ask your insurer if they review online scam reports and publish up-to-date information. Take advantage of the resources available to you to protect yourself against online scams.
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