What Steps Should You Take If You’ve Been Scammed?

Deceitful cybercriminals are good at what they do. Scammers and swindlers have to be ‘artistic’ in a sense. They have to be creative in order to rely on making a living from deceiving people. They think out inventive ways to trick us out of our hard-earned money. Don’t think for a second that we support any of their malpractices. We are just trying to explain why so many people fall victim to scams and fraud. People from all walks of life with average intelligence, smart, affluent, and even less fortunate people have had eventful encounters with scammers. It’s obvious that it isn’t only gullible people or unsuspecting seniors that get scammed out of their money. Since there are now dozens of ways for people to interact with us (directly and indirectly), the fight against such criminals is difficult. Yet, we can’t allow such crimes to go unpunished, so here are steps to take to protect yourself and prevent yourself from being scammed

Step 1. Confirm You’ve Been Scammed

To confirm you’ve indeed been a victim of a scam, you can explore a few options. If you suspect that money’s been taken from your accounts, you should check them all. Contact your bank, discuss the issue with them and report the problem. Next, review your transactions online or request a bank statement. If you suspect that your banking and credit card information is in the wrong hands, you will need to contact your financial institution, open a new account, and close the current account. In many cases, losses from scams will not be covered by your financial institution. You can ask but you’ll likely be denied. If you don’t have identity theft insurance, you should. Don’t forget to inform the credit bureaus. A reminder, here in the United States the credit bureaus are Experian, Equifax, and Transunion.  

If you suspect that your investments have been going to someone’s pockets rather than the asset you invested in, you should take a closer look. Research the company and look for other people that may also have invested in the same asset or fund. If you find that you contributed to a cause that is not legitimate you need to find additional victims. Looking for others who have fallen prey to a particular scam is a good tactic because scammers will rarely stop after successfully using a scam just once. The more victims, the more likely law enforcement will pursue an enforcement action.  

If there had been an email sent to you requesting your personal information, financial information, or account information, there’s a good chance someone tried to scam you. You should never reveal your Social Security Number via email or social media, as it can lead to identity theft and other types of internet crime. If you must share your SSN, try to use a secure communication method. Do some thorough research on spotting and avoiding scams online if you’re still not sure about your situation. We provide our free Community site for this exact purpose. 

Step 2. Notify Law Enforcement

You may be a little reserved when it comes to reporting a scam to your local police. Some people report a feeling of embarrassment when they realize they have been conned. The reality is that you’re likely not the only one dealing with this issue, not by a long shot. The level of fraud and jurisdiction will dictate if local law enforcement will handle your case or if an agency like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would get involved. 

Theft of personal property is known as larceny even if it’s money and not real or personal property. There is a distinction between petty and grand larceny or felonious larceny. The terms differ from state to state. Grand larceny is a felony and is typically defined by a significant amount of loss over $400 or $500. In some states like Virginia, the threshold is only $5 if taken from a person.  

Scammers think their job is to target people and, sometimes, luck and circumstances are on their side. So don’t think of yourself as naive and grow reluctant to contact your law enforcement to share this problem. A scam constitutes fraud, and it’s your duty as a citizen to report it. Additionally, if possible, the authorities will try to help you recoup your losses and work towards stopping this particular scam or scammer. 

Step. 3 Report the Scam to the Relevant Agency

Some scams involve stealing your identity, and as previously discussed, some may involve a level of larceny (the unlawful taking or theft of personal property like money). In any case, there are several steps that you need to perform until you know what’s been stolen and how to recover. 

  1. Freeze your assets including credit cards, bank accounts, and credit
  2. Scan your computer for viruses, malware, and reset your online passwords (particular email, banking, and investment accounts)
  3. Report the scam to the agency in charge

Until we are in the fallout of a scam, we have no clue who to turn to for help. Perhaps it’s a good thing to not think about what can go wrong in advance, but you still have to be aware of the common scams that are currently in circulation. There are consumer protection agencies that compile information on these regularly. Here’s the link to help you look for the type of scam, how to stop it, and who to report it to

You may now start to realize why people, for the most part, tend to get confused and end up not reporting the scam. You need to turn to people you trust, such as family and friends first, so they can support you throughout this journey. There are also consumer protection agencies that help people get back on their feet after being scammed.

Step 4. Initiate a Recovery Program

Recovering your losses is probably the most difficult phase. Some may discourage you by saying that you won’t be able to recover the lost money. On the other hand, you may hear of instances where people got some or all their money back. This depends on various circumstances, including where you live, the way you’ve been scammed, how much evidence you gathered, and if the organization(s) involved classify it as a scam or fraud.  

The only thing that is certain is that you won’t be able to pursue a refund unless law enforcement has been informed and an investigation was launched. Most likely, you may need to seek legal advice and keep constant correspondence with financial institutions. 

You’ll need records from your bank, reports, statements, emails, call records or logs, and evidence that there’s been a scam. Anything from receipts to screenshots can help. In some instances, the Federal Trade Commission will have to be informed, and they will take note of your problem. For instances of an investment scam and some others, you can use this recovery checklist for victims of investment fraud that you can use. 

These different approaches to scams require unique approaches to battle and recover from them. Here is the most comprehensive rundown of what steps you need to take to get your money back after a scam. If you are a Consumer Affinity customer, we provide fully assisted Identity Theft Restoration services and insurance. Split®‘s Insurance policy may cover some aspects of a reimbursement related to a scam. That being said, in many cases, scams are typically excluded from most insurance policies. The reason: you’re expected to realize if someone is scamming you. In most cases, financial fraud and identity theft are beyond most people’s control.

If you’re a senior or have an elderly person in your life that you care about, you should help protect them from these types of issues. The elderly are regularly targeted victims of fraud, scams, and identity theft. While we’ve certainly written about the types of issues the elderly can face, here’s a great article on the subject from the Safety Detectives. This article provides insight into typical scams that cybercriminals use to defraud seniors, including tax and banking scams. There are some great recommendations on how the elderly can protect themselves online.

Conclusion

It’s difficult to not think of being scammed as a defeat. You may feel powerless and confused, but there are clear steps you can take that will help you recover and feel safe again. Research is the best approach to this problem you can take, but you can also install all the necessary fraud alerts that will help you protect yourself from scams in the future and start saving some money. Rely on these steps to help you heal financially and restore your credit score.

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