If you’ve found yourself victim to a scam—you know it can be an overwhelming experience. Besides the obvious stress and anxiety scams can ensue, there are specific steps you should take, as well as to help others in the future. Read on for the rundown:
- Report the Scam
It may seem apparent, but if you don’t report what happened to you the scammers may never be caught. In a Consumer Reports article, it cites that “only an estimated 14 percent of victims reported the scam, whether because they were embarrassed, felt it was futile, or simply didn’t know where to report it.” Reporting is important because it provides accurate statistics on the number of people affected—and the more people affected, the more likely the FBI and other law enforcement agencies will devote time to catching the wrongdoers. First notify your bank (if it involves finances/credit cards), your local police and then the AARP Fraud Watch Network (877-908-3360). And—it goes without saying—stop all contact with the scammer who brought this upon you in the first place. End all conversations—verbal or online—and block them, too.
- Think Local, Go Global
Regardless of where the scam occurred, treat it as a global issue. Contact your state attorney general’s office, your local and state consumer protection agencies, the Better Business Bureau, or depending on the crime, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (known as IC3). If the fraud violates a federal law (which is quite common), there’s probably a government agency that will handle it. Start with usa.gov for a list and make your first stop the Federal Trade Commission.
- Focus on the Future
Because of the frequency of scams happening today, federal agencies find it more difficult to track down perpetrators of crimes against individuals unless they have complaints to record patterns. That said, you unfortunately have to be realistic about their chances of obtaining monetary retribution. That’s why experts instead suggest placing your focus on emotional recovery and turning to your friends and family for support. Rather than beating yourself up with the “how could I have let this happen?” thought, move forward and ensure you are protecting yourself against future scams. Take action with these steps:
- Install anti-virus and firewall software on your computer and keep it up-to-date.
- Don’t click on links or attachments to things you don’t recognize.
- Never make financial transfers to someone you don’t know or a website you don’t trust.
- Ensure your social media privacy settings are updated.
- Be wary of cold callers and hang up immediately.
- Shred and destroy any receipts or mail with your credit card or personal details.