Steps to Take After Falling for a Scam
It can be devastating to realize that you have fallen for a scam. These days, scammers target people through all forms of devices and media, from texting personal cell phones to email schemes. In addition, as awareness and technology grow to fight against scams, these criminals adjust and enhance their methods. Their strategy is to commit theft or fraud through accessing personal and/or financial information from their victims.
Though it may be tempting to not admit or face the fact that you have fallen for a scam, either out of embarrassment or frustration, this can make the situation worse. Large parts of the population fall for these schemes all the time. Once you know that you have been scammed, it’s essential to take action quickly to reduce the risk of further harm and damage to your finances, emotional health, and personal reputation.
Here are steps to take after falling for a scam:
Report the Scam
Victims whose identity and/or financial information has been compromised need to report scams. Unfortunately, it’s rare for money to be returned or to receive adequate personal retribution. This can depend on the scope of the fraud and how widespread the damage. However, if you have been a victim of an online, texting, or phone scam, there are benefits to filing a report.
Here are some steps for reporting:
- Record as much information as you can about the scam.
- Report everything to your state consumer protection office.
- If you have suffered any monetary loss, report the scam to your local police.
- If advised to do so, report the scam to the federal government.
Though it’s unlikely that you will receive individual compensation for losses to scammers, government agencies that receive reports of scams will use them to track patterns of fraud or take possible legal actions against perpetrators. Filing a report that indicates you have fallen victim to a scam will substantiate your situation and support your efforts in restoring your personal, financial, and emotional security. Also, your online scam report may save others from becoming victims.
Halt and Repair the Damages
Victims of identity theft, monetary theft, or fraud due to scams can feel overwhelmed by trying to fix the situation. However, immediate action is essential. Once you have reported the scam, you can halt further damage to your finances and reputation by initiating a fraud alert through all credit bureau agencies. Contacting your bank and other financial institutions to report being a victim of fraud is also necessary, as is changing your account usernames, passwords, and PINs.
To repair the damages resulting from the scam may take more time and effort. This generally involves careful tracking of all personal activity, including credit reports, bank statements, medical insurance, taxes, and even legal status. While doing this repair, ensure that you do not provide any financial or personal information to anyone online, through text, or by phone unless you are certain that they are legitimate.
Protect Yourself from Future Scams
One of the best ways to prevent falling for scams in the future is to protect yourself. This involves removing your personal information from the internet as much as possible. If your information is inaccessible online, there is less likelihood that you will be a scam victim in the future. However, removing your personally identifiable information (PII) from the internet takes time, effort, and commitment.
Examples of PII include:
- Full name
- Phone number
- Birthdate and birthplace
- Social security number
- Account numbers
- Credit card information
- Passwords and PINs
- Online posts and photos
Most internet users don’t realize the amount of personal data that is available online. The best way to begin removing this PII from the internet is to deactivate and/or delete social media accounts. These accounts allow access to members’ PII with very little protection. It’s also helpful to delete any unnecessary online accounts as well as mobile apps on all devices.
There are other methods for eliminating online PII. For example, many search engines offer online removal tools for the purpose of eliminating your data from internet searches. Though it may be a tedious and time-consuming process, you can do a self-search for websites that contain personal data and either delete it on your own or request that it be removed by site managers. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to uncover all sites that display or have access to your PII.
Finally, there are professional services that you can hire and pay to have your PII removed from the internet. However, there is no guarantee that any professional service has the capability of removing all traces of your personal data from online. In addition, it’s best to research such services as they often charge high prices and encourage monthly internet monitoring at additional fees.
Though you may not be able to remove all of your PII or web presence, eliminating what you can reduces the risk that you will be targeted by a scammer in the future. This empowers you as an individual to protect your personal data, financial information, and privacy.
Falling for a scam, small or large, can have devastating effects long after the event is over. These scammers commit fraud through stealing personal and/or financial information and invade the privacy of others. Therefore, it’s essential to seek support. Many agencies offer financial or emotional counseling to help scam victims overcome their loss of economic or personal security. Quality support can be very beneficial when it comes to restoring your finances, personal relationships, career, and sense of privacy.
If you have fallen victim to a scam online, through texting, or any other method, it’s important to understand that you are not alone and take steps to address the situation immediately. Some of the most tech savvy people have been targets. In addition, you can restore your finances, personal reputation, and privacy through careful work. Overall, it’s essential to be vigilant so that you are not targeted for any future scams and seek quality support for any residual damages.