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Tips: What Should I Do After Being Scammed Online?

Sarah Bolton

Sarah Bolton

Falling for a scam is something that can happen to just about anyone.
Digital criminals are equipped with a complete arsenal of technological and psychological tools that help them mask their real identities, defraud innocent people, destroy their lives, and often get away with it.

The reasons behind the difficulty of holding many of the cybercriminals accountable and bringing them to justice include the relative simplicity of remaining anonymous on the web, the challenges associated with tracking them down, the global scale of their operations, and the lack of sufficient cooperation from certain countries outside the Western world.

However, in many cases, swift action by the victims may help law enforcement agencies to facilitate faster and more productive investigations, thereby minimizing the damage and eventually sending the perpetrators to long years behind bars.

“I’ve Been Scammed… Now What?” Things You Can Do

If you were scammed in an online transaction, taking the following steps may help you recuperate your money, at least under some circumstances:

Contact your financial institution (bank, credit card company, etc.) immediately and report the problem in great detail so they can walk you through how to secure your account.
The institutions have the ability to put a hold on your account, close it, or take other measures to prevent the damage from expanding by preventing further charges.

Find out if there are any protection programs that you can use.
In addition, see if you can dispute credit card charges, file a stop payment request on a check, or take any other action that will help in dealing with the situation.

If funds were transferred to a scammer through PayPal, contact their Resolution Center for help.

Contact the local police department immediately (using the non-emergency number) as soon as you realize that you have been conned and file a report.
Every minute counts, so gather all the relevant materials such as contracts, order forms, payment receipts, bank statements, email correspondence or records of any other contact you had with the perpetrators. This way, the police can quickly launch an effective investigation.

If your personal identifying information has been obtained (full name, place, and date of birth, social security number, mother’s maiden name, etc.) and you suspect that you may be a victim of identity theft, contact all three credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian and Equifax) and file a free 90-day fraud alert on your credit reports.

This will decrease the risk of the fraudster using your private information to obtain new lines of credit in the form of a loan or credit card.
Additionally, it will alert creditors and lenders who access your credit report that your information may have been compromised.

If your social security number (SSN) was compromised, you will need to act quickly and notify the Social Security Administration and let them know what happened.

Make sure you have a professional and up-to-date antivirus and antimalware software and run a full scan on your computer.
In addition, change all your passwords for services that you use on the internet.

Places to file a complaint about scams, fraud, and cyber-crime:
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)
Your state attorney general’s office
The Better Business Bureau (BBB)
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – for financial products
Google – for reporting phishing site scams
National Fraud Information Center – forwards complaints to the relevant authorities.