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Safety & security

3 immediate steps to take if you fell for a scam

You went online and opened up an email that you thought was from your bank, or maybe you received a call from the IRS demanding payment before they filed charges. You panicked, sent them money, and then found out you were the victim of scammers. Maybe you’re anxious, embarrassed and at a loss for what to do next.

Scams are everywhere these days. They are in our email and online, and thousands are being run over the phone daily. With so many scammers targeting potential victims, there’s a high chance you may someday get tricked. Tap or click here to see five viral scams that could cost you big money.

If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve fallen prey to a scammer, there are a few steps you’ll want to take right away. Let’s take a look at what you can do to mitigate damages.

1. Block the scammer at the point of attack

If you’ve opened a suspicious email, answered a spammy robocall, or think you’ve been the target of a scam, cease all contact. Write down any information about the potential scammer and block their email address or phone number.

If you haven’t sent money yet, great! If you have sent money, don’t send more — even if they threaten you with jail time or lawsuits, it’s a ploy!

2. Immediately reach out through the proper channels

Depending on the scheme and how you’ve paid, you’ll need to contact people pronto. The FTC gives an excellent breakdown of who to contact and how.

  • You’ve paid with a debit/credit card: Contact the issuer of your card immediately, whether it’s a credit or debit card and ask for the fraud department. Tell them when you made the payment and identify it as a fraudulent charge to an illegal scam. See if they will reverse the charge and return your money.
  • You’ve paid with your bank account: Call your bank immediately after locating the fraudulent charge and ask them to assist you in flagging the transaction and returning your money.
  • You’ve paid with a gift card: Contact the issuer of the gift card and ask to speak with the fraud department if they have one. If not, tell the customer service representative that you’ve been the victim of a scam and ask if they can refund your losses. Do not throw away the gift card or gift receipt.
  • You sent a wire transfer through a service: Contact Western Union, MoneyGram, or the company you’ve used and tell them it was fraudulent and part of a scam. Request they reverse the wire transfer and return your funds.
  • You sent a wire transfer through your bank: Call your bank immediately. Report the wire as fraudulent and ask if they can freeze or reverse the wire transfer and return your money.
  • You’ve sent money through a cash app like Venmo: Report the fraud to the company directly to see if they can reverse the payment. If you linked your debit/credit card to the app, you would also need to report the fraud to your bank or credit card company and ask to reverse the charge.

3. Protect yourself

If you have fallen prey to a criminal out to get your money or personal information, the best thing you can do is protect yourself from what’s to come. Once you’ve called the appropriate agency to report you’ve been the victim of a scam, there are things you can do to protect yourself from further attacks.

  • Collect important information: You’ll want the scammers’ email, any screenshots of your conversation and all relevant details, including payments.
  • File a police report: For the scam to be labeled a crime, you’ll need to file a police report. Banks may need a copy of the report to issue a refund.
  • Request a credit freeze or short-term fraud alert: A fraud alert will remain for 90 days and reduce the risk of having your identity stolen. You only need to contact one of the credit reporting agencies, and they will contact the other two for you. A freeze is a step above a fraud alert, but you’ll need to be prepared to wait for your credit to be unfrozen if you need it for things like buying or renting a home.
  • Sign up for credit monitoring: There are many free options, and you’ll want to monitor your credit for future fraudulent charges.
  • Change all your passwords: Tap or click here for ways to create stronger passwords.
  • Download new antivirus software or update your current software: Tap or click here for the best antivirus options for PC and Mac.
  • Report the scam to the FTC: The Federal Trade Commission keeps a current database of all scams and may be able to give you helpful information on the following steps to take. Report fraud, scams and bad business practices to the FTC here.
  • Contact the Social Security Administration: If you’ve given scammers your Social Security number, contact SSA here to tell them your number has been compromised.
  • Keep an eye on your bank accounts: If you see any suspicious activity, report it immediately.
  • Back up your data: To protect yourself from losing important files, you should back up your information. We recommend our sponsor, IDrive. Save 90% on your first year when you use promo code Kim at checkout.

You may feel embarrassed if you’ve fallen victim to a scam, but it’s more common than most people think. If you’ve been a victim, taking these steps will give you the best chance to recover any money you’ve lost and prevent further damage.

Stop robocalls once and for all

Robocalls are not only annoying, but they scam Americans out of millions every year. Learn Kim's tricks for stopping them for good in this handy guide.

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