What Should I Do If I’ve Been Scammed?
Your stomach sinks. Your heart skips a beat. Then comes the overwhelming anxiety and dread. You’ve just been scammed – and you know it.
Maybe you haven’t been there, but you definitely know someone who has. Someone called sounding like they are from a reputable organization. You gave away a few bits of identifying information before you realize… you’ve just been scammed.
These scams can come in all forms – a link you shouldn’t have clicked, a friend’s email was hacked, or you visited a copycat website. In the “old days,” the only thing people were worried about was their wallet or mail getting stolen. Now the dangers of being scammed come from a broad front.
There are things you can do to prevent being scammed in the first place, but what do you do when it actually happens?
From my experience working with clients who have fallen victim to these tricks, here are a few quick steps you can take to better protect yourself once you’ve been scammed:
Step 1. Call your financial institutions
I recommend you call these places in this order.
a) Your bank
They might want to put a freeze on your accounts or perhaps even get you a new account number to transfer your compromised accounts to.
b) Your credit card company
Obviously if you gave the fraudster your credit card number, you would make this call first. Generally, though, it is easier to manage fraudulent activity on a credit card than from your bank.
c) Your financial advisor
Your advisor will likely want to contact your portfolio’s custodians on your behalf. They again might put a freeze on your account or perhaps get you new account numbers.
Step 2. Change your passwords
I would complete this step VERY quickly as well. If it is possible to change your passwords while you are calling those institutions, consider doing it. I would recommend changing ALL of your passwords. Yes, all of them. You might say, why do I need to change my Instagram or Spotify passwords? There isn’t any important information there. Maybe not – but, if you use those same passwords for other websites, it could make additional fraud a bit easier.
So, get to it. Change your banking passwords, social media, subscriptions, and DEFINITELY your email passwords.
When I’ve witnessed attempted fraud here at work, it has always been through a client having their email hacked. Thankfully, we have safeguards to not accept transaction instructions from clients via email for this very reason.
Step 3. Freeze your credit
This is a more dramatic step, but it is one that could help you sleep at night. It is more sure way to prevent your social security number being used to acquire new loans or lines of credit.
I already explained it all HERE!
Step 4. Report it
What you experienced is likely a crime. Consider reporting it to your local authorities. While they might not be able to identify the perpetrator, they might have additional resources for you.
Step 5. Talk about it
It is easy to be embarrassed about “falling for” these scams. Let me tell you though… some of the most intelligent people I know have fallen for one of these! They can be very convincing. If you are in a hurry or distracted, it is easy to click on an errant link or not confirm the identity of a company calling you. They also tend to pray upon your worst fears to scare you into sharing information. These scammers are probably professionals and very skilled at their craft.
If you fall for a scam, tell your family and friends about it. Let them know exactly what was said and how you came to figure out it was a fraud. It will help them learn what to watch out for in the future.
If you are reading this after your own scam mishap – just breath. Focus on what you can do to protect yourself but most of all, give you peace of mind. You do NOT want to lose sleep over this.
Is freezing your credit and changing your account numbers a big deal? Yes.
Could it help you sleep better at night? Maybe.
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