These days, online scam artists are getting VERY sophisticated using e-mail and website ads and this makes it very difficult sometimes to determine beforehand whether or not that link or email or phone call is a scam or not.
So, don’t be embarrassed or ashamed if you’ve gotten caught in an online scam – it can happen to the best of us.
What Can You Do If You Get Scammed Online?
If you gave out your banking information – immediately contact your bank. If you gave out credit card information – contact that credit card company or bank. Then immediately contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or call them at 1-877-382-4357 to report the scam. Next, file a police report in your local area.
There are additional resources listed below as to where to report any financial abuse.
Once everyone has been contacted and your financial information have been changed I would recommend that you put a freeze on your credit.
A freeze means that no one can obtain a new credit card or loan under your name and information. It does not affect you using your credit cards.
How Can I Put A Freeze On My Credit?
To put a freeze on your credit you can sign up for a company like LifeLock or you can certainly do it yourself by freezing your credit at:
- Equifax – online or call 1-800-349-9960
- TransUnion – online or call 1-888-909-8872
- Experian – online or call 1-888-397-3742
If you ever need to apply for a loan or a new credit card then you can simply unfreeze it for a length of time and then freeze it again.
There is a small fee (just a few dollars) for doing this but it’s certainly worth it considering the piece of mind that you’ll have!
Where To Report Financial Abuse Of The Elderly
Upon discovering that you or your senior loved one has been the victim of financial abuse at the hands of a scammer, you’re going to want to report it.
Here are some resources to help you do so:
- The United States Department of Justice:The DOJ has an Elder Fraud Initiative as part of their Consumer Protective Branch. They also have an Elder Abuse Resource Financial Roadmap you can follow to begin reporting the incident. This Roadmap lets you choose who did the scamming, the extent of the scam, and the consequences of the scam. Then the Roadmap directs you to the right party to contact to file a report.
- AARP Foundation: The AARP Foundation’s Report Fraud page, you will find a slew of phone numbers to call after discovering senior financial abuse. These include contacts for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the FTC Do Not Call Registry, Social Security Administration, and the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- National Adult Protective Services Association: NAPSA provides elder financial exploitation resources. Thus, they may be able to offer some assistance or support after an online scam affects your senior.
How To Report A Scammer To The Police
Just because the scam happened online on a website or via email doesn’t make it any less of a real crime. You’re going to want to do as much as you can to get justice for yourself or a senior loved one.
At the very least, you will want to protect their digital footprint from further scamming and recover their financial information. Ideally, you’d appreciate if it the scammer went to jail, too, but we all know that it’s sometimes hard to track a scammer down.
All justice begins with going to the police, so the first step is to file a report with the local police department that serves the area where your senior loved one resides.
The police will then investigate the crime, so it’s important for you to have as much pertinent information as possible.
Besides the police, we also recommend you connect with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center or IC3. As a third party, you can reach out on behalf of your senior and lodge a formal complaint. If the senior feels up to it, they can complain themselves.
To report a scam with the IC3, you must provide the following information:
- The name, email address, telephone number, and physical address of the victim
- The email header of any email correspondence the scammer may have sent
- Details and information pertinent to the crime
- Any contact information for the scammer, including their IP address, website URL, email address, telephone number, address, and their name if you have it
- The information of any financial transactions that may have occurred, including the recipient of the money, the amount of money, the transaction date, and the account name or number
What Does An Online Scam Look Like?
There are multiple online scams these days and they include situations such as:
- A paid AD at the top of your Google (or any browser) search results.
- Phishing scams in the form of an e-mail or phone call or text asking you to validate or make a change to an account or social security, etc.
- People you meet on online dating sites who “need a little money” so they can come meet you.
- Grandparent scams via e-mail or phone call or text supposedly from grandchild asking for money.
- Online shopping sites that are not secure (http instead of https) and odd looking website addresses.
- Pop ups alerting you that your computer has been hacked or compromised in some way.
You can read the details about these online scams here.
Do You Have More Questions About What To Do If You’ve Been Scammed Online?
If you have more questions about what you can do if you’ve been scammed online I would recommend that you contact your local police department and speak to someone in the unit that is responsible for handling these types of cases.