Story by Shan Abdul What Should You Do After Falling Victim to an Online Scam? (msn.com) August 8, 2023
Have you fallen victim to an online scam and are unsure of what to do next? Don’t panic; there are a few things that you can do to minimize the potential damage and avoid legal or financial trouble. Depending on whether it is an email scam, a phone fraud, a pop-up scam, or something else, your response will be different.
What should you do if you fall victim to an online scam? What measures can you take to safeguard your identity and finances? How can you prevent others from falling victim to such scams?
1. Block the Con Artist
The first step toward reversing your mistake is to block the scammer who deceived you. Doing this first will prevent scammers from contacting you again or attempting to phish you with another similar scam.
If you’ve been scammed with an email phishing scam, block the sender’s email immediately. If the scammer has contacted you through a text or phone call, add their number to your blacklist.
In specific scams, such as popup scams, scammers don’t contact you directly; instead, they place traps on unsafe websites to trick their victims. If you’ve fallen victim to such a scam, block the website on your browser or device.
2. Refund Any Payments You Have Made
When you fell victim to a scam, did you pay the scammers? If so, do your best to refund the payment. Three reasons warrant putting in extra effort to get a refund: you will get your hard-earned money back, scammers won’t be encouraged to carry on their scams, and crooks won’t use your funds to trap other innocent people.
If you paid scammers with your bank account or credit card, contact the relevant support department and request a refund. If you were scammed into sending a gift card, contact the provider and find out if they can help. Likewise, if you’ve made a wire transfer to scammers, do all you can to reverse it.
3. Temporarily Freeze Your Bank Account and Credit Card
You should also ask the relevant department to temporarily freeze your funds when requesting a refund from your credit card or bank account, particularly if you disclosed critical details during the payment process. This way, scammers will not be able to misuse your information or use your funds. If you cannot freeze your funds, at least monitor them over a few weeks and keep an eye out for suspicious transactions. If you want to track suspicious transactions better, you can also sign up for a credit monitoring service.
4. Scan Your Device or Browser for Malware and Suspicious Connections
Have you downloaded any attachments or software attached to an email, clicked on a phishing link in a text message, or clicked on a popup on a suspicious website? If so, ensure your browser or device has not been infected. You want to both scan your device for malware and remove any browser hijackers.
If you have unwittingly given scammers access to your device, make sure they are no longer connected to it. You can quickly look for suspicious connections on Windows devices or track down scammers spying on your Mac. So, double-check to make sure no praying eye is tracking your activities.
5. Stop the Misuse of Your Personal Information
Generally, there are two types of information one might divulge when falling victim to a scam: personal information you cannot change easily, like your name, social security number, or address, and less personal but critical information, such as credit card details, saved passwords, or login credentials.
Do not bother modifying information that is difficult to change. However, if you have exposed critical information you can easily change, such as your account password, change it immediately so scammers cannot exploit it again. Likewise, if you have exposed your credit card details, request a new one from your company.
But how do you prevent your personal information from being misused—the private details you cannot change?
6. Report the Scam to the Authorities
Report identity theft involving your critical personal information to the appropriate authorities. This way, the relevant authorities would know of this information leak, and, in case scammers misuse your data in the future, you would be saved from any legal repercussions and financial penalties.
Likewise, if you have exposed any data you believe belongs to the company you work for, the lender you’ve taken out a loan from, or similar, be sure to notify your relevant company. This way, they will be able to take action against the scammers, and a leak of that kind would not affect you in any way.
Ensure you give authorities as much information as possible when reporting the scam to help them find and stop the perpetrators.
7. Spread the Word About the Scam
Having blocked the scammers, requested refunds, frozen your credit cards, scanned devices for malware, stopped the misuse of information, and reported the scam to relevant authorities, one more responsibility you must fulfill is to spread the word about this scam to your family and friends to prevent them from falling victim.
If possible, record and upload a short video to YouTube, make a Reddit thread explaining the scam, or write a blog post about it. Then, anyone searching for the scam will know about it before becoming a victim. To put it briefly, this will save the broader community from becoming a victim of this scam.
Don’t Let Scammers Get You in Trouble
The number of online scams is growing every day, so staying vigilant and not falling for them is essential. Don’t panic if you fall for any fraud; instead, follow the tips above so that you won’t have to deal with legal or financial issues down the road. Additionally, keep an eye out when visiting unsafe websites.
Seniors, who often aren’t well acquainted with technology, have been the primary target of scammers for the last two decades. Compared to other age groups, they are more likely to fall victim to scams. Do what you can to help educate the seniors in your life about online scams and protect them from being duped.