There’s nothing worse than that moment of realization when you know you’ve been taken advantage of. Unfortunately, most of us will likely fall victim to some sort of online scam in our lifetime. Be it an errant click of a pop-up banner or a Craigslist poster selling imaginary goods, scams come in all shapes and sizes. But once you realize you’ve become a victim how can you attempt to minimize the damage?
Call Your Credit Card Company and Bank
Priority one is to stop any potential abuse of your credit or bank accounts by scammers. If you suspect or know that you’ve fallen victim, contact your financial institution’s customer service or fraud line immediately so that they can begin monitoring your accounts. Depending on the severity of the scam, you may even need to cancel your credit/debit cards completely and start over from scratch.
Stop any further communication with the potential fraudster and start gathering up all the information you can. Email addresses, phone numbers, names, descriptions of the goods they attempting to buy or sell – all of these pieces of the puzzle can help law enforcement begin to track any potential scammers. Depending on the nature of the scam, you may also need this information to share with financial institutions or insurance companies should you be able to recover any goods or funds.
File a Police Report
Due to the proliferation of online scam and fraud, many police departments have a cyber or internet crimes specialist. Major credit agencies and most banks will also want a copy of a police report for their records as well. Unless the scammer is directly threatening you or another individual DO NOT CALL 911. Simply call the non-emergency number for your local police department and ask to speak to someone who handles internet or cyber crimes.
Consider a “Credit Freeze”
In addition to filing a victim fraud report with the three major credit bureaus, you may also want to consider a credit freeze. Used mostly in conjunction with identity theft, a credit freeze will stop any unauthorized individuals from opening new credit accounts in your name. When speaking with each respective credit bureau, they will provide you with a personal identification number (PIN) that will be required whenever anyone attempts to open a new credit account in your name. Unless the person has that unique PIN no new accounts can be opened.
File a Complaint with the IC3
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a central database created by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center that is accessible to all local, regional and federal law enforcement agencies. Filing a report with IC3 can help alert authorities of the type of scam you have experienced, and potentially compile and compare your situation against others that may have experienced a similar scam.
Protect Future Online Activities
In the future, consider an online escrow service, like PaySAFE, to help remove the risk of fraud. Online escrow companies act as a neutral third party to hold funds when buyers and sellers are relative unknowns to each other. Buyers are protected as funds are held until there is proof that the item has shipped, or has even arrived for a final inspection. Sellers are protected as all funds are verified and securely held with the escrow company – completely removing the risk of non-payment, insufficient funds, fraudulent checks and credit card chargebacks.
For more information about how you can protect yourself from email and internet scams, consult our fraud prevention tips, 9 ways to protect yourself against internet fraud, and how to protect against fraudulent checks.