The statistics are stunning. According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers filed 2.8 million fraud reports in 2021, which is an increase of more than 70% over 2020. The resultant losses total more than $5.8 billion.
Today, we are inundated with data to the point of numbness and detachment. Unfortunately, behind every statistic and dollar loss lies a real human being.
Whether you realize it or not, you probably know someone who has become a part of those dry statistics. At the Better Business Bureau, we deal with these humans nearly every single day. The scams these victims fall prey to are varied — delivered by phone, text, email, social media and the US Postal System.
Scams and frauds affect people emotionally and mentally. It’s not unusual for victims to be ashamed and afraid to let someone know they’ve been defrauded. Often their life savings are gone or severely depleted. They may have given the fraudsters their personal and financial information. They feel helpless and vulnerable.
Along with the emotions come so many questions: Who should I tell? Can I get my money back? Is there anything else I should do?
Scammers are smart, knowing how to stay a step ahead of their victims and law enforcement. They move quickly to make it harder for their crimes to be reversed.
If you realize you’ve possibly become a victim of a scam, you must move quickly as well. While chances of getting your money back are slim, rapidly following these steps immediately will hopefully improve your chances:
1. Call your bank to let them know what’s going on and request they monitor your account for suspicious activity. Have as much documentation as possible so you’ll be able to answer any follow-up questions the bank may have. Don’t be embarrassed and stay in touch with the bank.
2. If you pay by credit or debit card, call the customer service number on the back of your credit or bank cards to see if they are able to reverse the charges. If the charge is on a credit card, ask the company to issue a chargeback to take your money back from the scammer.
3. If you sent a payment through a wire transfer, contact the bank or company, and explain the situation. Wire transfers often take some processing time to completely go through, so there may be time to stop the payment. If you used a company such as Western Union or Moneygram, contact their fraud hotlines or departments. The transaction may be able to be canceled if the money hasn’t been picked up yet.
4. If you paid with a gift card, those transactions are more difficult to reverse. However, it doesn’t hurt to contact the company to see if there’s anything they may be able to do.
Other steps to take if you think you’ve been scammed include:
1. Contact local law enforcement to report the crime.
2. Next, contact the Ohio Attorney General office online by visiting www.OhioAtttorneyGeneral.gov.
3. Put a fraud alert on your credit report and consider freezing your credit.
4. Request a free credit report so you can make sure no suspicious activity has occurred.
Remember, we are here to help you. Contact us at BBB by phone at 419-223-7010 or visit our office at 219 N. McDonel St. in Lima. We can advise you with other contact information. Contacting us also makes us aware the scam is being perpetrated in our area so we can let others know.
Reghan Winkler is executive director of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at bbb.org/us/oh/lima.