We get the call nearly every day. It comes from someone checking to see if the phone call or email they received may be a scam. When we inquire about what the scammer said to them and what they said to the scammer, they often say they’re not quite clear about or don’t remember what information they’ve already given out.
Over the years we’ve spoken with literally hundreds of people that have been conned out of money and personal information. A common thread among victims is their reluctance and embarrassment in admitting they’ve actually fallen for a scam. Surprisingly, the majority of victims are not the type of people you’d think would fall for a scam. They are educated and affluent — proof that anyone can fall to a scammer’s wily tricks.
But what should a victim do when they’ve been scammed?
First, once a victim realizes they’ve been scammed, they should discontinue any conversation with the fraudsters. They should get off the phone and not reply to further emails or letters. If they’ve been scammed online, block scammers’ email addresses to keep them from making further contact. No matter what, victims should not make any more payments. Also do not give money to anyone saying they are a recovery agency that promises they will be able to get the victim’s lost money back. That is most likely a scam as well. Chances are, no matter how hard they try, victims are simply not going to get their money back.
Notify law enforcement. A scam is a criminal act. Obtaining a police report could possibly help a victim recoup some of their losses, while allowing law enforcement to begin an investigation promptly. Also notify the state Attorney General’s office and the Better Business Bureau. They might be able to provide tips and tools to assist in remedying the situation as well.
Next, victims should tell family and friends. A common thread among victims is their reluctance to admit they’ve fallen for a scam, often feeling if they admit they’ve been scammed, the revelation will make them appear unfit to manage their own affairs. But, by telling loved ones, they accomplish a couple of things: they show they can manage their affairs because they are taking the proper steps to confront the situation, plus they are also helping protect others from fraudsters’ tactics.
Victims should contact their financial institutions immediately if they have given scammers bank account, credit card or other financial information. Depending on the situation, they may be able to help recoup some or all lost funds as well as issue new credit card and bank account numbers to prevent further losses.
If a victim has furnished a scammer with their personal identification information such as Social Security number, date of birth, etc., they should immediately contact all three credit bureaus and place a free 90-day fraud alert on their credit reports. They should also consider placing a freeze on their credit to prevent anyone opening new accounts or accessing their credit report.
At the BBB, we get an incredible amount of calls about Social Security scams. If a victim’s Social Security number has been exposed, they should immediately contact the Social Security Administration by calling 800-772-1213.
Finally, if a scammer has fraudulently represented a specific business or government agency, victims should let the affected organization know immediately so they can warn their clients and customers.
As you can see, it is very important for victims of a scam to tell someone. The sooner others know, the sooner damage can be minimized and recovery of funds initiated.
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.