What to expect if you are a victim of a scam:
Don't expect to get your money back. In many cases, the scammers use methods of payment that are instant, liquid and non refundable. Finally, don't expect your bank to help you either. Because you technically authorized the transaction, it is not considered Fraud and therefore, Banks will not return the funds.
Expect it to happen again. Unfortunately, victims are targeted and victimized again, especially if the behaviors aren't changed!
Expect that you need to take action (a lot of action) to protect yourself further. Depending upon the situation, you may need to protect your accounts or identity against further losses, this includes:
Call SOS! We can help with all of these steps along with recovering your accounts and recommending security measures to prevent future incidents.
Make sure to contact your banks and freeze accounts, or get new account numbers.
File a police report. You may need to give this to banks or credit reporting agencies as needed. See #1--Don't expect recovery from this action, but at least it is on record as happening.
Contact the Credit reporting agencies and have ID Theft actions taken to protect access to your credit report
Call the AARP Helpline for their FREE resources, 877-908-3360. This helpline is available M-F from 8am-8pm ET. They have invaluable resources including victim counseling.
File a report with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. See #1--Don't expect recovery. HOWEVER, the FTC has done an incredible job in maintaining information related to scams. Your information will be used to warn others, could be used in ongoing investigations and in some large cases, FTC action has resulted in nominal recovery for victims.
File a report with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. www.CFPB.gov
Report the scam to your state attorney general.
If applicable, file a report with Adult Protective Services.
For additional steps, please consult the list of Free public resources below.
Advice to help prevent scams
Because scams are always changing and are frequently conducted on the internet, please also see Internet Safety resources. There are hundreds of different scam types out there, and they always change with the times (COVID Scams!), so the best advice that I can give you is to stay informed about scams. One of the easiest ways to remain informed is to visit the Federal Trade Commissions website, or AARP website and sign up for their newsletters. Both organizations do a tremendous job keeping inventories of scam trends and informing the public.
If you are in the heat of the moment and you think it might be a scam go with your gut! The absolute best thing that you can do is pause and think about it, ask someone else what they think about it or research it. If you need additional assistance, call SOS or call the AARP's free helpline dedicated to scams at: 877-908-3360, available M-F from 8am-8pm ET. They can help prevent you from being a victim. Other preventative measures include:
Don't answer the phone if you don't know the number! If it is important or legitimate, they will leave a message
Never click on any links or pictures that are shared with you unexpectedly even if they appear to be from a trusted source. This includes texts from your "bank", a link shared from a Facebook friend or emails. These types of links are almost always the source of Malware or Spyware that you invite onto your device which is the groundwork for Fraud. Don't reply, Don't click, just delete.
Know the common characteristics of a scam and the red flags so that you can respond appropriately:
Urgent Need----scammers need you to do something NOW! This is because the more time you have to think about what you are doing the more likely you are to realize it is a scam. So, an easy red flag that you are about to be scammed is that someone wants you to do something immediately, including pressures for information or funds.
Unsolicited----Your contact with the scammer is unsolicited, whether it is an unsolicited friend request, call, email or text.
Is in the position of authority or need/meaning to you. A new friend, the IRS, Amazon, etc.
Selling something too good to be true-Apartment, puppy, tickets, the ultimate job, etc.
The Story---There is always a good reason or an answer to your suspicion or questions. Everything is explained because these scammers are professionals who do this over and over and over again to others.
Free public resources
I am sharing the resources below that I feel passionately about their mission to educate and protect the public from scams. I am sure that there are other resources, but I have found these invaluable and most important, trustworthy:
Federal Trade Commission-www.FTC.gov has amazing resources for ID Theft, Elder Financial Abuse and more
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau-www.CFPB.gov
AARP's Fraud Watch Network and Helpline-www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/about-fraud-watch-network/
American Banking Association (ABA) sponsors a page: https://www.banksneveraskthat.com/