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What to do if you have been scammed online

by | Jan 4, 2022


Scams can happen to anyone, and scammers use a variety of different mediums. Many scams happen online, through email, or through social media. Some come from a phone call or text message. Scammers will try anything to trick you into sending them money or personal information. These days, scammers are getting more and more sophisticated. Some pose as the IRS. Others act like potential employers or pretend to be from a computer repair company. But what should you do if you have been scammed online, on a phone call, or through another medium?

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First, scams are a crime. You should always report one to authorities—even if the scam is unsuccessful. If a scammer has lured you into sharing personally identifiable information or you have sent them money, you can take steps to protect yourself. In some cases, you may even be able to get your money back. Read on for what to do if you have been scammed online or over the phone.

How to recover from being scammed

Not all scams are the same. Depending on your circumstance, you may need to do some or all the following steps.

Contact your bank or credit card company

Contact your bank or credit card company if you paid a scammer with a debit or credit card, provided bank information, or sent money via wire transfer. Tell your representative, “I gave my bank information to a scammer.” Ask them to cancel affected debit or credit cards. You may also want to freeze your account to stop any new charges from occurring.

If you can pinpoint a fraudulent charge on your credit card, you may be able to have it reversed or canceled. Unfortunately, charges via debit card are typically more difficult to cancel. To recover from a scam, be sure to change your login credentials with a new, strong password.

A woman looks at her computer screen in an office building.

Other financial institutions to contact

If you sent a scammer money via a wire transfer company, like Western Union or MoneyGram, contact the company and inform them of the situation. Report the fraudulent transfer and ask them to reverse it.

If you sent cash through a peer-to-peer payment (P2P) service app like Venmo, contact the company and ask them to cancel the transfer. Contact your bank or credit card company as well if they are connected to your app.

If you sent cash in the mail using the United States Postal Service, call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455. Ask if they can intercept the package.

Contact the credit bureaus

If you shared your Social Security number or other personally identifiable information, request a credit freeze. With access to your credit reports, scammers could open a bank account in your name or use your credit for a loan. Contact one of the three national credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax or TransUnion). Ask the bureau to freeze your credit. This will prevent any credit check or access to your credit report.

What to do if you have been scammed online

Report the scam to the FTC

After taking steps to protect your finances, report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This is an important step to help the FTC learn more about scams. It can help prevent certain types of scams from happening in the future. You can report a scam at reportfraud.ftc.gov.

Report the situation to your local police

Finally, report the scam to your local police, especially if you had any money or possessions stolen. Depending on where you live, you may be able to do this online or have to do it in person.

Stay on the lookout for online scams

If you’ve been scammed online or over the phone, the most important thing is to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Stay diligent when using the internet and look for clues of malicious activity. If in doubt, never provide personal information or send money. For more resources about what to do if you have been scammed over the phone or internet, visit the FTC and IRS websites as well as identitytheft.gov.

Lastly, protect yourself online with CenturyLink Security and anti-virus by McAfee. This software provides you protection against malware, viruses, unsafe websites, and other online threats so you can browse with confidence.

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