It’s a feeling no one wants to experience. That moment when you realize something you thought was legit turns out to be a scam. Unfortunately, money scams are an ever-present part of modern life. As technology helps make many aspects of our life easier, it also allows scammers more opportunities to exploit the system. But don’t fret, if you find yourself on the short end of a scam there are steps you can take to ensure you minimize the damage and get your financial wellness back on track.
First things first – you aren’t alone. Getting taken advantage of can happen to anyone and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. The best thing to start doing is to amass any and every piece of information related to the scam as you can. If you fell victim to a cloned online store, take screenshots of your interactions and copy down the URL exactly. Pull up your bank or credit records to identify any fraudulent charges and who they’re with. Any email correspondences or text messages should be archived and kept safe. The more information you have from your scammers, the better.
Get on the horn
You’ll want to call whichever banking institution you suffered the scam with as soon as possible. Whether it’s your credit card, debit card, or a money exchange app like Venmo or PayPal, getting on the phone with a rep to explain the situation is a great first step. If you fell victim to a scam with your credit card you can ask for the charges to be reversed. If the scam occurred with your actual bank account or a money exchange app, they’ll need to do some research to determine that fraud did indeed occur. In the meantime, you likely won’t see the missing funds until they’ve had a chance to conduct their own investigation.
Freeze that credit
We went over credit freezes in-depth earlier but contacting all three of the major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to freeze your credit is a must. If there’s a chance that your credit could be impacted by the scam, freezing your credit will help ensure you minimize the damage.
Check your report
While you’re freezing your credit it’s also a good idea to check your credit report to see if anything looks fishy. Keep your eyes peeled for new accounts being opened that you didn’t authorize. If you notice anything fraudulent, each bureau has a reporting system you can use to help clear your record (which we outlined HERE).
The best offense is a good defense
You can make life for scammers more difficult by taking some proper everyday financial precautions. While having a million unique passwords can be a pain, it’s one of the best ways to protect your online information. While you’re at it, set up 2-factor authentication whenever possible. It’s also a good idea to only carry the cards you use regularly. Leave the credit or debit cards you rarely use at home to reduce the chance they get into the wrong hands.
Remember, if something feels shady there’s a good chance it probably is. Listen to your gut and always be hyper-vigilant when it comes to sharing any personal or financial information on the internet. Getting scammed isn’t the end of the world and there are safeguards in place to help reduce risk. However, with a few precautionary steps, you can ensure your personal financial information stays personal.