What are the next steps to take after being a victim of fraud?
At Net Pay Advance we take your personal and financial safety seriously. We use the latest security software and carefully handle all private information. We try to provide helpful articles that can be used to keep you and your family safe. Previously, we have discussed how to avoid scams and frauds here and here. But what happens if it’s too late, and you have already been the victim of fraud or identity theft? What should you do? This week’s article is all about the steps a person can take if they or a family member have been a victim of a scam or identity theft. The first half of this article will focus on what to do if you’ve been a victim of a scam, and the second half will focus on what to do if you’ve been a victim of identity theft.
Victim of scam?
According to one study, it’s been estimated that only 14% of people actually report scams. This may be because people simply do not know who to inform. It is important to report scams and fraud. It can help improve the accuracy of information on the subject. In addition, the government actively wants to know about frauds and scams currently happening. They spend a ton of money on trying to catch and break up fraudulent groups.
Start by contacting your local police at their non-emergency number. Calmly explain to them what happened. After contacting authorities, you should contact the bank of your debit or credit card that was used, and inform them of the issue. Consider reporting the scam by going to your State Attorney General’s Office, contacting the Better Business Bureau, or contact the FBI through their Crime Complaint Center ( also known as IC3).
Most scams violate federal law, so you can report them to the proper government agency. Here’s a whole list of government agencies that exist. The list includes agencies such as the Census Bureau (commonly used to report scammers pretending to be the census), or the US Postal Inspection Service (commonly used to report mail fraud).
Want more information? The AARP Fraud Watch Network has a helpline with tips on your options if you are unsure of what to do next. They use volunteers to run the phone line.
Had your identity stolen?
If you notice your credit or debit card is missing and/or that you have suspicious purchases on your card that you never made, you should contact your creditor or bank as soon as possible. Go to your bank’s website to find the correct number to call. Avoid calling a phone number from an old email or advertisement. Sometimes it may be from a fraudulent company posing as your bank. Often banks are able to put a temporary hold on a card if you think you’ve just momentarily misplaced it for a day or two. If you truly think your card is gone or has been stolen, then you should ask your bank to close the card and send you a new one. This prevents others from using it.
If you notice that unauthorized purchases have been made on your card, some credit cards have policies in place to protect cardholders that face identity theft. Additionally, the Fair Credit Billing Act protects cardholders from fraud so that the maximum a person would have to pay for unauthorized purchases on their card is $50. The longer you wait to inform the bank though, the less they may be willing to help you. Often credit card companies are more willing to work with you than debit card companies. Regardless, you should still contact them before further unauthorized payments are made.
After contacting your bank, you should contact one of the three credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) to request a fraud alert. They will place it on all three of your credit files. A fraud alert will make it difficult to open a new account in your name for about a year, and it can be extended for longer if need be. However, if you need to extend it for seven years, you’ll need to file an Identity Theft Report with them, instead. Once you set up a fraud alert, you will be able to get a free credit report from all three agencies so that you can search for anything suspicious. Look for new accounts you didn’t open, credit inquiries you didn’t request, purchases you didn’t make, employers you’ve never worked for, and personal information that doesn’t match anything from your past. Make note of anything that looks suspicious.
If the fraud is really bad, you can even put an entire freeze on your credit by contacting each of the credit bureaus. With a freeze, your credit information will be locked down so that none of the agencies will be able to release your credit report to anyone. The freeze will be in place until you request to lift it.
Once you’ve contacted the credit companies, you can report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website by completing their form or calling their number to explain what happened. The FTC will provide you with information on a recovery plan, as well as an Identity Theft Report. This report will act as proof that your identity was stolen. If you can, we recommend printing a few copies of the report and bringing them along with you for these next few steps.
Once you’ve reported the incident to the FTC, you should go to the police to file a report. You can contact your local police station by calling their non-emergency number or going there in-person. If your card was used in a different state or city, you can contact the local police there. You can call their local non-emergency phone number. The police may want a copy of the Identity Theft Report.
Refer to your list of suspicious actions on your credit report, and request that the credit bureaus remove them. The FTC has a template that you can use to create your request for each bureau. Keep a close eye on your credit report, because this may not be the last time you see suspicious activity on there.
Change passwords for all of your affected accounts. Use a good password, one that isn’t easy to guess and isn’t the same as one you use for other accounts. It’s preferable that your new password uses uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. If you’re worried about forgetting your passwords, you can use a secure password manager.
If your social security card was physically stolen, you can request a replacement card online here. If just the number was used, you can notify the Office of the Inspector General. They can provide you with a copy of your personal earnings and benefits statement to check for any suspicious activity. If your driver’s license was stolen, you can contact your local DMV to replace your card and to report the driver’s license number so that it can be flagged if it’s used. If your passport was stolen, you should let the State Department know by going on their website or calling them. You can replace a passport either through your local Passport Agency/Center or through a Passport Acceptance Facility.
Finally, be sure to contact your telephone and utility companies to alert them that someone may try to open a new account in your name. Use a current utility bill as proof of your residence. They may mention that someone else currently has an account in your name. If this is the case, explain to them what happened and ask them to close the account.
Seeing as how about 33% of US citizens have experienced identity theft, it is very likely that you or a friend have experienced it already. Identity theft is a real concern, and without guidance, it may take victims years of hard work to get their finances back on track. Hopefully with this guide, if you do find yourself a victim of fraud or identity theft, you will know that you’re not alone, and that you have easy steps you can take to report it. Hopefully this guide will save you time and money.
Have you been a victim of a scam or identity theft or known someone that has been? Comment below what you know now that you wish you had known then.