Falling for a scam is something most people will not admit to. Scammers know this and use it to their advantage, but you have no reason to feel embarrassed. Over the years, I have worked with hundreds of scam victims. Most of them were highly educated and affluent—not the type of person you would think could fall for a scam. I too was a victim of a scammer. Scammers are good at their job. This is their chosen profession. In fact, your embarrassment is the key to their continued success. It is time to end their success by taking action.
How to Recover from Being Scammed
The first step to take after falling for a scam is to tell someone. But who do you tell and why?
A scam constitutes fraud which is a criminal act. Notify law enforcement immediately. This will enable you to obtain a police report which could possibly help you recover your stolen money. It will also allow law enforcement to begin their investigation. At the very least, your notifying law enforcement will allow them to issue warnings regarding the ploy to others in your area.
You may think that by telling your family they will feel you are unfit to manage your affairs. Again, this is what the scammer wants you to think. However, by telling your family you accomplish two goals:
- You show them that you ARE capable of managing your affairs as you are now taking the proper steps to mitigate the situation.
- You are protecting them as they could become the next victim.
Here is an example:
For the past few years, scammers have been calling pretending to be from the IRS claiming you owe money. If you do not pay immediately, they will issue an arrest warrant in your name and send an officer to arrest you. People of all ages have received this call, and many have paid. You might be saying, “how could someone fall for that?” Just last week I received a very official-sounding call from a woman claiming to be from the IRS. She simply stated that I needed to call them by end of the day to discuss my tax issue. She even gave me a case number to refer to when calling them. If I would not have known about this scam I may have fallen for it and returned her call. If that had happened and I did not tell anyone, I would be allowing my friends and family to become the next victims.
If you provided the scammer with your bank information or they were able to steal funds from your account, you need to contact your financial institution immediately. Depending on the situation, your bank will help you determine the best course of action. This could include getting a new account number, a new credit/debit card, stopping payment on a check or possibly rescinding a wire transfer.
If the scammer was able to obtain your personal identifying information (social security number, date of birth, etc.), then you need to contact the credit bureaus and place a free 90-day fraud alert on your credit reports. This will reduce the risk of the scammer using your information to obtain new lines of credit such as a loan or credit card. You can find more information on how to set up a security (credit) freeze here.
Social Security Administration
If your social security number was exposed, you will need to contact the Social Security Administration by calling 1-800-772-1213. Another suggestion is to create a MySSA account. Find more information about the MySSA program here.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The FTC is the national clearing house for consumer complaints. They use the information from your call, as well as others, to create public warnings. They may also be able to provide you with information on your rights and steps to mitigate the situation. You can report the incident on their website or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.
State Attorney’s Office (SAO)
Just like the FTC, your SAO keeps track of reported fraud/scams within your state. They will also create public service announcements to warn others of the scam. They may provide tips and tools for you to use to mitigate the situation as well. To find your local SAO, visit this website provided by the United States Department of Justice.
Business or Agency
If the scammer used the identity of a legitimate business or governmental agency, you should contact them as well. Often, they are the last to know that their name and reputation are being used to scam people. To help others from becoming a victim of the scam, the affected business or agency will post a warning or announcement on their website.
Overall, the best and most important step you can take after falling for a scam is to tell someone. At the very least, notify law enforcement, and do so immediately. The longer you wait to tell someone, the harder it will be to successfully recover. You may also save someone else from becoming the next victim. Share this with your friends and family so they will learn the importance of telling someone. Knowledge and bravery are the best defense against scammers.