Even if you are diligent in the preventive steps to protect yourself from fraud, anyone can fall into the sophisticated trap of a scammer. As Americans continue to share more personal information on the Internet everyday, it becomes increasingly more difficult to identify potential scams and to protect themselves from fraudulent behavior. If you or someone you know has fallen victim to fraud, take a deep breath! Here are seven steps you can take to guard yourself from future theft and begin the recovery process.
- Act quickly to assess the damage of the situation.
If you have determined that you have become a victim of fraud, it is crucial that you act quickly to avoid any further losses. To start, go through your bank accounts and online banking information to determine which accounts may have been compromised. Begin compiling a list fo this information that can be presented to your bank or any other impacted companies. Collect as much information and proof of the fraud as possible; this will be helpful in your communication with your bank and with the authorities if you choose to report the fraud.
- Check your insurance policy.
Check your insurance policy to determine if you have identity theft coverage. If you do, this should be your first phone call to inform them of the situation. They can assist you in many steps of the recovery process, including the securing of your accounts that may have been tampered with.
- Notify your bank and any companies that may have been impacted by the fraud.
Use the list you compiled of your bank information and the potentially affected accounts to present to your bank. They will assist you in freezing or shutting down these accounts and consequently cutting off the scammers’ access to your information. Your bank can also help you with the process of obtaining new debit/credit cards, and potentially restoring stolen funds.
- Set up a fraud alert.
You can set up a fraud alert by contacting any of the three credit card bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Even if you just report the fraud to one of the companies, they are required by law to pass this information on to the other two bureaus. They will then place a fraud alert associated with your name and your accounts, which will assist in stopping the scammer from opening any further accounts in your name and inflicting more damage. The fraud alerts and freezes associated with these three bureaus are free to enact and can be listed at any time.
- Begin to repair your credit.
Once you have secured and frozen your affected accounts, you can begin to repair the damage. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to see any reimbursement for lost funds in the event of a fraud. However, it is important to keep a close eye on your credit card statements in the coming months to dispute any fraudulent transactions. Keep detailed information and records of the fraud and the steps that you have taken to alleviate this issue to provide proof of fraud to your credit card company. You may consider consulting a lawyer, tax professional, or financial advisor to assist you in this process.
- Report the fraud to the authorities.
This is not a step that everyone chooses to take, but can be beneficial for your own and others’ future protection against fraud. You can do this by filing an Identity Theft Report with the Federal Trade Commission, filing a police report for identity theft, or both.
- Build your resistance to potential fraud in the future.
It is crucial to become well informed on how to spot fraud, and how to protect yourself from being scammed again in the future. Using the tools your trusted bank provides can assist you in keeping a close eye on your accounts. With online banking you can easily check your transaction, use alerts to notify you of account activity, and tailor your card controls to make it more difficult or a fraudster to conduct transactions. Overall, stay alert, aware, and skeptical of anyone that is asking for you financial information. When in doubt, do not provide anyone with this sensitive information until you are certain of their validity.
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