Understanding what to do if you’ve been scammed is important to ensure you can get back on track and protect your finances.
The key thing is not to panic and understand that there are several proactive steps that you can take if you think you’ve been scammed, and it’s certainly not the end of the world.
So, without further ado, read on to find out what to do if you’ve been scammed online and how to protect your personal and financial information from future threats.
How to identify if you’ve been scammed
The first step is to ascertain whether you have been scammed. The easiest way to do this is to learn about some of the red flags that can help you identify a scam:
· Unusual or unexplained entries on your bank account statement or credit card bill. This can include the cash that has gone missing or transactions that you don’t remember processing yourself.
· Invoices or bills from companies you don’t recognise for services you didn’t order or buy.
· Credit applications that are rejected despite your good credit history. You can also check your credit file and see if there are any entries that you can’t seem to explain.
· A text message or email inviting you to provide banking or personal details to a source that you don’t recognise.
· An aggressive phone call from a source demanding that you provide your personal details to them.
· Any suspicious special offers or deals that you’re offered out of the blue.
The sad reality is that criminals have instituted a whole host of complex and sophisticated scams to trick innocent people. Therefore, you need to be able to identify the above red flags, and if any resonate with you, it’s time to do something about the scam before it gets out of hand.
What to do if you’ve been scammed
If you think you’ve been scammed, it’s important to act quickly and efficiently to put things right. The best course of action will depend on the type of scam that you have encountered.
For instance, if you’ve been the target of a phishing scam where someone has asked you for your personal or financial details, you can simply ignore it and block the number.
But if things have progressed past this initial stage to the point where you’ve been financially impacted, here’s what to do if you think you’ve been scammed::
Contact your bank
As many scams are financial in nature, a crucial step is contacting your bank when you notice an issue. Begin by finding your bank’s customer support number and call them immediately to report a potential scam. They will then advise you on the best course of action, depending on the nature of the scam. You may also want to:
· Cancel and replace your bank cards, particularly if yours have been lost or stolen.
· Enhance the security of your account by adding two-step authentication and other measures.
· Apply for a refund for any money that has been stolen. The Payment Service Regulation (2009) indicates that banks are obliged to refund money that is stolen by scammers in most cases.
It’s a good idea to contact your bank as quickly as possible after noticing a potential scam, as you can put the above steps in motion to arrive at a conclusion.
Report the scam
After contacting your bank, you have a duty to report the scam. The main reason for this is that by reporting the scam, you are protecting other would-be victims in the future, and there are several ways to go about it:
· Contact Action Fraud and submit details about the scam that you have encountered.
· Get in touch with the police (101) to report a crime if you have had any money stolen. This will provide you with a case number for future reference.
· Report a scam website to the NCSC to help reduce the number of phishing scams out there.
· The Citizens Advice Bureau also has a dedicated spam network that you can use to report an incident online.
Update your passwords & security
It’s now time to bolster all of your passwords and online security. If you use one or two passwords and pins for all your accounts, you will need to change them if a scammer has gotten into them.
We advise opting for auto-generated passwords that are nearly impossible to crack. You can then use a password manager to store all your logins’ unique passwords.
Where possible, you should also turn on two-factor authentication so people can’t access your accounts with a password alone.
Resetting your passwords and bolstering your online security will ensure that scammers can no longer access your accounts, protecting you from future hacks.
Check your credit report
While many scams target your bank account, other criminals turn to your credit file. For instance, a scammer might try and make a fraudulent application for credit under your name, which can cause significant issues in the future when you look to legitimately apply for credit.
Helpfully, it’s easy to check your credit file for any anomalies. Visit Experian, request a copy of your credit file, and run through all transactions. If any strike you as suspicious, contact the credit bureau to put things right.
Get specialist support
Getting scammed is not only inconvenient; it can also be emotionally draining and stressful, and it can take a toll on your mental health. The key thing is not to suffer in silence, and if you’re struggling to recover from a recent scam, you can use the following resources to receive specialist support:
· Reach out to Victim Support for confidential support that will help you overcome the trauma of being scammed.
· Think Jessica is also a great resource for scam victims – particularly for older people who have fallen victim to criminals.
· Alternatively, you can reach out and call the Samaritans helpline for general help and support if you’re recovering from a scam.
If you feel threatened: Call the police
The severity of scams varies from case to case, and everyone reacts differently. If you have been the subject of a particularly threatening scam in which the criminal visited your home or called you incessantly, you can call the police if your safety has been compromised.
Reporting the crime to the police (101) ensures that they open a file and will work on the case on your behalf. You should also keep notes of any contact that a scammer has made with you so you can report it to the authorities.
Will I get my money back?
If you’ve lost money to a scammer, the most important thing is to understand if you will actually get your money back. The truth is that it depends on the type of scam you have fallen victim to.
As mentioned earlier, you need to contact your bank as soon as possible to find out if you are protected under the Payment Services Regulation (2009).
You can also contact the Financial Ombudsman if you’re struggling to receive the help or support that you need from your bank.
This article from Citizens Advice is a great resource, as it explains some of the circumstances in which you can get your money back after a scam.
Avoid and protect yourself from scams in the future
Avoiding scams in the future is all about strengthening your online security and improving your awareness about such crimes. At the very least, avoid using generic passwords for all of your logins and turn on two-factor authentication. You can also use password managers and VPNs to bolster your online security.
Also, recognising a scam is a helpful way of avoiding such crimes, and you can use the following points to help you:
· If something seems too good to be true and you’re contacted out of the blue, it probably is.
· Always be sceptical if someone that you don’t know contacts you unexpectedly and asks you for personal information.
· This is a red flag when someone asks you to pay in an unusual way (perhaps iTunes vouchers or Western Union).
· Never give your passwords or PINs to other people, and immediately end a conversation if someone asks you for such information.
In addition to these tips, make sure you’re aware of the different types of financial scams out there to protect yourself going forwards.