From phishing emails to online shopping and bank scams, there’s no shortage of cyberthreats waiting to ambush you in your own home. Businesses (of all sizes) and individuals around the world have fallen victim to these fraud attempts, and the impacts have been great: it has been projected that annual global cybercrime costs will reach USD $6 trillion by 2021.
Money transfer is a popular topic for online fraud. From scammers claiming that they have your personal information and will only release it if you transfer them money to strangers posing as family members or coworkers and asking that you send them money as soon as possible for some vague “emergency”, these schemes rely on your panic to lead you into impulsively making unwise decisions.
Educating yourself against these scams is the most effective way to prevent yourself from being negatively impacted. Take a look at our previous blog posts on general online fraud as well as the scams that have popped up as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to get an idea of the most common (and costly) online scams today.
However, if you’ve already fallen victim to a scam, there are different steps you’ll want to take to protect yourself. Take the next few minutes to read over our guide to acting after falling victim to an online scam, so that if you (or a loved one) do end up in that situation, you'll immediately know what to do.
1. Don’t panic.
We know, it sounds like a ridiculous suggestion. Your personal information may have been compromised, and we’re telling you not to panic?
Pause, and take a deep breath. Think about what information you’ve given away and what could have been compromised. From there, you’ll be able to develop an action plan of what to do and who to contact to keep the damage minimal, or prevent any damage altogether. Don’t let yourself get too overwhelmed to take action—just take it one step at a time.
2. Stop interacting with the scammer.
You might be tempted to let them know that you know they’ve deceived you, and that you’re reporting them. Unfortunately, doing so isn’t likely to get your money or information back, or do anything else to help your situation. The best thing for you is to block them and cease all communications.
3. Contact your bank or credit agency.
If the scam involved your bank account or a transaction of any kind, let your bank know as soon as possible. They may be able to reverse the transaction and get your money back. They can also put an alert on your accounts to watch for any suspicious activity, and can use this information to warn other customers who may have also been targeted.
If you think your credit card number was taken, cancel that card as soon as possible. It might be a headache having to figure out a new payment method for Netflix, MasterClass, and any other memberships or subscriptions attached to that card, but canceling the card is the most effective way to ensure that no one will be able to use your card for their own purposes.
4. Change all of your passwords and update your software.
Did you give away your password, or do you think the scammer now has access to your password? Change it immediately, preferably to a secure password with numbers and special characters.
While you’re at it, take a look at all of your other passwords. Have you been using the same password for multiple accounts? Have you gone months or even years without changing your password? Take this opportunity to add a security boost to all of your accounts.
Since you’re already changing your passwords, you can further improve your security by updating all of your devices’ software. Make firewalls and other security features your top priority.
5. Speak with anyone else who could have been affected.
Was the scammer posing as a friend, family member, or colleague of yours? Let them know what happened. Their information could have been compromised as well, or they could also be targeted with a fraud attempt.
If the scam impersonated a known business or organization (such as the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), you may also want to alert them of the situation, so they can warn others about these fraudulent communications.
6. Keep your eyes on your accounts.
So you’ve blocked the scammer, changed your passwords, and canceled your payments. These are all fantastic steps, but you might not be out of the woods just yet. Over the next few months, watch your cards and accounts carefully for any unusual payments or other traces of compromised activity.
7. Stay vigilant.
Online scams are constantly evolving, and there’s no guarantee that you won’t be targeted again. Continue to stay informed on trends in cybercrime and common forms of online fraud, and read all online communications with a discerning eye.
If you’ve fallen victim to a phishing email or other internet scam, don’t get too down on yourself. Even large, high-profile organizations have seen great losses from simple phishing schemes. The most important thing you can do is take the steps to protect yourself now, and keep an eye out to prevent falling victim in the future.