Victims of Fraud

Have you fallen victim to fraud? Below is a high level review of different types of consumer fraud, and tips on how to respond and protect yourself going forward.

Identity Theft

Has your identity been used without your permission? Credit cards being applied for, accounts being opened, vehicles being purchased? These are just a few of the ways fraudsters may use your identity. But what can YOU do?

  1. Immediately notify the financial institution, lender, or organization where your identity has been used without your permission. Request any relevant documentation that was provided
  2. Notify your local law enforcement that you are a victim of fraud. Obtain a copy of the police report. This will be useful for the investigation by the organization as well as help you with the next step.
  3. Reach out to the three credit bureaus and apply a fraud alert to your credit report. You can do this without a police report, but it is only for a limited amount of time and will require you to continuously update it. With a police report you have the ability to add an extended alert.
  4. OPTION – you may also add a security freeze to your credit report which is a stronger method of prevention, but depending on your situation it might not make sense. You may be asking “Well what is the difference?”
    • Fraud Alert – This will notify organizations that attempt to access your credit that you have an alert on your credit profile, requiring them to verify that you were the one who requested the credit pull (whether that be for credit or sometimes even employment). This is typically a quick process depending on the organization’s procedures and may even be as simple as calling you from the number you provide on the alert.
    • Security Freeze – This prevents anyone from accessing your credit profile and will stop any legitimate business you are trying to do. Depending on the organization’s procedures and risk tolerance they may cancel the transaction there, or might ‘pend’ until you have removed the freeze from your profile. This is a stronger way to safeguard your identity, but can also be a hindrance if you’re trying to do legitimate business
  5. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and notify them that you have fallen victim. Here you can also get a recovery plan that may outline further steps you can take to protect yourself. There is also an affidavit that you can fill out to provide to any of the institutions which may be something they request during the investigation.
  6. As a victim of identity theft these are simply the first steps on your journey to get your identity back and secure. For more in-depth plans, resources, and help please utilize the Identity Theft Resource Center.

Consumer Scams

Have you fallen victim to a romance, work from home, sweepstakes, insurance, or the other plethora of scams currently being used? Did someone take advantage of your honesty, vulnerability, or willingness to help those less fortunate? Here are a couple things you can do to better protect yourself.

  1. Just as you would if you were a victim of Identity Theft, you should immediately notify your financial institution about the scam. By divulging all information you have on the scam including methods of contact, names, phone numbers, emails, etc… it may help them identify other potential victims and proactively act to stop the fraudsters from victimizing anyone else.
    • IMPORTANT – This doesn’t mean that you won’t be held responsible for the potential loss. Depending on the activity the institution may still hold you responsible if you were ultimately complicit in activity (e.g. giving out your online banking credentials to an unknown third party, willingly sending money, depositing unknown checks and withdrawing cash, etc…)
  2. Report the scam to the FBI through their online Internet Complaint Center
  3. Fraudsters never stop adapting, which means consumers should never stop learning and educating themselves on common schemes. Perpetual Chess was created to assist in this endeavor.
  4. Depending on the scam and the information provided to the fraudster please either see the tips on Identity Theft and Account Takeover

Account Takeover (ATO)

Have your accounts been accessed without your permission? Maybe there weren’t accounts opened in your name, but your identity was assumed in order to access your legitimate accounts?

  1. Immediately notify your financial institution of the unauthorized transactions in your account. Be very specific on which transactions you did and did not authorize as to make the investigation more clear, and ultimately quicker.
    • Ensure you notify them as soon as you notice the transactions. Depending on the type of transaction, consumers have a certain window of time to report unauthorized transactions before assuming liability.
  2. Report the fraud to the FBI through their online Internet Complaint Center
  3. Update you passwords to all of your essential accounts (finances, communication, social media, etc…)
    • This article by AVG helps explain how to create a strong password, utilize a password manager, and leverage two-factor authentication to help keep you safe.
      • REMEMBER the longer the password the better.
  4. Make sure to purchase anti-virus software for your devices and run a diagnostic check to ensure your computer is virus free. The information used to get into your accounts may very well have been stolen from your very own device. Fraudsters will often embed malware into your device after opening a malicious attachment. These kinds of intrusions can log your key strokes and steal records from you hard drive. Make sure you are always scanning for potential viruses to keep yourself safe.

These are just a few practical tips for very broad scenarios. If you have other questions or issues that aren’t addressed here, please contact me via social media or other methods within the Contact page.

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