I Got Scammed by Phone Scammer. Help!
A phone scam isn't always as obvious as you might think. A smooth talker on the other end of the line could have you giving out your personal information and credit card number before you realize something's not quite right.
Find out what to do when you're a victim of fraud to minimize the damage.
So You're the Victim of a Phone Scam
If you find yourself the victim of a phone scam, you're not alone. According to the Federal Trade Commission, they received 2.1 million fraud reports in 2020, with reports of consumers losing $3.3 billion that year. Acting quickly can help you minimize the damage.
What Should You Do Next?
Start by trying to stop or reverse whatever has happened so far. If you paid the scammer already, you might be able to cancel the payment or file a fraud claim with the company or bank. If the scammer got your credit card number or other account information, let your bank know right away. Banks can usually assign new account numbers to prevent further fraudulent charges.
You should also report the phone scam to relevant authorities. Keep records of the fraud, including dates you talked to the scammer, how much you paid, what information you gave them and how you've tried to deal with the situation. If you have enough evidence, law enforcement might open an investigation.
How Do You Report a Phone Scam?
You should report the phone scam to multiple organizations, which often track scams and warn the public of new scams. Some places to report phone fraud include:
- FTC: The Federal Trade Commission handles all types of consumer complaints, including fraud. Use their fraud reporting option to provide relevant information. Not only do they gather data and issue warnings about scams, but they might also have suggestions for handling the phone scam.
- National Consumer League: The NCL has a fraud center that provides information about fraud and lets you file a fraud complaint.
- State consumer protection office: Your state's consumer protection office might be able to help you get your money back if you've been scammed.
- Business or organization: When you get scammed by someone pretending to be an organization, government agency or business, let the real entity know, so they're aware of the situation. They often announce the scam to keep other customers or community members from becoming victims.
- Law enforcement: Since fraud is a crime, you should report the situation to your local law enforcement officials. It's often difficult to track down phone scammers, but it's still a good idea to file a police report. Some states have a state bureau of investigation that may be able to help.
- Financial institutions: If you paid money or had your bank account or credit cards compromised, contact your bank, lenders, credit card companies and other relevant financial institutions to notify them of the scam. They might be able to help you recoup your money.
How Do You Recover Money From a Scammer?
It's not always possible to get your money back, but you can start by going to the financial institution or payment method you used. Alert your bank or credit card company that the charges were fraudulent and see if they can stop or reverse them. You can also contact the wire transfer or money transfer app company you used to see if they can reverse the charges.
What Do You Do If the Scammer Has Your Personal Information?
You can't erase your personal information from a scammer, so your best option is to go into damage control mode. Report the situation to the credit bureaus and Social Security office, so they're aware that your information has been compromised. Check your credit report regularly to look for new accounts or inquiries that you didn't initiate.
Do You Need a Lawyer?
You usually don't need a lawyer to report fraud and try to get your money back through your financial institutions. If you can figure out who was behind the scam, you can file a lawsuit, which you might hire an attorney to do. You can also consult with a fraud attorney to get advice and determine your legal options.
Common Types of Phone Scams
A phone scam can sound very convincing, but many of them use similar tactics to get you to share personal information or pay money. Some common phone fraud schemes include:
- Law enforcement impersonation: Scammers often pretend to be with a law enforcement agency calling to collect a fine. They often threaten you with jail time with the option of paying the fine to avoid being arrested. They sometimes give details, such as badge numbers, that make it sound believable, and they prey on your fear of going to jail. For example, a recent scam involves a caller who poses as a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent who claims there’s a warrant out for your arrest.
- Other impersonation: You might also get calls from scammers impersonating other people or organizations, such as utility companies or the IRS, saying you owe them money.
- Tech support: Another common scam is getting a call claiming to be tech support. They say something is wrong with your computer and direct you to download software to fix it. They're actually gaining remote access to your computer, so they can steal your information or install ransomware.
- Fake charities: Some scammers pretend to be from a charity, especially after a tragedy or disaster, and convince you to donate to them.
- Fake prizes: You might get a call saying you won a trip, cash or other prizes, but you have to pay a fee first. This gives them a chance to steal your financial and personal information. It's illegal to ask you to pay a fee, buy something or pay taxes on a prize before you get it, so requesting any form of payment should be a red flag.
Avoiding Phone Scams
When you receive a phone call asking for your personal information or a payment, you should always be suspicious. Scammers can make themselves seem legitimate and can be very persuasive. Even if they say they're from a company that you use, it's best to hang up and call the company directly to see if they called you or if it was someone pretending to be them.