By Tevej Rhodes, Marketing Intern, NFCC
Last year, more than 36,000 servicemembers, veterans, or family members reported an imposter scam. Their total loss combined was $34 million. Scammers are creative. They mimic government agencies and technology firms. Some even go as far as to claim to be a family member. They are con artists who pretend to be someone you trust and persuade you to send money or personal information. Falling victim to a scam can be scary, but there are steps you can take to put your finances back on track.
Never give out your social security number, especially over the phone. Trust me, that is probably not your doctor’s office calling to update your new insurance plan. I understand that the number may look familiar, but it is always safer to hang up and dial a known number back. You may know of all the preventative measures available and still get fooled by an imposter scammer. If you suspect this has happened use the steps below to help counteract the effects of the scam.
- First, stop all contact with the scammer.
Once you are aware that you have been in contact with a scammer, stop all communication. Hang up the phone and block their number. Report their emails as spam and don’t reply to any letters they may send you.
- Do not make any more payments.
Do not give out any more of your money. Be wary of agencies contacting you claiming they can return your funds. It could be another scam. Also, if the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are many scams offering student loan forgiveness and other debt forgiveness programs that offer relief and promise quick and easy resolutions and the truth is this does not exist.
- Report the scam to the bank or any other financial service you sent the money through, such as PayPal, Venmo, etc.
Contact your bank immediately. There is a possibility they can recover some of the funds. There is almost always a protocol in place to confront fraudulent activity.
- Report the scam.
Reporting the scam connects you with a service that can help your situation specifically. It also helps to educate others. Remember back in September of 2017 when Equifax announced a data breach that exposed the personal information of over 145 million consumers? Equifax has agreed to spend up to $425 million to help persons affected by the data breach. Although you cannot file a claim just yet, if you were impacted by this incident sign up for FTC email alerts at ftc.gov/Equifax. Reporting scams can not only raise awareness, but it also helps to prevent future issues.
- Assess your security at home and online.
Change all of the passwords on your accounts, even the ones not linked to the scam. Changing your passwords can give you a new sense of security and ensures that scammers cannot reassess information you may have given them prior.
- Don’t forget to keep living.
Being scammed is a scary process to go through. You may always be on the defense. Life can get stagnant because you’re too scared to make any financial decisions. Do not view the scam as a setback, yet rather a lesson. Learn from it and take the proper precautions in the future.
Due to the evolution of technology, imposter scammers are getting more creative in their schemes. Protect yourself and your family. Monitor your account transactions. Be wary of the information you give out. Lastly, report all scams. The more we know the more we can educate each other.
According to NFCC’s recent survey of active duty military and their spouses, nearly 29% of active service members say they would turn to the military in need of getting help overcoming financial challenges. 26% said they would turn to their family. In addition, 22% of active military spouses/partners said they would seek help from their bank.
If you find yourself in a financial struggle, amid a scam or otherwise, consider also reaching out to your nearest certified credit counselor in addition to your financial institution. They can help you manage your finances and get you and your family back on track to financial prosperity.