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If You’re a Victim of Fraud or Identity Theft, Follow These Steps

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As the world moves more and more online, scammers and fraudsters have become more common than ever. Phone scams, email scams, suspicious websites, and countless other tactics are employed by fraudsters to try to gain access to your information. Fortunately, we are so used to some of these attempts that we can spot them a mile away and keep our information safe. Sometimes, however, despite our best efforts to the contrary, these scams are successful and we may find ourselves a victim. This can be demoralizing, but don’t worry! There are steps you can take to minimize the damage and avoid a situation like this in the future.


Step 1: Know When You May Be a Victim

The first step in resolving this problem is to recognize when you are the victim of a scam. Of course, this is often easier said than done, as modern scam techniques can be remarkably convincing. One of the most useful tools in understanding when you are the victim of a scam is to understand what the most common scam types look like. Most scams can be categorized into one of several different varieties that all follow their own pattern: phishing, spoofing, social media scams, romance and grandparent scams, and check fraud, to name a few. By knowing these patterns, you are more likely to be able to spot them.

While each category of scam has its own characteristics, one thing remains consistent across all varieties as a telltale sign that you might be the target of a scam:

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

One of the most valuable tools in a fraudster’s arsenal is the appeal of their scheme. What they are offering must be tantalizing enough to lure in unsuspecting individuals, and so the end result is that it is too good to be true. Did you receive an email about winning the lottery, despite no recollection of playing? Did a long-lost family member reach out to share an unknown inheritance? No matter what the context, if it sounded too good to be true, it probably was.


Step 2: Assess

Now that you know that you are a victim of fraud, it is important to review what happened and take stock of what damage has been done. The more information you can put together about the series of events and what your financial loss is, the better prepared you will be to work with your financial institutions, family and friends, and, if necessary, law enforcement.

First, write down the most detailed sequence of events you can. This includes communications with the fraudster, as well as any actions/transactions you did on their behalf. This will be instrumental in finding out exactly what damage was caused by the fraudster.

Did you send money anywhere? Did you buy gift cards and give the codes to the fraudster? Did you give the fraudster access to your computer or passwords? With your comprehensive sequence of events, it should be easier to see what the fraudster was aiming to do, and where they succeeded in gaining access to your information or funds. This will give you a better understanding of what your next steps are when it comes to resolving the matter and preventing further damage.


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Step 3: Resolve

Now that you have determined where the damage occurred, it is time to communicate with the relevant parties about what took place and ensure that no further damage is possible. This can take a wide variety of forms depending on what scam was attempted, but there are a few steps that you should take regardless of what occurred.

Call Your Financial Institution

First, call your financial institutions and tell them what happened. Since the ultimate goal of any fraudster is to get access to your money, it is crucial that you reach out to your credit union, bank, or credit card company and inform them that you’ve been scammed. They have a process in place to keep an eye on your account, set you up with new accounts that the scammer does not have access to, issue you a new debit and/or credit card, or take whatever other steps they think are necessary to keep your money safe. Even if you don’t think the scammers got enough information to compromise your banking information, it is important that your financial institutions know so they can be extra careful going forward and monitor your transactions for fraudulent activity.

Reset Your Passwords

Next, reset your important passwords if the scammer learned them or gained access to your computer. With so much of our lives taking place online, there can be many different accounts, apps, or platforms that might have access to your debit card number or other critical account information. Make sure you use a new, difficult-to-crack password, and use different passwords for different accounts. A great tool in this process can be a password manager, which stores all of your complex passwords and lets you access them with a password for the program.

Protect Your Identity

If you think that the scammer accessed your Social Security number or other critical personal information, consider investing in a product to help protect against identity theft. Products like these can ensure that you are made aware if the scammer attempts to use your identity for their own purposes in the future, and can be helpful in keeping you safe in the long term.

Invest in Antivirus Software

Another worthwhile investment is in an antivirus software for your computer. If you fell victim to a phishing scam, the scammers likely installed malware (short for MALicious softWARE) on your computer that could give them access to it in the future. There are plenty of well-reviewed anti-virus programs on the market at different price points – install one and let it run a comprehensive sweep to ensure that your computer will be safe in the future.

Get Support

Lastly, talk to people you trust. Family, IT personnel at your place of employment, or close friends can be crucial resources. They may have their own experiences with being scammed, and can offer advice and support; alternatively, they can help you in the future if you come across something that you think may be a scam. By making sure those close to you know what happened, you can enlist their help in keeping you safe going forward.


Keep Your Head Up

Getting scammed can feel terrible. You might feel vulnerable, exposed, or afraid, and that’s okay. It may take time to regain your lost confidence. No matter what happened, or how it made you feel, it is important to remember that you will recover from this. As long as you respond appropriately to the situation by acting quickly and decisively, you will have learned an important lesson, and you can make yourself a much harder target in the future. Remember to stay vigilant and keep your head up.


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About Risk Management Department

Our vision is to empower possibilities for greater prosperity for Vermonters. Part of fulfilling that vision is protecting our members’ accounts against unauthorized access. The security of your personal information is a top priority for VSECU. Are you afraid that your financial information at VSECU has been compromised? Please contact us immediately at 1-800-371-5162. We can help with the process of securing your accounts and may even be able to help mitigate your loss.

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