What to Do If You Are the Victim of a Phone Scam
Report the fraud to the appropriate authorities.To whom you should report an instance of fraud depends upon the nature of the scam, where the perpetrators of the scam are located, and how the fraud was conducted. If you live in the United States and are contacted by phone by a scammer, you should first report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC"). You may contact the FTC at www.ftc.gov or 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters the information into the Consumer Sentinel Network which law enforcement agencies can access to prosecute the people behind the scam.
Next, contact the state attorney general's office or other consumer protection agency in your state.
If the calls originated from Canada, you should also report the fraud to Phonebusters and "Reporting Economic Crime Online" (see links below)
Place your Phone Numbers on the Do Not Call Registry and Remove Information from Public Listings.You can list your telephone number (land lines and cellular numbers) on the U.S. national do not call registry. You can add your name to the registry on the web at https://www.donotcall.gov/ or by calling 1-888-382-1222. Some states also maintain do not call lists. You may wish to list your name on the state registry also. However, this extra step may not be necessary. Georgia, for example, automatically lists your number on the Georgia do not call list if you register on the federal do not call registry.
In addition, contact your phone service provider and request that they remove identifying information such as your age, from public listings. Scammers may be looking for people "over 65" or who live alone, so it may be best to delete this information from public listings.
Of Course, the do not call list will only prevent legitimate businesses from contacting you since criminals may not be concerned with violating the law. Even so, this fact may help you reduce your risk of fraud.
Obtain your Credit Report from all Three Credit Reporting Agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.The official government website through which you can obtain a copy of your credit report (under certain conditions, such as once a year, at no charge) is www.annualcreditreport.com. You may also call 1-877-322-8228.
By reviewing your credit report, you can determine whether any fraudulent accounts have been established and may be able to discover unauthorized use of credit cards or unauthorized accounts/loans.
Cooperate With Enforcement Agencies.If you are contacted by a law enforcement or consumer protection agency after reporting the fraud, cooperate with that agency by providing information about the fraud. Of course, scammers may impersonate law enforcement officials, IRS agents, customs officials, or other government agents or agencies, so you should take steps to verify that the person you are speaking with is actually a government employee; particularly before disclosing any personal information such as your social security number.
Take Steps to Ensure You are Not Victimized AgainYou may wish to pay for a caller identification service ("Caller ID"). If you have Caller ID, do not answer calls from numbers you do not recognize. Ask that solicitors send something in writing that you may independently verify. If you are unsure about something being offered on the phone, get the seller's number and contact information, then seek counsel from your network of friends, family, or advisors. An attorney or an accountant may charge you for the time, but a trusted financial advisor with whom you have a relationship may be willing to discuss the situation with you at no cost. In addition, the FTC website provides a great deal of information about scams and protecting yourself from being victimized. The FTC website lists scams and publishes guides for how to protect yourself.
Continue to Monitor Your Accounts, Credit Card Statements, Credit Reports, and Mail Closely.If you have fallen prey to a phone scam, the criminal may have sold or shared your name with other criminals as an "easy target." If you shared any personal information, you may be at a greater risk of fraud. Thus, you should carefully monitor your bank accounts, credit card statements, and other accounts to identify any instances of fraud or unauthorized activity. In addition, you may with to consider purchasing a locking mailbox or renting a post office box for added security for your mail.
If You sent Money to the Scammer via a Commercial Provider, Notify that Provider of the FraudIf you used Western Union or MoneyGram or other money service to send money to a scam artist, report the fraud to the service provider. You can e-mail Western Union at [email protected] to report fraud. In addition, if you used a credit card or bank account, you should notify the credit card company or bank of the fraud. In some cases, you may wish to close the credit card or bank account and get a new account number as the compromised account may be easily accessible by the scammer.
Additional resources provided by the author
- U.S. Federal Trade Commission Home Page
- Federal Trade Commission Web Page on "Prize" scams
- National Do Not Call Registry
- The Consumer Sentinel Network
- Phonebusters (Canada; government site)
- Reporting Economic Crime Online (Canada)
- Georgia Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs
- Alabama Attorney General’s Office — Consumer Affairs Division
- Money Gram International Website; Page on Consumer Protection and Scams
- Looks Too Good To Be True Home Page
- "Looks Too Good To Be True" File a Complaint Page
- Internet Crime Complaint Center
- United States Postal Inspection Service
- Western Union