Deceptive advertising, identity theft, telemarketing fraud and deceptive contract agreements- these are all types of consumer fraud. Some recent studies estimate that, just in the United States, people lose $40 billion to $50 billion a year to investment fraud. Scammers usually take advantage of the people they consider the most vulnerable or gullible. They rely on the fact that, overwhelmed with anxiety and anger, these individuals won’t take any actionable steps.
However, if you yourself have become a victim of consumer fraud, you shouldn’t feel powerless against it. On the contrary, by acting quickly and making rational decisions, you may even be able to regain your money or, at least stop the scammer from doing serious harm to your bank accounts and personal data.
Here is what you need to do.
1. Call your Bank
If you paid to a con-artist in person, the chances are that you will never see that money again. However, if you were caught in an online fraud, such as a fake online shopping site or a phishing scam, there is a probability that you will manage to retrieve these funds. In order to do that, you need to contact your bank immediately. If you’ve made a transaction via PayPal, you can ask their Resolution Center for help and stop the payment from going through.
The same goes for the individuals that faced credit card or identity theft. All major banks already have experience with privacy breach and will be able to tell you exactly what to do in terms of securing your account. First, they will put a fraud alert on your accounts and give you a new credit card. Second, you can also put a security freeze on your credit report and, in this way, prevent scammers from accessing your accounts or opening new ones in your name.
2. File a Police Report
When faced with identity theft or any other type of consumer fraud, you need to contact police. However, people don’t see how important this is. Namely, the reports on this issue show that only 29% of consumer fraud victims reported their problems to the authorities. What you need to keep in mind is that fraud is a crime and it needs to be treated this way. Even though a local police department might not be able to get your money back directly, they will open a case file that documents the scam, which is necessary for requesting insurance or any legal proceedings.
3. Hire a Consumer Fraud Lawyer
Once you’ve contacted the police and a financial institution, you should also ask for legal help. However, you need to beware of many fraud-recovery offers you get. Many people represent themselves as legal representatives just to take what’s left of your money. So, if a legal advisor tells you to pay the fee in advance, you should know that this is also illegal. They have probably got your name from a list sold by the same individual that conned you in the first place.
The same goes for the customers dissatisfied with the service or a product they paid for. Namely, if you’ve received a poor quality product, you should go back to the store, call customer service, sent them an email or even let them know about your problem on social networks. If this doesn’t do trick, you should ask for outside help. According to Bordas & Bordas consumer fraud lawyers, there are numerous ways to do that, including filing a complaint with a local organization or government agency, use a dispute resolution problem (mediation and arbitration) or, if all else fails, take this issue to the court.
4. Isolate your Computer
Once you open a phishing email with the links that are supposed to infect your computer, you provide cybercriminals with the full access to your account information. They will instantly start rooting around your computer to access your sensitive data, such as bank accounts, passwords, and usernames. Not to mention family photos or work-related data.
In this case, there are several steps you need to take. First, change all your passwords immediately. Make sure that you choose strong ones that don’t base on the dates, names, and people important to you. Also, having up to date anti-malware software is not enough in situations like this. You need to backup all your data, wipe the disks and reload your computer’s system. Finally, you should never, ever connect another device to your computer before it’s completely safe.
5. Inform Others about the Scam
When you take all the steps listed above, you should spread the word about the consumer fraud issues you’ve come across. Inform your friends or family about this, tell them what steps to take in such situations and even share related articles and news on this topic via social networks. Only by letting the people around us know about this rising problem can we stop it once for all.
To protect ourselves from consumer fraud, we need to learn how to recognize its different types, educate ourselves on this subject matter and, most importantly, prevent this from happening on time. However, if you have been already caught in it, you need to act fast and these five steps will help you do so.