It is only a matter of time, folks. As we age we become more vulnerable to scams. Every senior is truly a “victim in waiting.”
Today we will focus on the actions you should take after being scammed. These vary according to the type of scam and the identity of the thief.
Actions To Take If You Are Scammed
First, talk to a lawyer to find out if you can, or should, sue the scammer.
Report the scam to the police department or the sheriff where you live. However, you should realize that a full investigation is unlikely unless there are a number of victims of the same type of scam or the wrong-doer is your family member, caregiver, or friend.
Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission, www.ftc.gov . Because the FTC makes its complaint database available to law enforcement agencies, your report may assist agencies find a pattern that may eventually lead to prosecution.
Report the scam to the Texas Attorney General. There is an online consumer complaint system at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/consumer-protection/fileconsumer-complaint .
If a computer was involved in the scam, report to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx .
If postal mail was involved, make a report to the U.S. Postal Inspector at https://www.uspis.gov/report/ .
Freeze your credit. This helps prevent further fraud. A credit freeze will prevent a thief from opening new accounts using your information. You will need to temporarily unfreeze your credit report when applying for a loan, credit card, insurance policy, or other service that requires a credit check.
If you paid your scammer with a credit card, then dispute the charge with your credit card company. Credit card issuers must investigate and reverse unauthorized charges if you report them within 60 days of receiving the statement showing the fraudulent charges.
If money was taken from your bank account, then promptly notify your bank. Under federal law, you must report any unauthorized electronic fund transfers within two days of receiving the account statement to limit your liability to $50.00. On the 3rd day, your liability increases to $500. If you wait until after 60 days, you will bear the entire loss. You also should get the compromised account into CANS, the closed account notification system. See www.dob.texas.gov/cans/ .
Create a safety plan to help you and your family minimize future risk. Have a response ready in case of you are victimized again. Your safety plan should take into account your current and future mental health, emotional well-being, risk factors, computer use, smart phone use, family resources, and community resources. It should include strategies to recognize and avoid scams, such as letting all non-family phone calls go to voicemail to give you time to screen them with a trusted friend. You may also want to consider moving your assets into a trust with a corporate trustee. If you can’t easily access the funds, then you can’t easily send them to scammers.
Above all, do not be embarrassed that you were a victim. The rest of us are still victims in waiting.
Virginia Hammerle is a licensed Texas attorney. Her practice includes estate planning, litigation, guardianship and probate law. See hammerle.com for her blog and newsletter sign-up. This column does not constitute legal advice.