Being a victim of fraud can be an overwhelming experience for anyone. Not only do you have to worry about the financial implications of the fraud, many people feel embarrassed for having fallen victim. But fraud victims should not feel alone—millions are victimized by fraud every year. Today, there are powerful tools to protect yourself, protect other consumers and shut down fraudsters. Here is what you can do if you’ve been hit by online fraud:
Report it to your financial institution
First things first – take care of your personal finances. If you believe a fraudster has access to your bank account, credit card, or other financial information, call the relevant financial institution to report the fraud and protect yourself from further harm. In the unfortunate case that you wired money, used a money order, or used Western Union, it may not be possible for you to recover lost funds. However, if you used a credit card (which we always recommend when shopping online) with strong fraud protection you may be able to seek a chargeback. If you believe you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you’ll want to inform all your financial institutions and consider putting a freeze on your credit report.
Report it publicly
Another tool consumers can use is the public fraud report. By reporting fraudulent online businesses or websites you can:
(1) Warn other consumers
(2) Put the fraudsters one step closer to being put out of business
(3) Get help from other consumers who may have gone through a similar experience
(4) In some cases, fraudsters may have a change of heart, read your report, and attempt to reconcile with you and refund your money
Report it to law enforcement
Reporting online fraud to law enforcement is important not just because it may be possible to recover some of your losses, but if law enforcement receives enough reports they can move to shut down fraudulent outfits and bring perpetrators to justice. Three primary law enforcement avenues exist:
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation. Contact your local field office as well as the Internet Complaint Center.
- The Federal Trade Commission. Try their online complaint assistant
- Your state Attorney General. The National Association for Attorneys General has a complete list – every state takes complaints on behalf of its residents.
For an exhaustive list, please visit the Justice Department’s page on reporting fraud.