One of the major challenges for older adults using technology is knowing how to prevent online fraud from happening. Not everyone knows the red flags to look for when it comes to elder financial abuse or the most common scams targeting older adults, and that’s okay. According to the Department of Homeland Security, “seniors are defrauded at twice the rate of the rest of the population.”
Seniors are a particularly attractive population as they usually own their own residence, have a large savings, and have good credit. If you’ve been scammed, know that you aren’t alone, you don’t have to feel ashamed, and there’s steps you can take to protect yourself as quickly as possible. Let’s take a look at what you should do if you’ve been defrauded or scammed on the internet. If it seems like an overwhelming task to handle, consider asking a caretaker or trusted loved one to help you navigate exactly what happened and how you can recover your loss.
Contact Your Bank and Credit Card Company
Did the scam involve your credit card or debit card number? Did someone get access to your login credentials for your financial accounts? Contact your bank and credit card company as soon as you can to figure out which transactions were fraudulent and cancel your cards immediately and receive new ones. Customer service representatives can also help you file a fraud report.
If you regularly use the same password, make sure you go back through your accounts and change them. For extra protection, don’t use the same password for every account. Consider using a third-party password manager for seniors like 1Password or KeeperSecurity.com to keep your passwords safe and organized in an easy and accessible way.
Submit a Complaint to the Federal Trade Commission
Before you file a police report, submit a report about the theft to the FTC. As you go through the steps, you’ll be asked to answer some questions about what happened, and the FTC will create a personal recovery plan to help you navigate the process. Once that’s happened, you can create an account with the FTC for additional support.
File a Police Report
Filing a police report can vary depending on the city or town you live in. Check with your local police department to see if you can file a report online or if you need to submit a paper report in person.
Get a Copy of Your Police Report
When you submit claims to credit bureaus, debt collectors, and other creditors, you may need to provide documentation of what happened. If you can’t get a copy of the police report, make sure to write down the police report number for your records.
Request A Fraud Alert
According to the FTC, a fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. You can place a fraud alert by asking one of the three nationwide credit bureaus.
An initial fraud alert remains on your credit reports for 90 days, and you can renew it as many times as you want. If you want an extended fraud alert, which lasts for seven years, you will need to contact each credit bureau to submit your request.
Keep Track of Your Credit Score
Monitoring your credit score on a regular basis can help you identify any potential changes or drops in your score you either don’t recognize or signal there’s something troubling happening. After a fraud alert has been placed on your credit history, you’re entitled to receive a free copy of your credit report from all three bureaus.