One of the most frequently asked questions we receive from readers and clients is, “what do I do after I a have been scammed”, so we thought this quick list would help many.
Even though we work in cyber-security every day, and know the tricks to keep ourselves safe, our staff can still get scammed. Recently one of our staffers sent $500 to a scammer along with a copy of their drivers license (both front and back), so that is the example we will reference throughout this article.
These post-hack processes are listed in the order in which you should process them.
1 – Don’t Delete ANYTHING & Don’t Be Embarased
Keep a copy of your emails, texts, phone logs… We have seen more than one embarased and frustrated victim delete their records, but the police and other agencies will likely want a copy of them.
Hold your head up high. The person that took your money or ID was a professional and almost certainly working as part of a team. This is their job. They are highly skilled. You are just one of thousands of victims… its NOT your fault and you are NOT stupid.
2 – Change What You Can, As Fast As You Can
If your password was hacked, change it immediately. If there is anything else that was compromised, get it changed ASAP.
3 – Notify the Agency / Company Involved
If your password was hacked for a particular company or money was taken from your bank or you gave a hacker your social insurance (SIN) number, the very first thing you should do is contact the agency or company involved and request that your information get locked down or changed immediately.
EXAMPLE – We contacted our provincial registry (in the US this would be the DMV in your state), to notify them that the license had been compromised. We expected that we could be issued a new license, but unfortunately we were told that a new license will contain the same number so there’s no advantage to changing it. If this had been a credit card that had been hacked the credit card company would have immediately canceled it, issued a new one with different numbers, as well as scrutinizing close attention to all recent transactions.
In Canada, if your Social Insurance Number (SIN) was compromised:
- contact Service Canada HERE
- call them at 866-274-6627
In the United States, if your Social Security Number:
- call the Federal Trade Commission – 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338)
- check your Social Security Administration account: https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount
4 – Notify Your Financial Institutions
If the hacker took a copy of any of your government documents (like drivers license, passport…) you can be sure they will be sold into the dark web and added to the already giant pile of information scammers already have on you. Scammers love to steal your money or borrow money in your name, or sell your belongings (like your house!). Your bank(s) and credit lenders, can put your accounts on a high alert program to increases the identification requirements to make changes to your accounts.
EXAMPLE – We contacted our bank and let them know the drivers license had been breached and should no longer be considered as a valid form of identification by itself. To get a loan or take a second mortgage on the house, the bank would insist on more ID.
5 – Notify The Police
Call the or visit the police and file a complaint immediately. If you’re thinking the police aren’t going to work on your $800 fraud case, you’re probably correct but:
- We were surprised to find the RCMP (Canada’s national police) were aware of the scam our staffer was caught up in and they were able to contact the destination bank (where our staffers $500 had gone) and froze the account… who knew! In the end, the scammers had already withdrawn the money so our staffer did not get anything back, but this does annoy the scammers and that made her feel good.
- If your scam is part of something the police are already investigating you will be added to the pile and if they catch the perpetrators and seize/sell their assets, you might get some money back
- It is very good idea to help the police keep track of statistics on what types of scams are out their so they can focus their efforts and to help stop others from falling for the same scam that got you
6 – Notify Credit Rating Agencies
Identity Theft is not something that happens only in the movies. It is very real and you need to move quickly to stop it.
There is more to credit than just your bank and credit cards. It is not at all unusual for a scammer to take out new credit cards from banks you don’t currently deal with or new store credit under your name. Before these stores and banks lend money or provide credit they nearly always check with credit rating agencies.
EXAMPLE – In our case both Equifax and TransUnion put our staffers account on a FREE ‘Fraud Alert” for 6 years and noted that her drivers license had been compromised. This means that stores and banks that do not already deal with her will not accept her drivers license as the only form of ID and they will be wary of new requests.
In Canada call:
- Equifax Credit Rating Agency Fraud Report – 1-800-465-7166 option 2
- TransUnion Credit Rating Agency Fraud Report- 1-800-663-9980
In the United States call:
- Equifax Credit Rating Agency Fraud Report – 1-888-378-4329
- Experian Credit Rating Agency Fraud Report -1-888 397-3742
- TransUnion Credit Rating Agency Fraud Report – 800-916-8800
7 – Tighten Your Security
Now that your information or accounts have been compromised, you should be able to find the time to tighten up the scurity on all your accounts:
- if you are using the same passwords on important sites /apps, change them NOW!
- change your passwords on your most important sites / apps now even if they were not the original target
- you probably have not changed your key passwords in years so now is a great time to do just that
- add “Multifactor Authentication” (aka MFA and 2FA) to any important account
- Multifactor is just that. Your first factor is your username and password combination but they can soooo easily be taken or guessed so adding a second factor, like having a code texted to you or having to click YES ITS ME on a app, will reduce the success of attacks by an astonishing 98%
8 – Tell EVERYONE
Most people don’t talk about how they were scammed because they’re embarrassed, but you should not be. As we said in our first point, you are not stupid and they practiced, professional scammers.
If you tell 10 people in your family and friends and coworkers what happened to you it will make it ever so much harder for the scammers to be successful with those people. It will also show your friends and family and coworkers that you are not meek, you are confident and just got ripped off like everybody does eventually.
Just think about what would you would have done differently if someone told you they were scammed by the same dirt bags that came after you. Your raised awareness probably would have stopped this entire event from happening.
It is absolutely imperative that you let everyone know, if you want to reduce this type of crime.