Scams are always happening, and there’s always a risk you’ll fall for something you didn’t mean to click on. What then? What should you do if you’ve actually been scammed?
Even though Scam Awareness Week 2021 has passed, scams are a regular part of our every day life. More specifically, avoiding scams is a part of our every day life.
You’re going to find they come in, and you’ll need to make a decision about whether an email or an SMS or even a phone call is legit, as scammers ramp up their efforts as the losses add up in Australia.
With millions lost to scammers in Australia this year alone, you can bet that the number of dodgy calls, texts, and emails you’ve normally seen will ramp up, making it just that much easier to accidentally or unintentional click on something you shouldn’t have, and fall in the crosshairs of a scammer and cybercriminal.
So what happens next? Specifically, if you think you’ve been scammed, what should you do next?
Talk with your bank
If you’ve unwittingly given out financial details, talk to your bank immediately.
“If you’ve been scammed of money or shared your bank details with a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution ASAP and report the transactions as fraudulent. In some cases, transactions may be stopped or even reversed,” said Alex Merton-McCann, Cyber Safety Ambassador for McAfee, a sentiment agreed upon by every security expert Pickr spoke to.
“Time is of the essence when it comes to minimising the impact of cyber scams, so if you have any suspicion that you have been scammed, it’s important to act immediately,” said Tim Falinski, Managing Director of Trend Micro’s Consumer division in Australia.
“A good first step is to contact your bank or financial provider and let them know what’s happened so they can cancel your cards immediately and monitor for any further activity,” he said.
With the bank aware of what’s going on, it’s time to deal with any potential fallout to your online life.
Change passwords for your online world
We live so much of our lives online, you probably have more accounts than you can actually count, ranging from email to shopping websites to social and so on.
Unfortunately, because we all have so many accounts, it’s also not all that unusual to have a very small pool of passwords.
As a result, a scam might have inadvertently given scammers an easy way to get into your other accounts, especially if you use the same password across many. That’s not a great situation to be in, so once you’ve taken care of any potential financial fallout, it’s time to deal with the online issue.
“Make sure you do an audit of all your online accounts – going beyond the major ones you use frequently – and change your passwords accordingly,” said Falinski.
“Creating ‘passphrases’ over passwords, setting up two-factor authentication and using a Password Manager are a few key steps you can take to have strong security hygiene.”
NortonLifeLock’s Mark Gorrie agreed with the idea, and told Pickr that changing your passwords was critical if you thought you had fallen for a scam.
“Change your passwords,” he said, “to your computer, to financial institutions and any other password protected websites that you visit. Activate two factor authentication if available on services you believe are impacted by a scam.”
Report the scam
It’s also important to report the scam. Not doing so can leave criminals free to keep doing what they’re doing without risk, while reporting gives you back some of the power they’ve tried to take. It also has the ability to help others from falling into the same trap.
“The most important thing here to remember is not to remain silent,” said Aaron Bugal, a Global Solutions Engineer at Sophos, on a recent podcast. “Being scammed by criminals is really serious and remaining silent only empowers them,” he said.
Government resources for victims of scams
If you think you’ve been scammed, there are also government resources that can help you out, helping to develop a plan of deal with the fallout from identity theft, an ongoing problem in our scam-ridden world.
“If you think your personal information has been scammed and that you are at risk of identity theft, it’s important that you act quickly to reduce your risk of financial loss or other damages,” said McAfee’s Merton-McCann.
“Your first call should be to IDCARE, a free government-funded service (in both Australia and New Zealand) that will help victims develop a specific plan to address their specific situation,” she said.
“You may also choose to apply for a Commonwealth Victim Certificate that helps support your claim that you’ve been the victim of identity theft. This can be extremely helpful when trying to re-establish your credentials with both organisations and government departments after the event.”
Ultimately, there are options, but keeping silent and hoping it just fixes itself are not solutions worth considering. Instead work out what happened, talk to your bank, change passwords, and find out what you can do to prevent problems from an accidental or inadvertent press.