What to do if you're scammed. A short guide for identity theft victims.
Ok so you made a mistake and you fell for some scammers trick. Maybe you're even in really deep and they have your social security number, a credit card number, or bank account number. First things first, don't blame yourself. You got conned, that's what these guys do for a living and they're really good at it. Next, time is of the essence, the faster you can end this the better. If you don't move quickly it could take years to clean up the mess. Here is a quick and dirty guide to getting your identity back and getting the scammer arrested.
First things first. Write down every time you had a conversation with the scammer along with the date and time. Include any phone numbers they called from, or had you call. It is crucial to write this down while your memory is still fresh. Get it all down on paper somewhere, you need a record. That is evidence ... and police like evidence. You see this is where you can possibly catch and convict a criminal (if they are located in the US). This is where you get payback for all the work you're about to to do to keep them from ruining your name.
Next, if you are still communicating with the scammer, STOP! End the conversation now. Don't travel to meet the scammers in any foreign country. These people are criminals, sometimes tied to organized crime and they have no problem beating, kidnapping or in some cases murdering you.
Third, contact your bank immediately. Explain the situation and ask them to monitor your account for unusual activity. Their computer systems do this automatically on request. It's easy for them to do and it won't cost you anything. If any fraudulent charges show up on your account just close the account! Reopen a new one. Most banks are happy to do this for their customers as well. Don't be afraid to ask for these things from your banker, this is what you pay them to do .. protect your money. Do this for all your credit cards, checking accounts, savings accounts, mortgages, etc .. everyone you do business with needs to be notified.
Fourth, contact the fraud department of the three major credit bureaus. If you're outside the US there may be different agencies. Explain your situation again and ask them to put a fraud alert on your credit file. Again this is a free service. Fraud alert requires the credit bureaus to contact you before any new credit accounts are opened or to make changes to your existing accounts. This is important! This single step is stops the scammers dead in their tracks!
This is important, listen up!
You must make the request for fraud alert request in writing. You can't just shoot of an email or call them up. They want it written down, or better yet typed. But never fear, I've done the work for you! Just download my Microsoft Word letter template, insert your information in the highlighted sections, print it out and mail it! Download my Initial Fraud Alert letter.
Mail it certified or priority mail!
Now you have to mail it certified mail. This is key .. it requires someone to sign for it on the other end. You are given a tracking number so you know when the letters were delivered. This costs about $0.80 a letter at my post office. If you can afford it send the Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation so they get there faster. Priority mail is delivered in 2-3 days anywhere in the US and it costs $5.20 to most destinations at my post office.
Visit their web sites for a mailing address, or call them directly.
Next, contact the police! You need a police report. Report it just like any other crime, even if you were scammed over the Internet. Provide the police with the log you wrote down earlier. You did write it down like I told you to right? You need this police report in case people start doing illegal or malicious things in your name. This will save you a lot of trouble in the future.
Finally, if you sent your drivers license number, a copy of your passport or any other government issued ID you need new ones. This is probably going to be the biggest hassle of the whole process but it needs to be done. You will probably need your birth certificate and your current ID to be issued a new one. You only need to do this if you provided the scammer with copies of those documents.
If you do it right you can clean up the entire problem in about a week, but you have to get moving and do it now! The longer you wait the more difficult it will be to dig your way out. Check out my resources below for more information.
Resources for ID theft victims
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
There are people on staff to take your complaint and help you fix the mess. They can give you far more resources than you will find online.
Internet Crime Complaint Center