As long as the internet has existed, internet scams have also been around. Over the years, scammers have unfortunately gotten smarter. Nowadays, they employ a variety of tactics to trick you into giving away bank, credit card, or Social Security information. A cyber scam can happen to anyone. However, knowing what steps to take if you fall for one makes dealing with them a lot easier.
Identifying a scam can be difficult, partly because they change frequently. For the purposes of this post, we’ll talk about Social Security scams. This is when scammers get hold of your Social Security information, either directly or through a data breach. Often, they do so by impersonating trusted institutions—for example, the Internal Revenue Service. When this happens, the person or recording on the other end of the line will relay an urgent message, typically saying that you owe money or similar.
If you think your information is compromised, the first step you need to take is to calm down. Then set up credit monitoring. If your information was stolen from a company, the company it was stolen from may offer free credit monitoring. If you gave your information out voluntarily, don’t worry—there are still tons of free products on the market. Check for a free service before paying for credit monitoring.
Next, get credit alerts. Your bank, credit card company, or credit monitoring company will probably offer this service. Even if you’re not a customer of a particular bank, you may be able to take advantage of this service. Capital One offers free credit score reporting through a program called CreditWise, to everyone, not just Capital One Customers. In fact, it’s probably worth setting up an alert system even if you don’t think your Social Security info is compromised.
You can also freeze your credit. If you directly gave your Social Security information away, this is the first step you should take. You can do this through the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. Note that you will need to do this for each agency. A credit freeze will remain in place until you request a lift. Just note that you will have to temporarily unfreeze or “thaw” your credit if you need it to make a purchase.
Place a fraud alert on your report. A fraud alert will force a business to contact you before anyone takes out credit in your name. Unlike a freeze, you won’t have to go through the process of thawing your credit before making a purchase. Additionally, you only need to place a freeze through one of the three major reporting agencies. Whichever agency you choose will then alert the other two.
Generally, most of these services are available for free. However, some companies offer them with a fee attached. This doesn’t mean they’re disreputable, but you’ll want to make sure you’re getting value out of them that’s worth paying for!