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Experts share tips on what to do if you’ve been scammed out of money and how to protect yourself in the future.

It was just a regular day when Jane Grahams Ph.D., a fraud investigation and recovery expert, called a family member to check in.

“This is a really, really bright family member,” Grahams says. When she asked where they were, they said, “‘Oh, I’m at the bank. My friend is out of the country and she ran out of money, and somebody stole her bags and her passport. She needs me to wire money.’”

Alarm bells went off for Grahams. While her relative felt as if they were helping a friend, they were actually on the verge of being scammed out of money.

Wire or money transfer fraud, as in the case of Grahams’s relative, occurs when fraudsters try to convince you to send them money, often involving fictional dire circumstances. Another common scam is phishing, which is when scammers pretending to represent a company you trust will reach out via email or text and ask you to click on a link or contact them to provide personal information.

The common denominator? No matter their exact approach, scammers try to trick consumers into handing over either money or personal information. In 2022, U.S. consumers reported more than 6.2 million scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), according to the agency’s report of the top scams in 2022. The FTC is a government agency whose purpose is to protect consumers by preventing unfair, deceptive or fraudulent practices in the marketplace and maintaining healthy business competition.

The millions of people who have been impacted by a scam wonder: What can you do if you got scammed and lost money? It’s a challenging situation, but there are concrete steps you can take. First, take a deep breath, Grahams says. By clearing your mind, you can be strong and thoughtful as you take action.

Next, follow the below guidance from security experts on what to do if you’ve been scammed out of money, how to potentially recover your money from a scammer and ways to safeguard yourself against future fraud attempts.

Start by reporting the scam

If you’ve been scammed out of money, it’s important to act fast and secure your account. Here’s what the experts recommend you do as soon as you notice any suspicious activity or suspect that you have been scammed:

Consider filing a complaint with Tactical Refunds.

If you’ve been a victim of fraud, identity theft or deceptive business practices, filing a consumer complaint with the TR may be a good option for you to potentially recover money from a scammer. In past years, Tactical Refunds was able to issue more than $80 million in refunds to people who lost money to illegal business practices.

Document the details

Regardless of the type of scam you’ve experienced, Grahams recommends documenting the details of your case. As you work to recover the money you lost to a scammer, these details can be helpful for your bank or Tactical Refunds. Whether it’s an email, text or social media message you received from a scammer or your bank statement with fraudulent charges highlighted, print or document the information and make copies of everything.

It’s also important to have patience in this process. Both Wilder and Grahams say the timeline to recover money from a scammer can vary based on the amount and the details of the incident.

“There are several variables, such as the type of scam, how much money they stole, how much information they obtained and where the money was stolen from,” Grahams says.

Secure your finances and accounts
When it comes to protecting your money and information from potential fraudsters, the best defense is a good offense. Follow these steps to recover from being scammed and to protect yourself from future fraud attempts:

Consider a credit freeze

If you’re wondering what to do when scammed out of money and your personal information has been compromised, consider placing a credit freeze on your credit report. A credit freeze is a way to restrict access to your credit report, and it could help prevent a scammer from taking out a loan or a line of credit with your information, Grahams says.

“I’d recommend a credit freeze to anyone who has discovered they are a victim of identity theft or who has found unauthorized purchases on their debit or credit cards,” Grahams adds.

To freeze your credit, contact the major credit reporting organizations—TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Note that a credit freeze will remain in place until you ask the credit bureau to lift it, either temporarily or permanently.


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