So You Think You’ve Been Scammed, What Should You Do?
In this day and age of internet and digital transactions, identity theft and other financial scams are becoming more and more prevalent. So much so that it is considered as a worldwide problem.
In America and the United Kingdom, identity theft cost the respective nations more than one billion dollars and pounds per year. Singapore is not spared; in a recent survey, it has been revealed that more than a majority of Singaporeans consider identity theft as a major security concern. Not surprisingly, credit card and debit card scams rank as the second top security concern Singaporeans find most worrying.
Such scams are a reality, and you could be a victim without even knowing it. Numerous reports cited that many identity theft victims only find out they’ve been victimized months after the scam. Hence, it is important to be vigilant against these schemes.
So what should you do when you think you’ve been scammed?
Determining if you were a victim
You need to find out whether or not you were indeed scammed. This could entail checking every current account information or credit card and debit card bill you’ve received, although there are a number of more determinant indicators that should raise your red flag.
One of the usual signs of fraud: unexplainable credit line or loan applications that were rejected. Your credit score is good and you’ve paid off all of your unpaid balance—from your gold card bills to your overdue loans. And yet, for someone reason, your applications were rejected. At this point, you need to check your credit report to find out if there have been any changes to your score.
Credit score will only reflect fraudulent credit behavior. In itself, it cannot determine if someone has been using your platinum credit line or your debit card without your knowledge. However, if you are aware of your credit performance, this should be enough. The fact that there has been an adverse change means that you may have a used and unpaid credit line that you do not know about.
Another common sign of fraud: unexplainable credit card or debt card charges. Were you charged for an item you don’t remember purchasing? While this isn’t an end-all be-all indicator, this usually indicates the possibility of credit card fraud.
Besides these two, there are other, more subtle signs. Refusal to credit your claim is one of them. Many people simply contribute this to other things, but not fraud or identity theft. Receiving bills for items you don’t remember purchasing is another sign.
Of course, some of these indicators are not definite signs of fraud or identity theft. For instance, many think that their gold cards or platinum credit cards were used by other people due to unexplainable items on their bills when, in fact, they merely forgot that they made the purchase. The key here is to trace every financial action you have done from the time you think you were scammed until the present. Once you determine that particular area, you can start your recovery procedure.
The course of action
Contact your bank immediately, the moment you have discovered the fraud and determined what was scammed from you. Did your credit card bill reflect a purchase you didn’t make? Did someone use your credit online to make a big purchase? Was there a sudden, unauthorized transfer of funds from your current account to another? In any case, you should contact your bank first. Your bank will take the necessary course of action.
The problem here is in establishing what was scammed from you. Credit card or charge card scams are easy to resolve. Once the bank and the corresponding credit card issuer determine and verify the fraudulent use, they will simply cancel the bill. The responsibility is on the part of the retailer or the store that accepted the stolen credit card or platinum credit card, or whatever credit line was used. When a charge is disputed, the bank and the various organizations involved — the credit card issuer and the credit card processor — will charge the retailer. This is called a chargeback. Laws in Singapore, and basically elsewhere, dictate that in case of valid credit card bill disputes, the retailer or the seller is required to give a refund.
However, this clause only covers credit lines, which includes credit cards, charge cards, gold cards, and platinum credit cards, among others. It does not include debit cards, primarily because debit cards are not considered as a form of credit line. Some debit card issuers, Visa cards in particular, do offer cash back for unauthorized and fraudulent charges on debit card, although this is a very limited service. The most you can do is to freeze your account as well as your credit rating if the fraud is still happening. The law allows you to freeze your credit report in case of ongoing fraud.
The scenario is somewhat different when cash is stolen from your current or savings account. You should consult your bank regarding this issue. Most of the time, specific government agencies cover this issue.
The best solution, of course, is prevention. Protect your credit line from the possibility of fraud and identity theft. Be careful not to give out your personal information — from simple ones such as your full name, to more private ones such as your social security number. If you do online and mobile banking, make sure your computer and your mobile phone are equipped with the latest anti-virus software. Never throw out your computer and other possibly sensitive gadgets and devices without removing parts that could contain sensitive information.
Also, it may be useful to ask your bank about their policies when it comes to identity theft. Again, certain laws do protect you in case you become a victim of identity theft and other fraud, but it is best to know the exact stance of the bank with regards to this problem.
The best way to prevent the mounting damages and problems caused by identity theft is to detect the problem immediately. Make it a habit to check your credit card and debit card bills regularly.