May 16, 2023

If you’ve fallen victim to fraud, you’re not alone. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), consumers lost roughly $8.8 billion to fraud last year - up 30% from 2021. This figure is from the 2.4 million fraud reports filed with the FTC. The top categories were imposter and online shopping scams. Prizes, sweepstakes, lottery, investment, business, and job opportunity scams were also prevalent.

Whether you were a victim of one of these scams or another form of fraud, it can be challenging to sort it all out. But don’t fret. Here’s how to pick up the pieces, get your finances back on track and protect yourself.

Step 1: Act Fast and Report the Fraud

You’ll need to take action as soon as you realize you’re a victim of fraud. Here are the initial steps to take:

  • Contact your bank or credit union immediately.
  • File a report with the FTC.
  • Notify local law enforcement of the incident and get a police report.
  • Follow the guidance provided by the FTC to resolve the issue.
  • If someone has stolen your identity, visit Identitytheft.gov to file a report.

Step 2: Review Your Credit Reports and Accounts

Get copies of your credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies. They’re accessible weekly for free from AnnualCreditReport.com until the end of 2023. HawaiiUSA members with Digital Banking have free, unlimited access to their credit report and score with My Credit Score. Review each credit report, note any accounts you don’t recognize, and file disputes. Be sure to include supporting documents to support your claims.

Also, take a look at the transaction history on all your accounts. Highlight any suspicious charges or withdrawals. Next, contact your credit union, bank, or creditors to resolve the fraud. They will let you know the next steps.

Step 3: Protect Your Identity and Credit Score

Place a fraud alert on your credit profile. Contact Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax; they'll notify the others. It’s free and alerts potential creditors that you’ve been a victim of identity theft. When someone submits an application in your name, creditors and lenders will contact you if you have set up fraud alerts. Standard fraud alerts last one year and are renewable. Or you can place an extended fraud alert on your credit profile if you’re a victim of identity theft. Extended fraud alerts are also free and last seven years.

Another way to protect your credit report is through a security freeze. It prohibits access to your credit profile by all lenders and creditors. It also stops anyone from opening new accounts in your name. You can generally freeze your credit immediately for free. But you'll need to remove the freeze to apply for credit and contact each credit bureau to unfreeze your credit report. Because this can be a cumbersome process, we recommend only considering a freeze if you do not plan to use credit at any point in the foreseeable future.

Preventing Fraud in the Future: Best Practices and Tips

You can be proactive and protect yourself by recognizing the signs of a scam. Here are some red flags to be on the lookout for according to the FTC:

  • The scammer says you qualify for a sweepstakes or lottery but must pay a fee to accept the offer.
  • The scammer demands payment for a government debt you don’t actually owe.
  • The scammer requests to verify account information to resolve an issue.
  • The scammer asks for money to help out a relative experiencing an emergency.
  • The scammer uses pushy sales tactics to pressure you into making a purchase.
  • The scammer demands payment through a wire transfer or cryptocurrency.
  • The scammer asks you to deposit a check into your bank account and return some of the funds to them.

Also, avoid providing personal or financial information by phone, email, or text. Most importantly, remember that if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Conclusion: Stay Vigilant and Stay Safe

Dealing with financial fraud can be overwhelming. Fortunately, taking the proper steps can help expedite the recovery process.

Be sure to stay vigilant and be proactive moving forward. Look out for red flags and protect your personal information. And if you notice suspicious activity, report it to the FTC.

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