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Welcome to the Senior Resource Connect blog. You can visit the blog each Wednesday at 10am for the latest information about aging, caregiving, COVID, and local resources.

Protecting Your Data: What To Do If Your Data is Stolen

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Computers are a part of everyday life. Unfortunately scammers and criminals use every medium they can (e.g., phone calls, texts, email, physical mail) to separate older adults with their hard-earned money. Last week on the blog we looked at ways to protect our personal data, as well as general computer safety tips. Today we’re going to explore what to do if your computer or personal data is already in the scammer’s hands.

Signs your information may be compromised: 

  • You see withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain.   
  • You find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report. 
  • Your credit score drops suddenly. 
  • You no longer receive certain mail.  
  • You receive bills or credit cards for services/accounts you are not familiar with. 
  • You are contacted by debt collectors for services/accounts you are not familiar with. 
  • You get notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account. 
  • You receive notice from the IRS that more than one tax return was filed in your name, or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for. 

  

What to do if you’re a victim of an online scam 

  • If you send money to a scammer… 
    • …Via credit card: Refute the charge as fraudulent with your credit card company and see if they can reverse the charge so you can keep your money.  
    • …Via your bank account: contact your bank and report it as an unauthorized debit or withdrawal. Ask if they can reverse the transaction so you can get that money back.  
    • …Via a gift card: Contact the company that issued the gift card. Tell them you were scammed and ask if they can refund your money. Make sure to keep the gift card and the receipt!  
    • …Via a money wire: Contact your bank or the wire transfer company to report the transfer as fraudulent. Ask if they can return your money.   
    • …Via a money transferring app like Venmo or Paypal: Report the transaction as fraudulent and ask if they can reverse the payment. Make sure to also contact your bank if you have an account linked to your app.  
    • …Via the mail: Contact the Post Office and ask them to intercept the package. They can be reached at (877) 876-2455 (there may be a small charge for this service.   
  • You may want to place a fraud alert on your credit score. This is a free one-year service and makes it difficult for the scammer to open additional accounts in your name. Contact Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax (they communicate with each other).  
  • Make sure to get a free credit report to monitor your credit score. You can do this by visiting Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion, or by going to to annualcreditreport.com  or calling 1-877-322-8228 
  • If a scammer has your personal information, such as your social security number, go to IdentityTheft.gov for a comprehensive list of steps to take and to generate an FTC Identity Theft Report. You can also call the FTC at 1-877-438-4338.  
  • Change account passwords (you can click on “forgot password” if the hacker created a new password to lock you out)  

  

  • If a scammer has access to your computer:  
    • Update security software.
    • Run a security scan.  
    • Delete suspicious files.  

  

  • If a scammer has access to your smartphone:  
    • Contact your service provider immediately.  
    • Change your passwords.  
    • Check your bank account for unauthorized charges or withdrawals.  
    • Make sure your phone’s software is up to date.  
    • Back up important items, such as your contacts and pictures.  

  

  • If you decide you want to go to the police:  
    • Bring a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report, ID, proof of residence, and proof of theft. Make sure to ask for a copy of the police report for your records!   
    • Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. This helps them to know what scams are popular and builds cases against scammers. 

 

Don’t let embarrassment or shame prevent you from reporting scams or getting help!  

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