What to do if you get scammed online: 'As a minimum, change your password'

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Think you may have gotten scammed online? Here's what to do. (Photo: Getty)
Think you may have gotten scammed online? Here's what to do. (Photo: Getty)

It's easy to assume you'd never get scammed online. After all, you're smart and you know not to do obviously sketchy things like click on pop-ups. But this kind of thing happens to plenty of people, and it can leave you wondering what to do if you get scammed online.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), online scams have skyrocketed since the pandemic began. In 2019, total reported losses from online fraud cost people $134 million. But losses reached $117 million in just the first six months of 2020. That included scams around online shopping, romance, economic relief, and income, the FTC says.

You don't want to be the victim of online fraud — but this isn't news to you. Still, it's hard to know what to do if you get scammed online.

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While prevention is key, it's important to be prepared just in case you get scammed online. Here's what you need to know.

How do people usually get scammed online?

It depends. "While there are numerous types of online scams, most entail some form of social engineering—tricking people into doing something that they would not do if they understood what was really happening," Joseph Steinberg, a cybersecurity and emerging technologies advisor, tells Yahoo Life.

A common way that people get scammed online is getting their account credential "phished, often by being tricked into visiting a bogus login page," computer security expert Graham Cluley, co-host of the Smashing Security podcast, tells Yahoo Life.

Scammers usually trick people into giving up personal information like their social security number or credit card information. (Photo: Getty)
Scammers usually trick people into giving up personal information like their social security number or credit card information. (Photo: Getty)

So, what should you do if you get scammed online?

A lot of it depends on the type of account that's been breached and what type of scam is involved, Cluley says. Here's a breakdown of next steps under different circumstances:

  • You paid a scammer with a credit or debit card. Contact your credit card company or bank that issued your card and tell them there was a fraudulent charge. They should be able to reverse the transaction and get your money back.

  • You gave the scammer your social security number. Go to IdentityTheft.gov for next steps. You should also monitor your credit.

  • You gave the scammer access to your computer or phone. Run a scan with your computer's security software and delete anything that's flagged. For your phone, contact your service provider to get back control of your phone. You'll also want to check your bank account and/or credit card for fraudulent charges.

It's also a good idea to contact the Federal Trade Commission to report the scammer and hopefully help prevent other people from falling victim to scams.

Finally, you'll want to make sure you're protected going forward. "As a minimum, change your password and ensure that you are not using the same password anywhere else on the internet," Cluley says.