Article: 6 Steps to Take after Discovering Fraud
You just realized you were scammed. That trade or investment you made was a fraud. Now what do you do?
The sooner you take action, the better you can protect yourself and help others. Getting all of your stolen money back may prove difficult, but recovery is about more than just regaining your losses. These six steps can help you guard against further theft, report the fraud, and start the recovery process. They are for informational and educational purposes only and should not be considered legal or investment advice or a comprehensive list of solutions. You can also conduct these steps on your own at little or no cost. However, if you feel you need legal help, consult an attorney.
Your first steps should focus on stopping further losses and gathering the information you have about the scheme and the perpetrators while it is still fresh. Then, report the crime as soon as possible. The sooner you report, even if you think the matter is insignificant, the easier it’ll be for authorities to track down the fraudsters or stop others from being victimized. Next, look into how you can repair the damage and avoid fraud in the future.
1. Don’t pay any more money
This may sound obvious, but some schemes use the promise of large returns to persuade victims to send one fee after another, even when the victims suspect something is wrong. These fee frauds have increased significantly online in recent months. Typically, legitimate brokers will deduct fees and commissions from your account, and not demand more money to release your earnings or principal. U.S. brokers will never withhold or collect taxes.
Also, be on the lookout for recovery frauds. These frauds target recent victims and claim to be able to get the stolen money back if the victims first pay an upfront fee, ‘donation,’ retainer, or back taxes. The perpetrators of these advance-fee frauds often pose as government officials, attorneys, or recovery companies. Learn more about the warning signs of recovery frauds.
2. Collect all the pertinent information and documents
While the events are still fresh in your memory, develop a timeline and collect documents and information that could help when it comes time to report or investigate the fraud. Write down conversations you had with the fraudsters with the approximate dates and times they took place. Documents and information to collect and keep include:
Resolution when Working with Registered Entities
- Names, titles, or positions used by the fraudsters.
- Social media profiles, group posts, chats, or other online interactions.
- Website addresses and screen shots.
- Emails and email addresses. Save these electronically, or print them out with the full header information. (Your email provider or a web search can describe how to capture header information.)
- Phone numbers you used to contact them.
- Account information, statements, trade confirmations, disclosures, and sales materials.
- If credit cards were used, include the receipts or statements.
- Exchanges of digital currencies, such as bitcoin.
- Records of other forms of payment including cancelled checks or receipts for wire transfers, money orders, or prepaid cards.
- Any correspondence received, including envelopes.
3. Protect your identity and accounts
If you provided payment information to the fraudsters, take the steps necessary to block access to your accounts and protect against identity theft.
- Credit cards. If you used credit card information in the fraudulent transaction, contact your card issuers immediately to make a fraud report. As part of the process, you may be required to get a new account number.
You may also want to contact one of the three national credit reporting companies (below) and ask that it place a fraud alert on your credit file. The credit reporting company you contact will automatically report the fraud alert to the other credit reporting companies. A fraud alert will notify potential creditors to verify your identity before extending additional credit in your name. Placing a fraud alert is free and typically lasts up to one year or until you ask for it to be removed.
You can also request a free security freeze. A security freeze restricts access to your credit file, making it harder for identity thieves to open accounts in your name. You will have to contact each credit reporting company to place a freeze. A security freeze will not be lifted unless you request it.
- Bank automated clearing house (ACH) information. If you gave the fraudster your bank account number or routing number, contact your bank or credit union immediately. You may need to close the account and open a new one.
- Social security number. Go ahead with a fraud alert or credit freeze and report your information stolen at the FTC’s identitytheft.gov website. Be on guard for scams that claim your social security number is linked to back taxes or other debts. Independently verify claims with the IRS or creditors before paying any money.
- Log-ins and passwords. If you registered for access to a fraudster’s website using usernames or passwords that you use elsewhere, be sure to update accounts with new log-ins as soon as possible.
- Other steps to protect your identity. If you experience identity theft, you can report it and get further recovery steps at identitytheft.gov.
Two Ways to Submit a Complaint to CFTC
4. Report the fraud to authorities
Tell us if you believe you were victimized by a fraud that involved commodity futures, options on futures, swaps, commodity pools, binary options, foreign exchange, digital assets, or other derivatives.
If you have experienced other types of fraud and don’t know where to send your complaint, the Department of Justice has a directory that can help. Also, federal agencies work closely together and will forward your complaint to the appropriate agency.
If the fraud occurred in your local community, you could also report the matter to the police and your district attorney. You may need to file a police report if you plan to file an insurance claim for fraud losses.
5. Check your insurance coverage, and other financial recovery steps
- Fraud theft insurance. Check your homeowner’s policy to see if it includes coverage for fraud losses or reimbursements for identity theft related expenses. It may be limited to your principal investment and not expected profits, or it may cover only expenses incurred to fix problems caused by the identity theft.
- Consider consulting a tax professional. If you can itemize deductions on your personal income tax return, fraud losses may be deductible in the year the fraud was discovered. Calculating the deduction can be complicated and certain exceptions may apply. For more information, see IRS Publication 547, Casualties, Disasters, and Thefts, and other resources for investment fraud victims from the IRS.
- Consult a financial counselor or advisor. Losses to retirement savings or that caused significant debt may require the help of a professional financial advisor. Beware of credit repair companies that promise to significantly erase your debt. A financial advisor can help examine your current situation and provide a path to rebuild savings, reduce spending, minimize interest expenses, or identify other possible sources of income.
- Recovering money lost to fraud. If you want to consult a lawyer or company to recover money lost to fraud, be sure to ask what services will be provided, the costs involved, how you will be charged, and get all of the answers in writing. Check with your local bar association to ensure attorneys are licensed in your state or if they have a history of complaints. Be aware that, in many cases, asset recovery companies charge high fees to do little more than send a demand letter to the original fraudster and a boilerplate complaint to the appropriate regulator. If the scammer is insolvent, the demand letter will do little good, and you can submit complaints to government regulators at no cost.
6. Consider changing behaviors and building your resistance to fraud.
As the saying goes, ‘fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.’ Don’t blame yourself for being victimized. Fraudsters are very good at what they do, and they often target educated and successful people. However, you may want to consider the events or actions that led up to the fraud. Many times, routine activities can lead people into becoming targets, and returning to those activities could start the process over again. These routine activities could include being active in investor social media groups or chat rooms, commenting on videos, signing up for trading courses, special offers, free giveaways, or investor newsletters.
While the exact numbers are unknown, because fraud is commonly underreported, victims tend to be victimized more than once. Recovery frauds, mentioned above, commonly start from victim lists sold on the dark web. Your personal details and vulnerabilities may be sold to other scammers. One of the best ways to build your resistance to fraud is to stay informed. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to help you avoid fraud again.
- Do verify the registration and disciplinary history of any broker, adviser, or trading platform with the CFTC, NFA, SEC, FINRA or the appropriate state regulator before doing business with them. While registration alone cannot protect you from fraud, most frauds involve unregistered individuals, entities, or products.
- Stay current on the latest frauds and schemes by monitoring credible sources such as state and federal government or law enforcement agencies, including the CFTC, SEC, Department of Justice, FTC, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, FINRA, National Futures Association (NFA), your state securities regulator, or attorney general’s office.
- Get a second opinion from a trusted adviser, family member, or friend before making an investment. Seeking advice from someone you know and trust is good way to slow down a sales pitch and avoid fraud.
- Let unknown callers go to voicemail or have a refusal script ready to end cold calls quickly. ‘I don’t participate in phone solicitations,’ then hanging up, works just fine.
- Delete-don’t open-unsolicited email. Often, opening an email will signal a spammer that the email account is active and more spam will follow.
- Verify business addresses by doing an online map search and looking at the location using the street-level view. Many fraudulent websites will use fake addresses, which can be easily spotted with a virtual visit.
- Review privacy settings on social media platforms and conceal or delete information that pinpoints where you live, where you went to college, what you do for a living, where you trade or bank, how often you invest, etc. Personal information can easily be pieced together by fraudsters and used to target you for future schemes.
- Check email addresses carefully to avoid phishing attacks.
- Learn about the common persuasion tactics fraudsters use.
- Don’t respond to unsolicited sales calls or email.
- Don’t give credit card, payment information, or personal information over the phone, in an email, or to a website that is sent as a link in an email. Fraudsters often pose as financial service professionals or government officials. Instead, end the call or close the correspondence, and look up the customer service contact information on your own.
- Don’t fund trades or investments by wiring money, sending prepaid credit or gift cards, using digital assets such as Bitcoin, or making other unusual forms of payment.
- Don’t communicate using encrypted messaging apps with ‘brokers’ or others promising to make you money. These apps provide global access and hide the true location of the person on the other end. You could easily be dealing with an offshore fraudster posing as a person in the United States.
- Don’t trade or invest in vehicles you don’t fully understand. If you can’t explain it, you probably shouldn’t invest your money in it.
- Don’t engage with people promoting investments or trading schemes on social media. Especially don’t engage with people who promise they are ‘legit’ even though all the others are scams.
- Don’t trade or invest with unregistered entities or individuals that operate outside the United States.
- Don’t engage with people you are introduced to through third parties or organizations. Affinity fraud targets people through social groups and use those connections to build credibility. Places of worship, professional organizations, service organizations, and others are common targets for affinity fraudsters.
CFTC – U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission published this content on 20 July 2020 and is solely responsible for the information contained therein. Distributed by Public, unedited and unaltered, on 20 July 2020 19:45:16 UTC
Credit360 Now Providing Credit Repair Services in Orlando
One of the nation’s finest in personal and business credit solutions has expanded its services in Florida.
“We are very excited to now offer our life-changing services in Orlando,” said Andre Coakley, Founder & CEO of Credit360, a company with an elite team of credit experts that know exactly what techniques will assist individuals and businesses with increasing their credit scores to meet their goals. “We are here to help you achieve your optimal credit profile by making the credit repair process convenient, individualized, and effective.”
Credit360’s specialized credit repair processes, credit expertise, and guaranteed customer service, company representatives say, make it the best in the industry.
Coakley explained that Credit360 has had the opportunity to help thousands of Americans correct their credit reports. In fact, Credit360, Coakley stressed, is a company that puts its money where its mouth is and only charges a fee when items are deleted, removed, or repaired from individuals’ credit reports.
“With our services, you will no longer have to use other expensive credit repair companies that charge monthly and don’t even produce results,” Coakley promised, before adding, “We are so confident in our advanced disputing tactics that we will allow you to pay for your deletions after you actually see our results and we even give you a 100 percent money-back guarantee to back it up just so you can relax.”
Coakley went on to reiterate that Credit360 is an elite team of credit experts that know exactly what techniques will assist customers with increasing their credit scores to meet their goals.
“With our services, most of our clients see deletions within the first 45 days of enrollment and usually see an average increase of 93 points throughout their program cycle,” Coakley said.
About Credit 360
Credit360 was established to assist individuals in restoring their personal credit and in offering a complete line of business credit solutions. Credit360 is a financial services firm specializing in credit restoration and business consulting services.
10664 SW 186th Street
Miami, FL 33157
Source: Credit360 Credit Repair
Credit Saint Credit Repair Review
Today’s credit repair industry is full of paid services, some more expensive than others. Credit Saint clearly falls under the more expensive category, with initial work fees reaching an astounding $195 for premium-tier service. But is the cost worth it? In our review, we’ll break down package options, service guarantees, and more to help you decide.
- Choose from three credit repair plans: Pick the package and price that makes the most sense for your personal situation.
- Most packages include credit monitoring: Two of Credit Saint’s three plans include Experian credit monitoring.
- Offers a 90-day money-back guarantee: If Credit Saint is unable to remove any inaccurate items from your report in the first 90 days, you’ll get all your fees refunded.
- Hard to find pricing online: You need to fill out a form with your contact information before being shown plan pricing.
- High initial work fees: First work fees range from $99 to $195, depending on the plan.
- Limited monthly disputes with low-tier plans: The entry-level plan includes just five disputes per billing cycle.
- Sparse online resources: There isn’t much educational information available on Credit Saint’s website.
- Not available in all states: Credit Saint is unable to serve residents of 11 states as listed on the company’s signup form.
Types of Services
Credit Saint’s services are packaged into three membership levels that vary, depending on how aggressive you need to be in order to remove inaccuracies from your credit report. This is beneficial as it lets you choose a customized plan that matches your needs without overpaying for services you don’t want.
The entry-level credit repair plan from Credit Saint includes five disputes of inaccurate information on your credit report per month. These can be applied to any type of information except hard inquiries, which are only covered by upgraded plans. You’ll also get an initial credit score analysis and an ongoing credit score tracker to keep an eye on your progress. Both are accessible through a client web portal.
Credit Saint’s mid-tier package includes everything included in the Credit Polish plan with a few extras. You’ll get twice as many credit inquiries; 10 are included per month, and you can use these to have inaccurate hard inquiries addressed. The package also includes Experian credit monitoring.
The most aggressive credit repair plan offered by Credit Saint is also the only one that includes unlimited disputes every billing period. With this membership, you can also ask the company to send cease and desist letters on your behalf. This can be a solution to stop unwanted phone calls related to accounts currently in collections. Of course, you’ll also have access to all services included in the Credit Polish and Credit Remodel packages.
Getting phone calls about unpaid debts you can’t afford to repay can be stressful and frustrating. Many credit repair companies advertise cease and desist letters as a way to legally prevent lenders and collections agencies from continuing to make contact. While this might sound like an easy solution, it’s not quite that simple. Once these companies can no longer contact you, they may jump straight to filing a lawsuit. Make sure you discuss both the pros and cons with your credit repair company before allowing them to send cease and desist letters on your behalf.
|Credit Polish||Credit Remodel||Clean Slate|
|Credit score analysis||√||√||√|
|Credit score tracker||√||√||√|
|Hard inquiry disputes||√||√|
|Experian credit monitoring||√||√|
|Cease and desist letters||√|
Some credit repair companies make supplemental services available in the form of optional add-ons. Since Credit Saint packages all of its solutions into a range of all-inclusive plans, the company doesn’t offer any further options to tailor services.
Credit Saint customers can get ahold of the company via phone or email, although hours are more flexible than most competitors, with phone lines open from 9 a.m. to p.m. EST on weekdays. If you need help outside of these hours, you can also log into the Credit Saint customer portal 24 hours a day. Here, you’ll find your credit score tracker and initial score analysis for easy reference.
Former Credit Saint customers give the company average ratings with some mixed reviews. The company has an A rating with the Better Business Bureau, although more than 35 complaints are on record and the average review score sits at just 2.67 stars. With that said, there are no complaints recorded with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Google customer ratings are decidedly better with an average of 3.9 stars.
While online reviews should sometimes be taken with a grain of salt, they can be useful in spotting trends among former customer opinions. Many of Credit Saint’s positive reviews make note of exceptionally friendly customer service agents. On the other hand, the most common complaint comes from customers who say the company didn’t fulfill its 90-day money-back guarantee.
If you have a complaint about the services of a credit repair company, you can file a complaint with the FTC or call 877-FTC-HELP.
Since Credit Saint doesn’t lock customers into contracts, all services are offered on a month-to-month basis, allowing you to cancel anytime without penalty. All you need to do is contact a representative via phone or email to request a cancellation before your next billing date.
One of Credit Saint’s most unique points of attraction is its 90-day money-back service guarantee. According to this promise, the company vows that if it is unable to remove a single negative item from your report within the first 90 days of service, you can ask to have all fees paid up to that point returned.
Customer complaint data shows that many former Credit Saint clients have been unsuccessful in collecting a 90-day refund they felt they deserved. Before signing an agreement with Credit Saint or any credit repair company that advertises a service guarantee, make sure you get a clear explanation in writing of the exact results you can expect by which date. This can help eliminate uncertainty should you need to ask for your money back.
There are two components to Credit Repair’s pricing structure. The first is an upfront fee that covers the initial work period, including an in-depth review of your credit report and an initial credit score analysis. Then, ongoing services are charged on a monthly basis according to the plan you selected.
This fee structure is fairly standard for the credit repair industry, although fees are markedly higher than average. The $195 first work fee for the Clean Slate plan is the highest we came across in our reviews of more than 15 credit repair companies.
|Credit Polish||Credit Remodel||Clean Slate|
|First work fee||$99||$99||$19|
The Competition: Credit Saint vs. The Credit Pros
Our review of the credit repair industry found Credit Saint to be one of the most expensive paid credit repair options currently available. To see whether the cost is worth it, we compared Credit Saint to The Credit Pros, the competitor with the most similar pricing structure.
Like Credit Saint, The Credit Pros offers three tiered service packages, although the latter also makes a non-credit repair option available that includes just credit monitoring for $19 per month. Each company offers a similar array of services across their three core plan levels, but The Credit Pros makes more services available at lower tiers. For example, the cheapest plan includes credit monitoring, which Credit Saint only offers with upgraded packages.
The Credit Pros also includes several services with its plans that Credit Saint doesn’t provide at all. These include identity theft monitoring, financial planning tools, and a prescription medication discount program. Overall, we’d consider The Credit Pros a better value.
|Credit Saint||The Credit Pros|
|Services Offered||Credit repair, monitoring||Credit repair, monitoring, identity theft protection, financial planning|
|Customer Service Touchpoints||Phone, email, client portal||Phone, email, client portal|
|Upfront Fee||$99 to $195||$119 to $149|
|Monthly Fee||$79.99 to $119.99||$69 to $149|
Credit Saint’s graded packages let customers choose their own approach to credit repair at a price point they feel comfortable with. The company includes more services than most competitors, offering in-house credit monitoring and the option to send cease and desist letters to debt collectors. With that said, the service offering falls short of justifying Credit Saint’s sky-high prices. The good news is that a customer-friendly money-back guarantee means you won’t be at a total loss should you agree to these fees and fail to get results.
How We Review Credit Repair Companies
Our credit repair reviews take an extremely critical look at the credit repair industry, one that is notorious for leading customers astray with false promises and overpriced services. We assess the quantity and quality of services offered by each company, including their credit repair solutions and additional services like credit monitoring and debt management. We compare these services to listed prices to determine value, rewarding any companies that protect customers with a money-back service guarantee. Finally, we take a deep dive into customer review data and analyses from third parties like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Better Business Bureau.
Learn more: Read our full Credit Repair Review Methodology here.
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