Are you concerned that a friend or relative is being scammed online? Maybe it’s past the stage of concern and there is actual evidence of a scam. If you realize a friend or relative is being scammed, it’s important to help them take action, but it may be difficult to know where to start. In this article, we’ll discuss how to help someone who is being scammed online.

Get the facts

You may already have an inkling that the situation is a scam, but it’s important to get their side of the story first before proceeding. Try not to assume it’s a scam from the start until you get the facts. Assuming that the situation is a scam may scare your friend or relative or may cause them to become defensive about the topic. Speak gently and with compassion, many people who fall victim to scams never thought they would be in this position.

Provide official resources on online scams

In some cases, your friend or relative may be in denial of their situation. They may believe you’re falsifying the situation or taking it out of context, or even jealous of the money they supposedly have or their new romance. Providing official resources regarding types of online scams and how they’re executed may help your friend or relative understand the severity of their situation. Remember, it’s crucial to approach this conversation with compassion and understanding. The goal is to help them from being scammed online, not to shame them for getting into the situation in the first place.

Encourage them to stop sending money and secure accounts

Tell your friend or relative to stop sending money immediately. If the scammer has any credit card, debit card, banking, or other financial information, contact the financial institution that holds these funds and freeze the accounts. We also recommend replacing your cards altogether if they were used in the scam. If they sent any personal nonfinancial information such as a driver’s license, state ID, or social security number, it’s important to notify those institutions and put a hold on their credit. Make a list of all information that they provided to the scammer to ensure all bases are secured.

Report the scam to the proper authorities

When it comes to reporting online scams, many victims aren’t sure how exactly to report them. First, submit a complaint to the FBI Internet Crime Compliance Center (IC3). Then, contact the local police department in your friend’s or relative’s county and alert them of the scam. It’s important to note that these institutions will likely not drop what they’re doing to start investigating your case. However, it’s important to document the scam because if in the future the scammer is brought to justice, the report is already made and the victim is more likely to be eligible for recovery.

Gather evidence

Gather as much evidence as possible including, but not limited to:

Screenshots of all conversations, phone numbers, email addresses, websites used, photos, videos, IP addresses, names/aliases, social handles, locations mentioned, bank transfers, and wire transfers.

The more evidence you can gather, the better. Once you have the evidence gathered, together you can investigate the scammer yourself or hire an investigative agency to investigate the scam for you. If you’re able to track down the true identity of the scammer or your investigative team does, you can then take steps to recover your funds through a writ of garnishment or another form of asset recovery.

Watch out for recovery scams

While all online scams are harmful to their victims, recovery scams will kick victims while they’re down. The recovery scams occur when an online scam victim realizes they’ve been scammed, out of the blue a scam recovery company will approach them to help rectify their situation and get them their money back. Unfortunately, this “scam recovery company” is actually the person who scammed them in the first place, simply looking to steal more money from them in a different type of scam.

Online scams are evolving and scammers are learning new ways to target their victims. If you’re looking to help someone who is being scammed online, following these tips can help you get started. Remember, no one expects to be scammed. Oftentimes when realized, the victim feels great shame for being victimized. One of the most important parts of helping someone who is the victim of an online scam is extending understanding and compassion to their situation. The signs of the scam may be obvious to you, but you’re not the one who was scammed. Approach the situation with compassion, get the facts, encourage the cease of funds transfer, report it, investigate it, and watch out for other scammers who may be lying in wait for their chance to strike. 

Wanted: The Truth

Active Intel Investigations is here to help you with every aspect of your investigation, from conducting the investigation to preparing evidence to provide it in court.

Get started with your investigation, browse our video library for investigative resources, or schedule a no-obligation consultation with a licensed private investigator to discuss the specifics of your case.