How to Help Friends and Family Members Avoid Online Fraud

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The holidays are a wonderful time to catch up with family and friends who you haven’t spoken to during a busy year. However, sometimes learning and sharing about each other’s lives can reveal concerns, particularly if you suspect a loved one may be a victim of online fraud.

Although media attention is often focused on the senior population, online fraud is unfortunately becoming more commonplace with victims of every age in the U.S. The FBI’s Internet Crime Records recorded more than 800,000 complaints and losses of $10.3 billion in 2022.

Often, when someone is told that they may be a victim of fraud, their first reaction is denial. It’s hard for most of us to believe we could get duped. You may feel helpless, and if it happens to a friend or family member, you may also find it frustrating having no way to help.

But there are steps you can take to help someone determine if they are a victim of online fraud even in the most difficult situations. Judy Lynn Schiavone, Chief of Police for the Mount Laurel Police Department, and Lindsey Federer, TD Bank Fraud Management Strategist, spoke at the TD SAFE event sponsored by the bank this fall to help people identify and protect themselves from online fraud. The two shared their suggestions on how you can help if you suspect your friend or family member is a victim of fraud.

Share the knowledge

One of the most important actions that all of us can take is to learn more about online fraud and the vulnerability points that fraudsters target. The more you know, the more you can talk about the topic with others and help them identify suspicious activity.

“We absolutely need to just keep educating everyone about all the different scams that are out there,” Chief Schiavone said.

The most important lesson to learn is being able to pause and not act too quickly in situations where people are requesting money. A few broad questions that are particularly helpful to identify potential fraud include:

  • Do you really know who you are sending money to?
  • Have you met them in person?

If you can tell your friend or family member that you have been hearing a lot about scams and how similar they sound to their situation, it may make them open their eyes more.

Lindsey recalled an experience earlier this year where she was able to share knowledge with a friend to help prevent them from becoming a victim.

“I feel fortunate that I have knowledge about fraud, and I share that knowledge with friends, acquaintances, and family members,” Lindsey explained. “I like to talk about common scenarios. Earlier this year, a friend asked me to look at a text message on their cell phone from UPS, which asked them to verify their address. I asked if she was expecting a delivery. My friend paused a moment and realized she wasn’t expecting a package. It hadn’t dawned on her because she was so eager to respond. Therefore, it is so crucial to practice a pause, and slow down before responding to anyone when it involves providing personal information or the transfer of your funds.”

Be sensitive

Sometimes, while people may know that there is a possibility they are being scammed, they may be too embarrassed to admit it. So, it’s particularly important when someone opens up to you about this topic that you not respond with an insensitive comment. All of us have the potential to be scammed.

“Embarrassment does play a significant role for any victim of fraud,” said Lindsey. “Oftentimes, this is what keeps people isolated and prevents them from sharing their experience. The antidote to that feeling of shame is talking about it. It’s amazing when we go to communities and present the TD SAFE roadshow and learn how many people in the audience have been victims of scams. I’ll never forget one of our first roadshows, a gentleman had raised his hand and shared with the crowd for the very first time about a scam that he was a victim of six years ago. Simply opening the door to conversation about fraud helps individuals talk more openly, especially if they have been a victim.” This subsequently increases the level of awareness of fraud trends taking place today.

Reach out for help

If your friend or family member still refuses to listen to your concerns about fraud, you can go to your local police station or the one that is local to the person being scammed.

“We would ask that you explain as much to the police officer on intake as you can,” Chief Schiavone said. “Although you are not the actual victim, we can reach out and just start poking around to see how in-depth this is. And if we find something suspicious, we can reach out to an adult child or someone who is a direct connection to the person. We can call a bank on behalf of the family if need be, as well.”

Chief Schiavone noted that government websites such as the FBI’s site and others also provide guidance on actions to take if you or someone you know have been scammed.

“It’s much easier to just answer a question or say, ‘Yes, that looks like a scam,’ than it is to go back and investigate after someone has lost tens of thousands of dollars,” Chief Schiavone said. “So, please call your local agency. You can call us anytime.”

This article was originally sourced from