Are your parents scammed? What to do when they are scammed online?

5 Essential Steps To Take If Your Parents Get Scammed Online

Knowing that your parents have fallen victim to an online scam can be quite distressing. You’ll likely go through a range of emotions, with anger and sadness at the forefront. You’ll hate the fact that somebody has managed to claw hard-earned cash out of your parent’s pockets. Trust us – your parents will feel just as bad as you do, if not worse.

If your parents have become the victim of a scam, it is essential that you stay calm. Getting angry isn’t really going to fix the situation, and it’ll probably make things worse for both you and your parents.  It is important that you take a proactive approach to fixing the problem as soon as possible. The quicker you get on top of things; the more chance things will have somewhat of a positive resolution.

Our goal is to teach you the five steps you need to follow when your parents have fallen victim to an online scam. We’ll discuss:

  • How you can stay calm and supportive.
  • How you can quickly gather information with the intention of alleviating the fallout from the scam.
  • The stages you need to follow when you report the scam to the relevant authorities.
  • How you can help them secure their accounts, finances, and anything else that may have been compromised due to the scam.
  • How you can educate and help prevent scams in the future.

We’re hoping that by the end of this page, you’ll know more about how to help your parents when they’ve become the victim of the scam and, more importantly, how you can help prevent those scams in the future.

Stay Calm and Supportive

It is normal to get angry when somebody you care for has been scammed. However, it is essential you do not show this anger. You certainly shouldn’t show anger toward your parents. Remember – they didn’t want to get scammed. They didn’t really know any better (the online world can be tough to navigate). Getting angry with them is senseless, and you don’t really achieve anything.

When you are calm, it is much easier to tackle the scam. Show empathy and understanding for the situation. Your parents will be far less embarrassed to share what they’ve gone through, which makes the situation much easier to report and (in some cases), resolve.

If you feel yourself getting a bit angry, then either remind yourself that getting angry is pointless or leave the room. Once again, we want to reiterate that getting angry has no purpose here. It doesn’t help solve the situation.

The best tip we can give you here is to suggest that you let your parents know that scams can happen to anybody. That it is far more common than they may think. A lot of parents are reluctant to open up due to the embarrassment of being a scam victim. However, letting them know that it is a very common situation really does help.

We also suggest that you don’t ask too many probing questions when you’re talking to your parents, at least not at the start. A parent doesn’t want to be dealing with a barrage of questions when they have just discovered they’ve fallen victim to a scam. Ease them into it. Let the parents open up themselves.

Gather Information

Gathering information from your parents will help you to ascertain the next steps. For example – which bank accounts need to be locked, what passwords need to be changed, who to report the scam to, etc.

You want to be asking your parents questions such as:

  • What does the scam involve? Did it involve sharing bank details? Did it involve sharing gift card codes? Did they have to pay fees for a service they didn’t receive? Did software need to be installed on their computer?
  • How much money was lost?
  • When did the scam start?
  • How were your parents contacted? Was it on the phone? Was it online?
  • What phone numbers/email addresses, did the scammers use?

Basically, gather as much information as you possibly can from your parent without having them feel overwhelmed that you’re gathering information. The more you gather, the bigger chance there is of recovering at least some of the funds. If you can’t recover the funds, at least you’ll be doing your part to help prevent people from getting scammed in the future.

Report the Scam

Once you’ve established most of the specifics of the scam, you can report the scam to the relevant authorities. There are three goals when reporting the scam:

  • Limit the fallout your parents have. If the scam is ‘ongoing’, then reporting the scam may limit lost funds.
  • Assist in recovering lost funds. However, bear in mind that it can be tricky to recover lost funds from a scammer. In most cases, the money is gone. You’re just limiting future damage.
  • Prevent people from getting scammed in the future. Reporting scams to the authorities allows the authorities to put together a picture of the scammer and, hopefully, sue them to prevent future scams.

In the US, the main body to report scams to will be the FTC. Give them as much information as you possibly can. The FTC may reach out to you for more information.

You should also report the scam to your parent’s bank. The bank will likely have processes in place that can limit damage from scammers.

When reporting the scam, always share as much information as you can. The more information you share, the more chance there is of getting a positive resolution to the situation. We suggest reporting to the bank first, then the FTC. This is because the bank is more likely to do something in the ‘immediate’ about your parent’s situation.

Secure Accounts and Finances

Once the situation has been reported, it is time to secure your parents’ accounts, and finances. Even if your parents didn’t tell you something of theirs was compromised, it is still wise to secure them. This means:

  • Contacting your parents’ banks and credit card companies to know they have been the victim of a scam. They may assist with the recovery of some cash but, if they can’t, they may be able to limit further fallout.
  • A full scan of your parents’ computers and phones for malware. This is to prevent any keyloggers from logging keystrokes which, in turn, can keep tabs on bank login details and passwords.
  • Changing passwords on all your parents’ accounts, particularly those related to financial information.

In addition to this, you’ll want to do the following:

  • Review financial statements for the past and the foreseeable future. This will allow you to get a better picture of how much cash may have been lost in the scam. It may also allow you to spot earlier on if your parents are scammed in the future.
  • Set up fraud alerts with the bank. This can accomplish two things – firstly, it can drastically limit how easy it is to get credit. This is because extra identity checks will be required. Secondly – the bank will warn you if anything that resembles a scam seems to be happening.
  • Credit freezes: in serious cases, you may want to reach out to the three main credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and request a credit freeze. This will block all credit requests for your parents. No credit will be extended in any situation. So, it is a ‘last resort’, but one that may be required if your parents have been the victim of a serious scam.

From here on out, we suggest that you take a better look at your parents’ finances. They may not always appreciate it, but it is important if you want to ensure that they stay safe.

Educate and Prevent

Once you’ve started to deal with the scam situation properly, we suggest that you take the time to educate your parents about online scams. Using your parents’ situation, you can let them know of the warning signs that they have been the victim of a scam.

We suggest that you spend a lot of time focusing on teaching your parents they shouldn’t be sharing bank account information, social security numbers, passwords, etc. with anybody unless they can 100% trust them. They certainly shouldn’t be doing it with somebody that has approached them.

We also suggest that you have your parents read through the FTC guide to the warning signs of online scams, just so they get a better idea of what warning signals may be there. This may help your parents to spot scams in the future.

Remember – taking a proactive approach to educating your parents about scams will, likely, reduce the chance of them becoming victims of scams in the future. We know that there are some parents who just won’t listen, perhaps because they want to retain some of their independence, but you’ll be surprised at how much they take on board. Remember – even the most stubborn of parents don’t want to be scammed.


If your parents have become the victim of a scam, it is important that you stay calm and don’t panic. Gather as much information as you can before reporting the scam. After that, start to secure their accounts and finances. This may limit the scam’s fallout and may even help you to recover some of their lost funds. Along the way, make sure that you provide education to ensure they are not victims in the future.

We suggest that you are supportive and protective every step of the way, as hard as it may be for you. It will make it easier to get your parents to listen and make it easier to get the information you need. A bit of support and calm does make it easier to handle the situation.

Remember – follow these steps, and you can not only help your parents navigate the aftermath of the online scam, but you’ll help them to stay safe online in the future.  

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