Happy Halloween! People tend to spread the word about keeping physically safe at this time of year—making sure your costume is bright and visible, only going to place you know while trick-or-treating, and staying together in a group for security—but there are hidden dangers that can have a lasting impact. While you’re busy having a spooky good time, it’s important to remember that some things target your finances or your personal data can be actually scary, and nowhere close to fun.
Scams, fraud, and hoaxes abound at this time of year, possibly in connection to the upcoming holiday shopping season. But while so many forms of identity theft and hacking are out of your control, you don’t have to be afraid of the following threats if you know what to look for.
Fraud & Scams
The terms fraud and scam are often used synonymously, but there’s a very subtle distinction. Think of scams as going fishing with a hook and bait, while fraud would be more like going fishing with a giant drag net. In legal terms, fraud is actually a category of crime, while scams might be categorized under a different criminal designation like theft of property.
Both fraud and scams have a specific goal in mind, even though that goal may be different depending on the type and who is behind it. Typically, thieves are looking to make quick money, but they might also be going after your personal identifiable information, access to your accounts, or a combination of these. Fake phone calls and emails target consumers with threats of having their accounts locked, their utilities cut off, or even punitive fines or jail time, but there’s no truth to them.
Any time you’re told you must make immediate payment over the phone or that you can only pay by prepaid debit card or wire transfer (two common forms for scammers since they’re largely untraceable), you should instantly sense that something isn’t right. When in doubt, contact the company the caller claims to be working for and find out what’s going on.
Hexed by Social Media
News travels fast on social media, but unfortunately, it’s not always true. Internet hoaxes have been around for quite some time, and the reasons they get started may vary. It might be simply for the amusement of watching a complete lie spread around the internet, but it might also be to see which individuals could be gullible enough to fall for future fraud attempts and scams.
You don’t have to let your Halloween fun get sidelined by scams, fraud, and hoaxes. Remember to check out any information you receive through a verified news source or directly from the company that claims to have originated it, and think twice before you help spread the word and lead a criminal to other potential victims.
If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. Find more information about current scams and alerts here.