Ghosts, werewolves, and vampires aren’t the only terrifying creatures waiting to spook you come Halloween night. While these pint-size creatures are simply asking for candy, eerie adult characters lurk nearby hoping to fool you into providing your personal information for their financial benefit. The spine-chilling threat of identity theft and other financial scams is real.
Here are six terrifying scams that exist to haunt you and your loved ones. Don’t be scared. There are tricks to avoiding every one of them.
Hair-raising Hidden Recordings
Your voice can be used as verbal authorization to make unapproved charges to your credit accounts. The fake caller often represents themselves as someone familiar with a company or service that you’ve recently used or have an ongoing relationship.
Scenario: The phone rings and you pick up.
Caller: Can you hear me?
That’s all it takes. Callers can be a live person or recording. In either case, the goal is to record your response. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends that you hang up if you receive this type of phone call.
Follow the FCC’s tips to scare off unwanted calls and scams. If you believe you’ve been a victim of this scam, the FCC recommends that you monitor your financial accounts for unauthorized charges.
Cryptic Charitable Contributions
Thieves love to prey on their victim’s generosity. A fresh crop of creepy charities pop-up soon after devastating events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, or other world-wide tragedies. Scammers fool donors by using names similar to reputable, nationally recognized companies, e.g., American Society for Cancer Research. Before you send money to an unfamiliar charitable organization, confirm their authenticity at SmartAsset.com or Charity Navigator.
Follow Charity Navigator’s tips for avoiding online charity scams.
Scary IRS Impersonation Scam
Fraudsters are counting on their victims to trust the caller ID on their phones. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) continues to warn the public about criminals who use their name to steal money from trusting taxpayers. Technology is helping thieves in their quest to obtain Social Security numbers, steal other sensitive information or collect payment for taxes. The caller ID falsely displays the phone number of a Houston or Brooklyn based IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service office. Scammers shield their real phone number and pretend to be an IRS representative.
Follow the IRS’s tips to stay clear of the impersonation phone scam.
Chilling Identity Theft
Child identity theft is enticing to criminals. The Javelin Strategy & Research 2018 Child Identity Fraud Study found that more than one million children were victims of identity fraud in 2017. All crooks need is a name and Social Security number to open credit accounts, apply for utility services, request government benefits, or secure an apartment. Scammers count on parents and guardians to ignore the credit reports of minors. Many victims only discover their information was stolen after they turn 18 years old and attempt to apply for credit.
Follow Experian’s tips for protecting your child from identity theft.
Ghosting the Dead
Scammers refuse to let your loved ones RIP. It can take up to six months for the appropriate authorities to communicate with each other regarding death records. For example, funeral homes may take 60 days or more to submit the Statement of Death by Funeral Director form to the Social Security Administration and each of the major credit reporting bureaus. Fraudsters can use obituary notifications and other shady techniques to act quickly and collect personal identifiable information to commit a variety of fraudulent acts, such as:
- Medical ID theft
- Taxpayer ID theft
- Tax refund fraud
- Driver’s license ID theft
- Credit account/application fraud
According to AARP, “ghosting” is the name given to this type of identity theft. Follow AARP’s recommendations for protecting the dead from identity theft.
Macabre Mail Scam
For scammers, the information in your physical mailbox is like a treat bag overflowing with full-size chocolate candy bars after a night of trick or treating. Your junk mail can increase your risk of identity theft in unimaginable ways. Credit card pre-approvals and other correspondence containing personally identifiable information can make you an easy target for identity thieves.
Try to reduce the junk mail that makes it to your home by opting out of pre-approved insurance and credit card offers. The major credit reporting bureaus have made it easy to keep pre-approvals out of your mailbox. Visit OptOutPreScreen.com or call 888.567.8688 and follow the directions for opting out for at least five years or opting out permanently.
After removing yourself from these lists, shred any mail that contains personally identifiable information in order to keep your private details safeguarded.
Don’t let Halloween festivities distract you from the real danger lurking nearby. Peel off the mask of any suspected scam by recognizing fraudster’s wicked attempts to spoil your fun. Take steps to keep your Generations Federal Credit Union accounts protected. Activate identity theft protection benefits with your MyAdvantage checking account by visiting eClubOnline.net. Use Access Code TX992488. Shine the light on suspected scams by reporting them to the appropriate authorities.
Written by Freelance Personal Finance Writer, Tracy Scott