Halloween is just around the corner. Have you picked out your costume yet? The anticipation of finding out what everyone will be wearing is one of the great treats of the holiday.
There’s one Halloween trick you can be sure of, though: Identity thieves will be disguising themselves in order to steal and use the financial information of others. They do it all year round, and if you fall prey to their schemes, dealing with the aftershocks is not the kind of Halloween scare you’ll enjoy.
Knowing how to spot the disguise can help you protect yourself from identity theft. Here are some common disguises identity thieves will be using this Halloween, and throughout the year:
Your financial institution – You receive an official looking e-mail purporting to be from your bank or other financial services provider. The e-mail may ask you to respond directly or to log onto a website and provide or confirm information that, logically, the institution should already have.
Sometimes these phishing scams are obvious — filled with misspellings or addressing you by the wrong name – and others can look very legitimate. Generally, it’s a good rule of thumb to remember that banks and financial institutions will contact you by phone or snail mail when they really need to communicate something important to you. When in doubt, however, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call the number on your paper statement or bank card to confirm the veracity of any communication you receive.
A potential employer – Considering how many folks are earnestly looking for work in this country, it was probably inevitable that identity thieves would find a way to target them. Earlier this year the Better Business Bureau issued a warning for the unemployed against companies claiming to offer a job if the applicant ponies up some money for a “background check” or “specialized training.” This type of scam not only allows the criminal to get their hands on some of your hard-earned cash, they can also swindle you out of vital personal information – such as your Social Security Number and driver’s license number – that you would normally expect to share with an employer.
A loved one in need – This is a common disguise identity thieves use on older people. The thieves target a senior citizen with a phone call, posing as a grandchild or other relative. The perpetrator claims to be in trouble – such as stranded while traveling or with a broken-down vehicle – and asks the victim to wire money to help.
Identity theft is one Halloween scare you don’t need to experience this year. Take steps to help protect yourself from identity theft risks and you’ll be more likely to find your holiday filled with treats, rather than an identity thief’s tricks.