Halloween is just around the corner, and while we prepare our costumes and carve pumpkins, it’s important not to forget about the real monsters lurking in the shadows all year long – Halloween scammers. These deceitful individuals wear disguises, like pretending to be representatives from trusted organizations, with the intention of stealing your money or identity. To ensure a safe and enjoyable Halloween – and all year round – it’s crucial to refresh our scam prevention knowledge and learn how to distinguish tricks from treats.
Identifying Scare Tactics
Scammers often employ scare tactics to pressure individuals into acting without thinking. By using high-pressure language or threatening imminent utility service disconnection or legal action, they attempt to coerce you into sharing your banking information or making unauthorized payments. However, scare tactics are relatively easy to identify. Consider the following questions:
- Are they threatening imminent utility service disconnection or legal action?
- Are they pressuring you to share your banking information?
- Are they demanding payment through unauthorized payment methods?
If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” you are likely dealing with a scam attempt.
Protecting Yourself from Halloween Scammers
If you feel rushed or uneasy during any interaction, it’s important to slow down and think critically. Take the following steps to protect yourself from scammers:
1. Verify Legitimacy
Always check your bills through verified channels like official websites or mobile apps. If you receive a communication that seems suspicious, reach out to the company directly to verify its legitimacy. Remember these important points:
- Legitimate service providers will provide considerable advance warning before cutting off your service.
- Your banking information should never be the only payment option offered by a legitimate company.
- Pay your bills using safe and authorized payment methods.
2. Report Scams
If you encounter a scam, promptly report it to the relevant authorities. Contact the company being impersonated, your bank or financial institution, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Reporting scams is crucial as consumer reports help investigate and bring cases against scammers. Visit entergy.com/scams for additional resources on new and evolving threats.
The Intersection of Halloween and eCommerce Fraud
Halloween is a time when kids wear masks and pretend to be someone they’re not in the world of trick-or-treating. Interestingly, this age-old tradition shares similarities with eCommerce fraud. Just as trick-or-treaters may hide their true identities, fraudulent shoppers visit websites with the intention of making purchases while masking their true intentions. Without proper fraud protection, your website may fall victim to these tricks, resulting in financial losses, chargeback fees, and damage to your brand’s reputation.
To safeguard your website from fraudsters, it’s important to equip it with proper fraud protection tools. Three essential tools that your fraud protection service should incorporate are device fingerprinting, velocity thresholds, and proactive monitoring.
Device Fingerprinting: Unmasking Fraud Patterns
Device fingerprinting allows merchants to associate certain device anomalies with fraud patterns. By constructing specific rules based on these patterns, merchants can optimize fraud detection. For example, if a device is detected making a purchase with one set of cardholder data and then returns with a completely different set of cardholder data, it may indicate a fraud pattern. This is akin to a trick-or-treater showing up at your door dressed as Batman and returning later as Eleven from “Stranger Things.” It’s essential not to reward individuals for their double identities and fraudulent activities.
Velocity Thresholds: Regulating Purchase Volume
Velocity thresholds play a crucial role in regulating the volume of purchases or purchase attempts made by a shopper. Both completed purchases and attempted purchases require velocity thresholds to prevent fraudulent activities. By setting thresholds on purchase attempts, merchants can thwart card testing, bot attacks, and multiple transaction attempts on credit cards receiving ‘do not honor’ authorization declines. Moreover, velocity thresholds on completed purchases enable merchants to monitor for purchase limits, coupon abuse, and uncharacteristic shopping patterns that may indicate fraudulent activities. For instance, a low purchase threshold makes sense if your business sells laptop computers, as typical shoppers would not buy laptops in bulk.
Proactive Monitoring: Staying One Step Ahead
Proactive monitoring is crucial in staying ahead of fraudsters. By continuously monitoring transactions and patterns, merchants can identify suspicious activities and take immediate action. This includes monitoring for unusual purchase patterns, high-risk transactions, and potential account takeovers. By staying vigilant and taking proactive measures, merchants can minimize the risk of falling victim to fraudulent activities.
The Real Monsters of Cybercrimes
While Halloween may be associated with fictional monsters like ghosts and werewolves, the true monsters are the individuals who seek to steal your personal information through cybercrimes. Cybercrimes involve the use of computers, networks, or networked devices to steal money or valuable information that can be sold for financial gain. Some common forms of cybercrimes include ransomware attacks, phishing attacks, and social engineering attacks.
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) Q3 2021 Data Breach Analysis, data compromises leading to identity crimes have already exceeded the total number of events in 2020 by 17 percent. Phishing and ransomware attacks are the primary attack vectors that result in data compromises. These real monsters are constantly on the hunt, using spooky scams to gain access to sensitive data and commit various identity crimes.
Draining Your Bank Account
While these criminals may not be vampires out for your blood, they are after your money. Identity fraud cost Americans approximately $56 billion in 2020, with millions falling victim to these crimes. Falling for a scam can result in repeated financial losses as fraudsters may return again and again.
Deceased Identity Theft
Deceased identity theft is a sinister form of identity theft that occurs when criminals use the identities of deceased individuals to commit fraudulent activities. Each year, nearly 2.5 million deceased Americans’ identities are used to fraudulently open credit card accounts, apply for loans, and obtain various services. The ease with which this crime can be committed is due to publicly available information such as obituaries and death certificates. Without anyone checking up on their loved ones’ credit reports, this form of identity theft often goes unnoticed.
The Dark Web: A Digital Underworld
Similar to a haunted house, the dark web serves as a marketplace for identity thieves to buy and sell sensitive information. On the dark web, hackers can purchase hacked Gmail accounts for $80, hacked Facebook accounts for $60, and hacked Instagram accounts for $35. This nefarious digital underworld is as terrifying as any ghost or ghoul, and the monsters lurking within can cause substantial harm to unsuspecting individuals.
Phishing Attacks: The Web of Deception
Just as trick-or-treaters offer candy, criminals lure their targets with promises of wealth, free gift cards, high-dollar coupons, or even recognition from a phony “boss.” Phishing attacks involve sending deceptive emails or messages that appear legitimate, tricking individuals into revealing sensitive information or performing certain actions. Some phishing attacks even invoke fear, such as threatening messages from the IRS or warnings of impending bank account closures. Falling into the snare of a phishing attack can result in financial losses and compromise personal information.
Romance Scams: Love Gone Wrong
Scammers wear masks just like Halloween celebrators, pretending to be someone they’re not. Romance scams target vulnerable individuals who may be lonely or feel unsuccessful in finding love. These criminals often pose as members of the military or even Hollywood celebrities, preying on their victims’ emotions. The financial losses resulting from romance scams can be devastating, with victims losing over $100 million in the first seven months of 2021, according to the FBI.
Protecting Yourself from the Real Monsters
To safeguard yourself from these real monsters of cybercrimes, it’s essential to take proactive measures and adopt good cyber-hygiene habits. Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself:
Freeze Your Credit
Freezing your credit is a simple yet effective step to prevent the opening of new lines of credit in your name. Monitoring your accounts for suspicious activity, avoiding oversharing personal information, and using strong, unique passphrases to secure your accounts are also essential.
Securing the Deceased’s Identity
In the unfortunate event of losing a loved one, it’s crucial to take appropriate steps to secure their identity. Lock down their credit reports and social media accounts to prevent identity thieves from exploiting their information. Additionally, inform the Social Security Administration (SSA) of the person’s passing to prevent abuse of their Social Security number.
Recognizing Phishing Attacks
Learning how to spot phishing attacks is essential in avoiding scams. Be cautious when clicking on links or responding to messages from unknown sources. Instead, reach out to the person or company directly through a different communication method to verify the validity of the message.
Online Romance Caution
Exercise caution when interacting with individuals online, especially if they cannot meet face-to-face or have various excuses for not being physically present. If the conversation turns to requests for money, it’s a clear warning sign of a romance scam.
As Halloween approaches, it’s important to stay vigilant and protect yourself from the real monsters lurking within the digital realm. By staying informed about the latest scams and adopting proactive measures to safeguard your personal information, you can enjoy a safe and secure Halloween, free from the tricks of cybercriminals. Remember to freeze your credit, secure the identity of deceased loved ones, recognize phishing attacks, and exercise caution when engaging in online romance. By doing so, you can ensure that the only scares you encounter this Halloween are the ones that come with the spirit of the season. Stay safe and have a Happy Halloween!
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