Halloween is the perfect occasion to carve up a pumpkin, decorate your yard with cobwebs and skeletons, and dress up as your favorite heroes, ghosts, and ghouls in search of fun and excitement. However, amidst the revelry, there is a sinister side to Halloween that often goes unnoticed.
While you and your kids are out and about filling bags to the brim with tasty treats, cybercriminals could be sitting behind their screen and pulling off the ugliest trick of the year: stealing your identity and personal information for their own gain. This Halloween, it's essential to remain vigilant and protect yourself from the hidden dangers lurking in the shadows of the internet.
Vampires sucking your bank account dry
One minute, your savings account is flying higher than a bat in the night sky. The next, it unexpectedly plummets deeper than a buried coffin. This could be a sign that a vampire (or a criminal) has stolen your financial information. There’s a chance that the thief could be using your debit card to make purchases on eyeliner and red capes online, siphoning money from your bank account to pay for them.
To help prevent this from happening, you can opt in to alerts through your bank. Most financial institutions will do this automatically; you only need to set it up in your banking app or in person. These notifications can let you know when money enters or exits your account so you can easily stay in the know. (Eating garlic won’t hurt, either.)
Receiving new bills from a lender saying that you owe payment on a loan you don’t remember taking out? A strange statement from a credit card you never applied for or used?
This has to be the work of a vengeful spirit, right? Well, not quite. These are actually signs that someone has taken out new accounts and/or loans using your name and personal information. This means that while you’re at the store picking out the perfect spine-chilling decor, a fraudster could be going on a candy corn spending spree using your hard-earned money.
If you notice these spooky fees, immediately call the provider or lender behind them and explain that you’ve never taken out these financial products. This may include closing or freezing your accounts that have been compromised. To help prevent this from happening, you should also regularly review your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to spot any unusual activity.
Mummies wrapped in deception
Ever wondered why mummies are always in bandages? Well, it could be that they’re in dire need of medical treatment. If you come across unexplained medical bills in your mailbox, or if you receive a notice from your healthcare provider that you've reached the limit of your yearly benefits, it may be a clue that criminals are using your personal information to pay for services like prescription medications, small procedures, and even major surgeries.
In the case of preventing medical identity theft, it’s important to remember the two big S’s: shred and safeguard.
- Shred or dispose of documents that contain any personally identifiable info with a service that handles sensitive data.
- Safeguard your medical information and insurance details. You can be extra cautious by regularly emptying digital files from your trash, using a trusted antivirus software, and keeping your health insurance forms, cards, prescription bottles, billing statements, and benefit statements in a safe place.
Halloween is the perfect time to have fun and make memories that will last a lifetime. But it's also a time when identity thieves may be on the prowl. By recognizing the warning signs and taking proactive steps to protect your identity, you can enjoy the festivities without worrying about someone using you as their mask.
Consider enrolling in an identity theft protection service like LifeLock to have an extra layer of security and peace of mind year-round. Stay safe, and have a spooktacular holiday!