Don’t Get Tricked by ID Thieves This Halloween

28 October 2015

Costumes. Masks. Make-up. Every Halloween, people dress up, pretending to be something or someone they are not. While trick-or-treaters may pose as ghosts or pirates on the last day of October, identity thieves across the world put on guises every day. A fraudster’s make-up might be a professional-looking website. His or her mask could be a well-scripted phone pitch or email. But, behind the facade is simply an identity thief hoping to trick someone.

Here are a few ways you can protect your identity from fraudsters in even the most realistic costumes:

Avoid unverified links
If you get an email from an unknown source, or even an unusual email from a friend, that contains a link, don’t click it. Fraudsters sometimes set up websites that look legitimate in the hopes that you will trust them with your personal information. Some can even compromise your security even if you don’t offer up any information. Other times these links contain viruses designed to gather data from your computer. If you are interested in visiting the website, instead try searching for it via a search engine.
Install antivirus software

Always be sure to keep your antivirus software up-to-date and your firewalls active while browsing the Web. These can block viruses from fraudulent links before you even realize the link was bad.

Be safe on public Wi-Fi networks
While convenient, public Wi-Fi networks are not as secure as your private internet connection at home. It’s best not to log in to financial accounts or do any online shopping over a public network, as they are more susceptible to hacking.

Review your credit report
Regularly checking your credit report can help you identify unusual activity or inaccurate information on your accounts. Even if you don’t notice anything wrong, consistent checks will familiarize you with the contents of your report so you can more easily spot when something seems out of place. You are eligible to receive one free credit report from each of the two major credit bureaus each year. Signing up for a credit monitoring service, on the other hand, will allow you to receive notifications as soon as any potentially fraudulent activity shows up.

Check your bank statements
While your credit file is full of information about your credit card balances and payments, it does not include transactional information involving a debit card or your checking and savings accounts. Be sure to report any unusual activity to your financial institution immediately to stop a would-be ID thief in his or her tracks.

Shred documents before sending them to the garbage
Before throwing bank statements, credit card applications, medical paperwork, tax information, pay stubs or any other documents with sensitive information on them into the trash can, put them through a cross-cut shredder (turns paper into confetti, rather than spaghetti).