It’s the height of the spooky season. And if there’s one thing everyone should expect this time of year, it’s the occasional “trick” between the “treats.”
Some of the scariest things we face in our increasingly face-paced world aren’t ghouls and goblins. Rather, it’s the very real risk of being ripped off by a new type of scam.
Let’s take a look at some of the creepiest scams out there today. As an additional treat, we’ll even tell you what you can do to prevent becoming a victim.
The “Dead Man” Scam
Sometimes, crooks will open fraudulent accounts or credit cards in the names of recently deceased persons to avoid law enforcement attention and confuse their would-be victims.
If you have a relative who has recently passed on, be on the lookout for bills or credit statements issued in your loved one’s name. If you happen to notice anything like this, call the police immediately. You should also report the incident to the relevant credit card network (Visa, Mastercard, etc.), then report it to the FTC.
The “Stranger Knocks” Scam
One of the oldest and easiest tricks in the book is for a criminal to answer an apartment rental through a newspaper or online ad. Then, when the owner meets up with them to show the listing, they will attack and then rob them.
The best way to avoid this threat is to vet each of your prospective tenants carefully. Never show a listing on your own. Security cameras and video recordings are helpful too.
Of course, this can also work in reverse; prospective tenants might reply to an ad about an apartment for rent, then become a victim themselves. You should follow the same protocols to ensure that you stay safe.
The “Haunted House” Scam
Picture this: you were away on vacation, and when you arrived back home, you discovered someone you don’t know living in your house! Your house was being occupied by someone you never saw before in your life, and you had no idea it was happening… just like a ghost!
Scammers can sometimes get a hold of your house keys or garage and rent your house out via services like Airbnb without permission. To prevent your own home haunting, never tell anyone you don’t know that you’re going on vacation (including other tenants and neighbors you aren’t extremely familiar with). Also, never ask anyone to watch the home that you haven’t vetted thoroughly.
Another tip here is to change any passcodes regularly, and never leave a spare key hidden on your property.
The “Black Cat” Scam
This nefarious and downright evil scam includes an attacker setting up fake pet adoption or donation sites in order to filch money from well-intentioned animal lovers. These scams could take the form of a fictitious animal rescue asking for donations, or a breeder advertising a “reservation” for a high-cost puppy or kitten with a one-time payment online.
If you are thinking about adopting a pet, visit your local pet shelters that are well-regulated and maintained. Also, of course, never transfer money to any unknown account.
The “Doppelganger” Scam
Imagine that you log into your bank account one stormy day to discover that all of your funds have been emptied out. You also discover that one or more of your credit cards have been maxed out. When you do a little digging, you find out someone posing as you has been making purchases and withdrawals from your accounts!
This scam is an example of account takeover fraud, and it can happen to literally anyone. All a fraudster needs to do to gain access to your accounts is to email you a clickable link that looks like a legit login portal to one of your accounts. Before you know it, you’ve supplied them with your login credentials. Another way this can occur is if your information was collected in a data breach of some kind.
When this happens, call the police immediately to report the fraud, then contact your bank or card network to reverse the charges. Thankfully, consumers aren’t generally held liable for acts of fraud… but you will still have your work cut out for you to repair the damage left behind.