Like a shadowy black cat, Halloween 2012 is creeping closer and closer! Scambook has identified three spooktacular schemes to watch out for this October. This horrifying holiday can be tremendous fun, for kids and adults alike, but safety is crucial when you’re squinting through a zombie mask or taking your little ones around the neighborhood to collect their weight in candy. Your Halloween should be full of treats, not some fraudster’s tricks. Take it from us, no wailing from beyond the grave will set your pulse pounding as hard as the realization that a crook has your credit card number. Beware Halloween costume stores that don’t deliver, Halloween-themed phishing attacks and scalpers selling fake tickets for haunted house tours and theme park events like Six Flags Fright Fest. At Scambook this year, we’re dressing up like the Scooby Doo crew and getting ready to yank the rubber monster hood off those villains who will try to rip you off and steal your money with these Halloween hoaxes.
1. Retail Tales of Terror: I Paid for My Costume, Where Is It?
Young or old, people love Halloween because it gives them an excuse to dress up. Brick-and-mortar outlets like Target, Walmart, Kmart and seasonal Halloween warehouse stores are usually a safe bet for costume shoppers. You’ll be able to find popular character costumes such as Batman and Wonder Woman as well as old favorites like ghosts, witches and pirates. Just remember to ask about the store’s return policy before you buy your costume, and try it on or at least take it out of the package if they’ll let you.
But if you go bobbing for costumes online, you may encounter some truly bad apples.
Bogus costume shops are one of the biggest threats to consumers on Halloween. Scambook has received reports from members who ordered a costume from a website and never received it, despite being charged for their order. You may also receive the wrong size or a costume that’s in poor condition. Unfortunately, dealing with customer service for these websites can be a total nightmare on sham street. You may be unable to get a refund or return your costume, and now the fraudster has your credit card number.
On internet marketplaces like eBay and Etsy, you may also encounter fraudulent individual sellers auctioning off costumes, Halloween memorabilia and raw materials for costume-making. As with online stores, these individuals might take your money and never send your item. Be extra careful if you’re bidding on a prop from your favorite scary movie. You might receive a counterfeit prop with a forged certificate of authenticity.
Scambook Tip: Whether you’re buying from an online retailer or an individual on an auction site, look them up on Scambook before you give them any personal or financial info. Then, check the url of the webpage where you’re placing the order. If it’s legit, the url should begin with “https” – the s stands for “secure.” On eBay and Etsy, review the seller’s feedback rating. If you do find an unauthorized charge on your credit card bill after you’ve bought a Halloween costume online, click here to watch our Scambook TV video about how to dispute the charge and get your money back.
2. The Email Is Coming from Inside the House: Don’t Get Halloween Hacked
Bad merchants aren’t the only ones who get into the Halloween spirit. Hackers and cybercriminals also use the holiday to target victims. Last year, Security News Daily reported on a widespread Halloween-themed phishing attack. Victims were tricked into visiting a malicious website that downloaded a Trojan virus onto their computer. The perpetrators used a technique known as Blackhat SEO to place their website near the top of the Google search listings for “Halloween skeleton templates.” Instead of jack-o-lantern cutout guides, visitors who clicked on the link were directed to a bogus YouTube video promising nude celebrity photos. Anyone who tried to access the photos received the Trojan.
Cybercriminals also launch phishing attacks via email and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, sending you fake Halloween e-cards, links to bogus games or phony video clips. When you click on the links embedded in these emails or download the attachments, your computer can become corrupted. The hackers could potentially gain access to vital personal information stored on your hard drive, such as your bank account number or Social Security number. Sometimes, they’ll even hijack your account and use your own email or Facebook to spread their scheme. Your friends and family might receive the same phishing attack and open it because they think you sent it!
Scambook Tip: To reduce your chance of being hacked or falling victim to identity theft this Halloween, make sure your computer has a secure firewall and an anti-virus software that’s always turned on and regularly updated. Never open attachments or click on links in a suspicious email. Read our report on the PayPai email for more tips about spotting (and avoiding) a phishing attack and click here to learn how sham companies like HCG Ultra also use hacking techniques to rip you off.
3. No Admission to the Carnival of Souls: Avoid Buying Fake Event Tickets
Halloween-themed stage shows and theme park attractions have become a huge industry. Disneyland, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, Six Flags and many local county fairgrounds host Halloween events that range from family-friendly haunted houses to terrifying mazes that recreate bloody scenes from Saw and Dawn of the Dead. These events often run all month long in October, but tickets can sell-out fast, especially on the peak weekends close to Halloween.
With any popular ticketed event, there will always be tickets sold on secondary markets
like Craigslist and Stubhub. Sometimes, the seller is a regular person who ended up with an extra ticket because their friend cancelled, but there are also a number of individuals who purchase tickets for popular events just to resell them at an inflated price. Unfortunately, buying from one of these ticket scalpers can be risky because there’s no guarantee you’ll receive a real ticket. On Scambook, we’ve received multiple reports about a number of fraudulent ticket brokers that take your money and send you phony tickets. Users who have fallen victim to these schemes show up for their event and find themselves turned away at the door. They have unknowingly purchased a counterfeit ticket or an electronic ticket that’s been duplicated and therefore voided by the venue. By the time you realize you’ve been ripped off, the seller has vanished.
Scambook Tip: If you’re planning to attend a Halloween event, buy your tickets early before they sell out. Never buy electronic passes or downloadable tickets. It’s too easy for a dishonest seller to print multiple copies and sell them to multiple people. If you’re buying from someone on Craigslist, pay after you’ve received the tickets and only use cash or PayPal. Buy from a local seller and meet them in person at a busy public location like a mall or a coffee shop. Take a friend or at least tell someone else where you’re going, who you’re meeting and when you expect to return. Then, examine the tickets before you hand over any payment – look for spelling mistakes, wrong dates or paper that feels too thin and flimsy. These are signs that the ticket may be counterfeit. If you’re buying tickets from eBay or Stubhub, check the seller’s feedback reputation and always look them up on Scambook. Read about London 2012 Olympics ticket event fraud here and click here to learn how to stay safe when shopping on Craigslist.
So what are your plans for Halloween 2012? Leave us a comment with your favorite costumes and scary stories. Remember to have fun and stay safe when you celebrate this spooky holiday with your loved ones. Don’t let this be the Halloween where you’re forever haunted by fraud! If you have a Halloween-related complaint — or a complaint of any kind — click here to submit a report on Scambook.