Beware of the digital horrors: Unveiling 6 spooky Halloween scams in 2023

October 25th · 11 min read

Rotem Tal - Senior Cybersecurity Expert |Writer & Editor|
Rotem Tal - Senior Cybersecurity Expert |Writer & Editor|

Are cybercriminals haunting you this Halloween?

October welcomes not only the crisp embrace of autumn but also the start of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a period dedicated to enhancing online safety. As the month progresses, it merges with the eerie festivities of Halloween. With spooky spiderwebs and playful ghosts painting the town, a dark reality lurks underneath. Online scammers, emboldened by the haunting spirit of Halloween, set up deceptive tricks aiming to steal people’s personal information.

| 👻 Did you know that Americans spend roughly $804 million on pumpkins 🎃

This Halloween, we unravel six spooky scams that have recently sent shivers down the spine of the online community. As always, we’ll provide you with tips to stay protected and ways Guardio can help keep you safe. So, grab your pumpkin-spiced latte, and let's venture into the creepy abyss of online scams.

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Halloween scams 2023: Six super-scary tricks to watch out for!

As you finish selecting your perfect costume for a much-needed Halloween party, maybe now is a good time to be terrified by some alarming cybersecurity scams. Here are six scams to watch out for as we head into the spooky season. Halloween graph illustrating a surge in scam incidents

1. The repayment zombie: Student loan forgiveness scams

Following an intermission since 2020 to cushion borrowers during the pandemic's financial horror show, student debt-related scams return just as college loan repayments begin this October. To add to the confusion, the Supreme Court also vetoed President Biden’s bold plan to erase up to $20,000 in student debt for each borrower.

Scammers tend to thrive in times of uncertainty and don’t skip a beat when it comes to seizing opportunities of confusion and chaos. Riding this wave of uncertainty, scammers are executing shady schemes to exploit confused borrowers. In the past two weeks alone, over 350,000 robocalls related to student loans have made their way to individuals, showcasing a clear increase in scam activity.

Here's how it plays out: Imagine the relief of finding a way out of the student debt maze. Great right? Sadly, most loan forgiveness programs are but a mere illusion. For instance, you may receive a call or text from a scammer that poses as a legitimate institution. The calls may kick off with:

"This is United Services Student Loan Department with an urgent call to our clients regarding the new federal program, which now qualifies for complete dismissal and full discharge of all your federal student loans, as well as a refund of monies paid and removal from credit history."

The scammers' tactics could also include asking for an upfront payment to process the supposed debt relief, charging for a service that should be free, or phishing for personal information like Social Security numbers.

This is how to protect yourself: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states that assistance with managing student loans is available at no cost. They stress that being asked to pay upfront before any service is rendered is a big red flag. Authentic loan forgiveness programs never ask for money upfront. So remember to verify through official government channels before you give anyone your personal or financial information.

Fake loan agreement

2. Google voice vampires 🧛: Verification code scams

A voice verification code is a numerical code that's provided to users via an automated voice call instead of the more common text message (SMS). It's typically used as part of a two-factor authentication (2FA) process or when setting up or verifying the authenticity of an account.

Verification code scams are like a digital wolf in sheep's clothing, aiming to snatch away your personal information before you even realize what's happening. Just like sporting your Tay Tay ( Taylor Swift ) costume, scammers mask their true intentions by portraying themselves as trustworthy entities, often impersonating Google, to lure individuals into their deceitful web.

Here's how it plays out: The mechanics of this scam are evil yet simple. Picture a scenario where you receive a call or text requesting your Google Voice verification code to "verify your identity." The call or text is actually a scam and to create a sense of urgency, they may even go the extra mile and use social engineering tricks to claim that your account has been compromised and the code will be needed to secure it.

What’s even more mind-blowing is that they'll try accessing your account, and you’ll be the one who will be giving them the code to access it. For example, they might trigger your account to send you a text or email containing a verification code, then call you to provide the code back to them. The moment you share that code, they gain full control over your account and access to your personal information, leaving you in a ghostly chill.

This is how to protect yourself: Protecting yourself from this spooky scam doesn't require a magic spell. Firstly, your verification code is your digital garlic against these vampires, never share it with anyone, no matter how convincing they sound. Secondly, enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) on your Google account to add an extra layer of online scam protection. And lastly, if you ever find yourself in a situation where someone is asking for your verification code, report it immediately.

3. The two-faced tricksters 🤡: 2FA scams

Two-factor authentication (2FA) scams are very similar to the Google verification Code scams in that they basically work the same. Like Google's voice verification codes, 2FA’s, while adding extra protection, can be used by scammers to lure you into revealing your code.

Here's how it plays out: This scam typically begins with a message or email from a scammer impersonating a reputable institution, urging you to share your 2FA code to prevent an unauthorized transaction or to verify your account. For example, you might receive a message appearing to be from your bank, providing a 2FA code and requesting you to share it to halt a suspicious transaction. Once you share the code, the scammer gains the access they need to compromise your account, turning the promise of added security into a pathway for potential financial loss.

This is how to protect yourself: First off, you need to adhere to the golden rule: never share your 2FA code with anyone. Remember, banks never ask for 2FA codes over text. When in doubt, call your bank directly. Secondly, elevating your security level by using multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of online scam protection, making it harder for scammers to breach your defenses. Last but definitely not least, using a security solution like Guardio further fortifies your digital domain.

Guardio is a browser extension and mobile app that alerts you if you ever receive a scammy email (phishing), blocks dangerous links and malware, and with its mobile app, it also guards against smishing (SMS phishing) attempts. This trio of proactive security measures ensures that amidst the spooky season, you're well-armed to keep the digital tricksters at bay, ensuring your online world remains secure.

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4. Employment Jack-o'-Lanterns 🎃: Job offer scams

Amidst the Halloween ghouls and goblins, there lurks a less mythical but equally menacing threat: Job offer scams. While many are on a quest for treats in the form of new job opportunities, scammers are on the prowl, ready to trick unsuspecting job seekers with fake job offers. The promise of a new career path, especially during uncertain times, can sometimes blind us to the red flags that ordinarily would signal danger, making this scam easier to fall for.

Here's how it plays out: The scam typically begins with a job offer that appears to come from a reputable company, either via email or a job posting site. The job description and offer might seem enticing, with competitive salaries and benefits showcased. However, the plot thickens as the scammer, posing as the employer, asks for personal information or even money upfront for training materials or background checks. Once paid, the jack-o’-lantern’s glow dims. The scammer vanishes into thin air with your cash and your personal information.

This is how to protect yourself: Verify job offers by contacting the company directly through official channels, and never provide personal information or money upfront. Legitimate employers will never ask for payment for job opportunities. Additionally, research the company thoroughly, checking its official website and contacting its HR department via officially listed contact details to verify the job offer. Lastly, and we can’t stress this enough - using a cybersecurity solution like Guardio, which would alert you of a fake phishing email ahead of time, can save you a lot of money and pain in the long run. With these precautions in place, you can navigate the job market this Halloween season (and any season) with a sense of security, keeping malicious job offer scams away.

a laptop screen with a fake job offer pop-up

5. The grim reaper 💀: Amazon email scams

In a season where people are on the lookout for costumes, treats, and shopping for decorations, scammers create fake emails mimicking Amazon's official correspondence, aiming to trick the unsuspecting into a digital snare.

Here's how it plays out: Imagine an email seemingly from Amazon landing in your inbox, perhaps notifying you of an unauthorized purchase, an account issue, or requesting an update on payment information. The email might contain a link urging you to "take action," which leads to a fake Amazon login page designed to harvest your credentials. For example, you might get an email alerting you about an unauthorized login attempt and asking you to verify your account through a provided link. The moment you enter your login details on the phishing (fake) page, the scammers gain access to your Amazon account and, potentially, your financial information. Sadly, these are very common scams, and they tend to get more popular as we approach the holiday season

This is how to protect yourself: Verify emails by checking the sender’s address, and update payment details only through the official Amazon website. Also, avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from suspicious emails. Instead, log in to your Amazon account directly through your browser to check for any account alerts or notifications. In addition, add Guardio to your browser, it will automatically flag and filter out phishing emails. That way, you can safely navigate your email, and stay safe whenever you’re browsing the web.

a laptop screen with a fake Amazon email

6. Ghostly sorcery 👻: Tech support scams

We’ve written about these scams before, but as a refresher, tech support scams involve scammers disguising themselves as helpful troubleshooters, aiming to access unsuspecting people’s personal and financial data under the pretext of providing necessary technical assistance.

Here's how it plays out: The scam typically begins with an unsolicited call or email from someone claiming to be a tech support agent from a known company like Microsoft or Apple. They inform you about serious technical issues with your computer, often claiming that it has a virus or malware that needs immediate attention. For instance, you might receive a call warning you about a supposed virus on your computer, offering to fix the issue for a fee or by gaining remote access to your computer. Once the scammers secure your payment or gain access to your device, it’s game over. They’ll either install malicious software or steal sensitive information, turning a promise of help into a serious problem.

This is how to protect yourself: Avoid providing personal or financial information and deny remote access to your computer to unsolicited callers. If you encounter a suspicious tech support call or email, it's advisable to hang up or ignore the email and contact the company directly using official contact information to verify the issue. Following these tips and utilizing cybersecurity software like Guardio will keep you safe, no matter what black magic scams you encounter.

Tech support scam

Guarding against the ghouls with Guardio:

Protect yourself from Halloween scams in 2023: Enhance your browsing security with Guardio and halt scams before they can cast a dark spell on your online realm. With Guardio’s browser extension and mobile app, experience constant monitoring of suspicious activities, receive alerts on phishing emails, and avoid malicious pop-ups that lurk in the corners of the web.

Here’s how Guardio keeps you safe:

  • Round-the-clock scam defense.

  • Alerts if your information is ever leaked.

  • Blocks malicious pop-ups and phishing attempts.

  • Ensures digital protection across ALL platforms.

  • Provides real-time identity theft prevention.

  • Offers online scam protection for up to 5 family members.

Trick or Treat?

Why take a chance with online tricks? Install Guardio’s security tool and keep Halloween-hackers away!

See what our customers have to say

“When surfing the WEB you don't know what types of code are trying to gain access to your information. Guardio helps keep you from getting virus infections and tells you when you are doing something that isn't safe. Very necessary information these days.” LWRNCBY

“I feel so much more secure now that I have Guardio to prevent me from visiting sites that are tempting but dangerous. I never would have suspected some of them were bad.” Terri B

The bottom line

As the month of October unfolds, bringing along the festive spirit of Halloween, it's crucial not to overlook the lurking online threats amidst the celebrations. The digital world, much like the real one, has its share of tricksters awaiting an opportunity to scam unsuspecting individuals. The scams we discussed aren't tales of horror but real threats that cast a dark shadow over the joyful spirit of Halloween.

As you engage in Halloween festivities, donning costumes and enjoying treats, it's a good time to also secure your digital life. Equipping yourself with a reliable security tool like Guardio not only safeguards you from the sinister scams we’ve talked about but also ensures a peaceful and enjoyable Halloween celebration. Have a boo-tiful Halloween!

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