Steer Clear of Online Halloween Scams

While many people approach Halloween expecting to be frightened and surprised, there's one area where surprises aren't ever welcome—and that's your computer. This Halloween season, protect your online identity and save the tricks and treats for the real world. Here's how.

Ignore the "free skeleton templates." Sure, who doesn't like a free skeleton template? But this one comes with some strings attached. It's among the first Google results when you search on the phrase, but if you click on the wrong link, the page you're taken to won't show you skeleton templates. Instead, it will try to entice you into downloading a video player to look at photographs of naked celebrities. Should you be unable to resist, you'll end up downloading a Trojan virus. No nude pictures and, even worse, no free skeleton templates.

Ignore the "scary videos." If you're forwarded a link to a video that's supposed to show you something terrifying... it's probably best to pass. "Scary videos" are kind of like the "nude celebrity videos" of Halloween: designed to be irresistibly alluring to the potential viewer, but ending in no payoff except the download of some nasty malware.

Make your own costume. There's almost always an e-commerce aspect to most seasonal cybercrime—in other words, somebody opening up a fake storefront and selling fictional (but seasonally appropriate!) goods in exchange for your real money. Around Halloween, the scam often involves selling ready-made costumes. If you must buy a costume online, check to make sure the page where you're entering in your credit card information is secure (look for https:// at the beginning of the URL and a small padlock icon in the browser) and see if the business has a real physical mailing address. An unsecured URL and nothing but a PO Box address are two red flags that the retailer might be a fraud.

One of the best ways to avoid having your online identity stolen, or your computer's security breached, is to have good antivirus software installed. Trend Micro Titanium blocks viruses, malware, and dangerous links that are shared through email or IM. It helps identify dangerous links in all three major web browsers (Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox) as well as on social networking sites. And its set-and-forget security means that you can spend less time worrying about updating your software and more time... well, looking for that perfect skeleton template.

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