Feb 13, 11:38 AM

With Data Privacy Day and Safer Internet Day behind us and Valentine’s Day just ahead, it’s time to take what we learned and apply it.

Sweetheart Scams to Avoid This Valentine’s Day

Data Privacy Day, internationally celebrated and led by the National CyberSecurity Alliance (NCSA), is all about raising awareness about the importance of privacy and protecting personal information.

Safer Internet Day, organized by Insafe, is all about reinforcing safety-conscious online behavior, especially for children and young adults. However, there are plenty of internet threats that catch intelligent adults unawares.

Cisco says it best: cybersecurity can’t be a one-day or one-week undertaking; it must be consistently practiced year-round.

Love is all around. It’s in the air and in cyberspace, too. Unfortunately, so are romance scams. Romance scams land solidly on the list of top internet crimes.

February, albeit the shortest month, is peak season for online dating, floral deliveries, and cards with lovely sentiments for friends, family, and significant others. It’s also a perfect opportunity to take advantage of those romantic or sentimental gestures.

There are 4 main kinds of romance scams:

1. “Catfishing”

You swiped right. You connected instantly. You hit it off online.
But you’ve never met the individual. How do you know he is she is trustworthy…or even real?

Dating apps and sites – like Tinder or Match.com – have dramatically increased in popularity and usage in recent years. According to Pew Research, 1 in 5 Americans ages 25 to 34 has explored online dating. The internet reinforces the desire for instant gratification, which can be found in the world of online dating.

Cybersecurity professor from the University of Virginia, Angela Orebaugh, explains catfishing: “An attacker assumes a fake identity online and they gain your trust. They eventually profess their love for you and you trust this individual and that’s where they start asking for money or personal information. […] They’ll create some sort of fake emergency scenario, or express an interest to come visit you.” Also known as sweetheart scams, con artists search for targets that may be emotionally vulnerable, like recently divorced or widowed. The catch? They need money to do so.

What to do:

Watch out for red flags, like linguistic anomalies or geographic challenges. Keep track of all your online activity, especially transactions and interactions with strangers. Monitor all your accounts and credit cards. If you detect any suspicious activity, report it immediately.

2. Delivery Scams

February is the season of floral sales. Husbands, brothers, sons, and boyfriends everywhere are scrambling to order that last minute bouquet of a dozen (or two) red roses for someone special. Bonus if that company also delivers those flowers.

Cybercriminals often send emails that claim your bouquet cannot be delivered without re-entering credit card information or ask you to click on a link confirming your delivery. Or, you may have ordered the flowers from a bogus site while shopping around for the best deal.

What to do:

Verify any confusion directly with the company you ordered from. Call and speak to a customer service representative. Again, do not click on any links in a suspicious email. Consider placing your orders over the phone or at a brick-and-mortar florist and delivering them in person. Your loved one will appreciate the gesture.

3. Fake e-Cards

Why send snail mail on overpriced cards with required postage when you could send an equally thoughtful, clever sentiment via e-card? It’s an alternative that more and more people are embracing because it’s cheap and timely.

The situation goes like this: You receive an email greeting card that appears to be coming from a friend. It seems harmless. It may say, “A Friend has sent you a Hallmark E-Card” and subsequently ask you to download an updated Flash Player (by clicking on a link) in order to view your card (by clicking on another link). Clicking on either of these links may download pesky malware or something more destructive, like ransomware.

Roses are red, violets are blue.
You just installed malware of the family, Zeus.
(Zeus is particularly nasty financial malware.)

What to do:

Don’t click any links or download anything from an email, unless you first verify the sender. Instead of clicking the URL, go to the e-card company’s website to verify the suspect address.

4. Good Deal Scams

We’re all guilty of trying to find the best deals, especially for gift giving. The internet makes this incredibly easy. The most popular items for Valentine’s Day gifts are flowers (especially roses), chocolates, greeting cards, and jewelry. While small in size, these items can carry a hefty price tag.

Cybercriminals create fake e-commerce sites featuring these sought-after items at unreasonably low prices. They drive oblivious shoppers to their website through pop-ups and social media ads. Before you know it, you’ve entered your personal and credit card information and the site is gone.

What to do:

If the deal seems too good to be true, it likely is. Avoid identity theft and e-commerce fraud by purchasing only from trusted websites. And never put your credit card information in an email! If you really want to save, utilize websites like Groupon.

While cybercriminals and hackers with their associated malware and scams are most active in conjunction with major holidays, — especially those centered on e-commerce, like Christmas and Valentine’s Day — it’s important to remain vigilant all year long.

Category: helpful hints

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