February 14th or Valentine’s Day – that special day, when people declare their love for each other, will soon be upon us and it doesn’t just provide lovers with an opportunity for romance, it also provides cybercriminals opportunities of a different kind – the fraudulent kind!
Along with special occasions such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day provides a chance for hackers and spammers to lure innocent victims into downloading files that have been infected or opening phishing emails – all in the name of love.
One inadvertent download could infect your devices in a decidedly unromantic way.
The following are examples of Valentine’s Day scams you should be aware of if you are searching for love online…
Hackers feed into the romantic mood by getting you to download Valentine’s Day songs or clip art or profile themes, on sites such as Facebook.
When love is in the air, hackers can catch you with your guard down and if you are not careful you will be downloading malware onto your system at the same time. So, be careful what you download.
You can of course help protect your system with updated antivirus and antimalware software.
Be wary about opening an e-card from a secret admirer, as it could be an attempt to steal your personal information or infect your device. If it was sent by someone you know… that should be OK though!
It is worth considering going directly to a company’s website to open the e-card there, rather than clicking on the link. If it is a legitimate e-card there will be a confirmation code on the site.
Dating website scams
Dating sites and apps are a prime opportunity for hackers, and fraudulent activity increases around Valentine’s Day, when sites such as Match.com, Tinder, and PlentyOf Fish see an upturn in visitors.
Rogue profiles and adverts are two of the biggest problems for users of these sites.
If you have a ‘possible match’ on a site or app, you may be asked to “check out my profile”. It is important for you to be careful about clicking on links that take you to another site – this is a common tactic of scammers and these sites are often set up to obtain personal information.
If someone provides you with a shortened URL, expand it to see where it ends up. You can also search the link to see if anything comes up. If it doesn’t, then just disregard it.
Too good to be true special Valentine’s Day offers
The old adage that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is… is worth remembering.
The Internet is awash with special deals and offers of love round February 14th and your inbox is often deluged with emails urging you to buy chocolates, jewellery and flowers.
Resist the temptation to buy or obtain free stuff from social media sites and if an email comes from an unknown source or doesn’t address you by name directly, give it the cold shoulder!
These links can redirect you to fake sites, where hackers can obtain personal and financial information, or you can end up downloading malware inadvertently.
If you want to buy a gift for a loved one, use a reputable site.
Messages of love
If you are looking to find love via an online chat room, be careful who you speak to.
If you operate an open private messaging system you will leave yourself open to receiving lots of messages from people wanting to talk to you.
Some dating websites will also send you lots of messages via email claiming that specifically named people would like to talk to you. “Dating love bots” are programs that enter into conversations with you (often using a set number of phrases), before sending you to malicious websites. The aim of these bots is to get login information and passwords, or even to infect your devices.
It is best to avoid clicking on links received via instant messages or in chat rooms.
Enjoy Valentine’s Day safely… If you keep your wits about you this February 14th, you can search for love safely and can enjoy all the romance that the Internet has to offer you, without it leading to heartbreak of a different kind!