As Valentine's Day approaches, there's no escaping the gifts associated with this romantic holiday – from flowers to chocolates to an endless assortment of red and pink gifts. Our email inboxes are no exception to this rule, as at this time of year they are flooded by Valentine's Day e-cards, advertisements and articles. While it's easy to get caught up in the warm and fuzzy feelings of this holiday, beware of cybercrooks who are quick to adjust their scams to fit the season. Here are some of the most popular online scams that are sure to appear this Valentine's Day:
During this holiday everyone expects to receive greetings from their friends and loved ones. What better way to show someone you care than by sending an e-card? They're easy to send and fun to receive. Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of this popular trend by using these greetings to spread online threats. If you open an e-card you receive unexpectedly, you could make your computer vulnerable to malware. Clicking on the link provided in these spam messages could lead to the installation of a Trojan on your computer. Another likely scenario is that the Valentine's Day themed spam message is a virus that, when opened, will make your computer part of a botnet.
There's nothing quite like getting a Valentine's card being left in your tray at work or dropped through the letterbox on Valentine's day, except for perhaps a Valentine's E-Card being sent to your email inbox. E-Cards are a fantastic, cheaper and environmentally friendly alternative to sending a real card and as a result have become a popular method of expressing sentiment. However this has also led to a plethora of online scams which either request a person visit a malicious website or download a malicious attachment in order to "view their e-card". Filled with anticipation of who their secret admirer may be, victims hastily follow the instructions and end up getting their computer infected with malware that could lead to the installation of a Trojan on your computer. Another likely scenario is that the Valentine's Day themed spam message is a virus that, when opened, will make your computer part of a botnet.. Oops.
Watch out for emails landing on your doorstep claiming to show Valentine's e-cards and never download attachments or click on links from emails that you do not trust. Also be aware of websites that request you download "flash updates" or "plugins" in order to "view your e-card".
Phishing scams are also prevalent around Valentine's Day. These attacks come in all shapes and sizes, and try and get the victim to enter their personal information, specifically their banking details, into a spoofed website. One popular tactic during the Valentine's period is to send out spam emails claiming the flowers or chocolates that were ordered could not be delivered due to an error with the credit card information. Of course many of these emails will be ignored as the recipient did not order any such product, but once these emails reach someone who did – which is likely during Valentine's – then there is a good chance the unfortunate victim will be rushing to re-enter their details to get their product delivered on time. Of course, there was never a problem with their card, and the victim just entered their card details into a spoofed website.
Always be suspicious of emails that link to websites asking for your card details, for whatever reason. If you think the email may be legitimate then go directly to the website and not through a link in an email. Always ensure you are on the website that you should be on, and not a page designed to look like another website.
Fraudulent Online Stores
Shopping for last minute Valentine's Day gifts? Make sure that you don't stumble across any fraudulent stores in your search for a great deal. Some sites may offer Valentine's Day discounts to lure you in, only to rip you off later with fake or shoddy merchandise, merchandise that never arrives or unauthorized credit card charges.
Follow the basic rules of online shopping:
Before buying from a store you don't know, look them up on Scambook and Google. See what others are saying.
Look for "https://" on the check-out page to make sure it's a secure connection before you type any of your financial information. For example, make sure the URL reads "https://www.store.com" and not "http://www.store.com"
Pay with a credit card (or a prepaid card) so you can dispute the charges if something goes wrong. (For information on disputing a charge, watch our previous video right here.)
Don't make transactions or send financial info when you're using a public wireless network. It's easy for hackers to connect to the network, too, and grab your info as you send it. If you're browsing Amazon at your local library or Starbucks, just wait until you get home before you login and purchase the items in your basket.
Online Dating Scams
The build up to Valentine's Day also typically leads to an increase in online dating scams. Cybercriminals use online dating sites to set up phony accounts in order to attract unsuspecting victims. These criminals are extremely adept at appealing to legitimate users.
Be aware of any communication received from someone "looking for love" who thinks you may be the one they seek, be it through social networking, email or through fake profiles on online dating sites. Lonely victims are often more susceptible to this type of scam during this time of the year. Victims are lured by a fellow "lonely heart" who communicates only through the Internet. A relationship builds up between the scammer and victim, and once trust has been established, the scammer will request money from the victim for an expensive item, such as a plane ticket or the healthcare of a sick family member. The victim may feel obliged to send the money considering their blossoming relationship, but after the money is wired, the victim loses not only their love connection but also a sizeable chunk of change
Cybercriminals are very good at adapting their scams to the current season in order to pray upon the vulnerabilities of people during this time. Valentine’s Day renders people particularly susceptible as the holiday focuses on having that special someone – a difficult time to face if you're single. Whatever your romantic status, don't fall for the common traps that are sure to pop up this Valentine's Day.