Valentine’s Day Cyber Threats

Valentine’s day can be an emotional and stressful holiday for people.  Whether they are looking for love online or looking for the perfect gift for a loved one, they can become vulnerable to Valentine’s day scams that lead to identify theft.  There are 4 main scams that are prevalent around Valentine’s day:

  1. Romance scam: Also called “catphishing”, romance scams happen any time of the year, however victims tend to be a more vulnerable and more trusting around Valentine’s day. Romance scams happen on online dating sites and chat rooms, where cyber criminals create fake identities to deceive victims. They often pretend to live abroad or to be a soldier overseas. Once the cyber attacker has convinced the victim that they are in love with them they eventually ask for money, for example to travel to visit the victim or for an emergency. The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center lists romance scams as one of the Top 10 reported internet crimes. The FBI IC3 reported over $68M in total losses in the female age 40 and over category, $13M in the male age 40 and over category, and $4M in the male and female age 39 and under category.
  2. Delivery scam: Flower delivery scams are popular around Valentine’s day. Cyber criminals call or send emails to trick victims into giving out personal information and credit card information stating that they have flowers to deliver to them.
  3. Ecard scam: Valentine’s day is a very popular time for ecards and the scams that go along with them. Cyber criminals send spam emails with links to fake ecards. When the victim clicks on the ecard link it installs malicious software on their computer. This software is then used to capture personal information and other data.
  4. Good deal scam: Valentine’s day is a popular time to look for deals online, especially for flowers, jewelry, and gift cards. Cyber criminals create fake ecommerce websites and post unreasonably good deals, usually through pop up ads or social media. Victims purchase items and enter in their personal information and credit card information. By the time they realize the gift hasn’t arrived the website is already gone along with the victim’s personal information.

Here are a few general good security practices to help protect you from Valentine’s day scams and many others throughout the year:

  1. Update your security software such as anti-virus and anti-malware weekly.
  2. Change your passwords every 30-90 and don’t use the same password across multiple accounts. I suggest 30 days for accounts that have financial data and 90 for others like email or social media.  I want to stress again – don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
  3. Don’t click on links in emails. Legitimate ecard companies will provide a code to use directly on their website to view an ecard.
  4. Buy from a local, established, brick and mortar businesses or well known online shopping sites.
  5. Create your own personal privacy policy and don’t overshare information online. Never send money or personal data like social security numbers, credit card numbers, or bank information to someone you met online.
  6. Monitor your accounts for fraudulent activity and check your credit once a year. Watch for sudden drops in credit scores or unknown line items on your report.  Annualcreditreport.com gives you 1 free report per year.

Thanks to the local news station for stopping by to talk to me about this! http://www.nbc29.com/story/31191736/uva-cybersecurity-professor-warns-of-valentines-day-scams

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