Today’s episode of Scambook TV is all about Valentine’s Day cyber scams. Kevan explains that scammers always exploit holiday hype and use popular holiday-themed keywords to lay traps for consumers. For example, they know that Valentine’s Day will bring an influx of Google searches for terms like “romantic dinner restaurant,” “flower delivery,” “speed dating,” or “Valentine’s Day card.”
Three of the top consumer threats surrounding Valentine’s Day are eCard Phishing, Chatbot Scams, and Fraudulent Online Stores. As Kevan explains, these cyber scams target your computer with viruses and spyware or rip you off by attempting to steal your credit card number. To avoid these Valentine’s Day scams, we recommend updating your antivirus software, keeping an eye out for warning signs and protecting yourself with prepaid credit cards.
Let’s take a closer look at the Top 3 Valentine’s Day Cyber Scams and learn what you can do to protect yourself.
1. eCard Phishing.
Phishing is a type of cyber scam where fraudsters send computer viruses or other malicious email disguised as messages from a legitimate source. They may also use clever subject lines and deceitful sender addresses to “fish” for your personal information.
During holidays, scammers often go phishing with fake eCards. You might receive a message from “Your Secret Crush” or “That Special Someone,” only to open the email and infect your computer with a virus or spyware. Other fake eCards may redirect you to a suspicious website or prompt you to download an email attachment.
To avoid eCard phishing, don’t open any eCards from someone you don’t know. Even if you do know the sender, it’s still a good idea to call that person or email them to confirm that their email account wasn’t hacked. Never open eCards with attachments and don’t open them if they’re in your email’s Spam folder.
You can also protect yourself from fake Valentine’s Day eCards by using a secure Internet browser like Firefox or Google Chrome, and always keep your anti-virus software up to date.
Valentine’s Day isn’t just for couples. If you’re single, it’s also a great time to meet new people by attending a mixer or speed dating event. Many online dating sites also organize live meet-ups during Valentine’s Day. But if you’re looking for a date online, make sure you don’t fall victim to a malicious chatroom robot aka “chatbot.”
Chatbots are programs designed to mimic real people on instant messenger and chatrooms. A chatbot might IM you out of the blue when you’re browsing a dating website, begin flirting and soon you’re engaged in conversation without realizing that you’re talking to a fake person.
So where’s the harm in talking to a computer program? Unfortunately, chatbots are designed to wreak more digital havoc than simply deceiving you and wasting your time. They may redirect you to other websites that will install viruses on your computer, or attempt to persuade you to download spyware-laced videos. The chatbot may also ask you to confirm you’re over 18 by providing your credit card number.
Don’t fall for it! As with eCard scams, you should make sure your computer is secure and guard yourself against chatbots by looking out for red flags. Don’t trust someone who says they love you within a few minutes of chat or complements your looks when they haven’t seen your picture. Don’t click on links or download anything unless you know the person you’re talking to.
3. 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.
What Do You Think?
Have you ever had a close call with a holiday-themed scam? Are you doing anything special for Valentine’s Day? Share your stories in the comments. We love hearing from you!