Roses are red,
Violets are blue;
Protect your online presence
Hearts, flowers, chocolates, cards – today is Valentine’s Day, the day dedicated to LOVE. When it comes to matters of the heart and our emotions, it’s very difficult to stay objective. Just as in the past our blogs have discussed software vulnerabilities as points of entry for malware – unfortunately, there are people out there who are happy to prey on our emotional vulnerabilities and access our privacy in other ways.
There have been many unhappy stories in recent years of people who have been duped online, who have had huge financial losses, or had their hearts broken because of an online relationship that wasn’t real.
For victims, “romance fraud” can be one of the most heart-breaking crimes, as individuals often invest months, and sometimes even years, into the relationship. It can be very difficult for victims to understand they have been scammed by someone they thought they had a genuine connection with. “Lockdown loneliness” in recent months has been the main catalyst for romance fraud. As Covid-19 took hold, people found themselves turning to online dating sites for companionship. It’s been a difficult and lonely time for many – which made people in isolated situations even more susceptible to fraud.
The main problem investigators have is that when fraud is committed online, the people responsible could be thousands of miles away, which makes bringing offenders to justice very difficult, and sometimes impossible. In 2021, the FBI reported an even bigger twist to romance scams – the latest tactic is to claim to be a “cryptocurrency investor”: almost like a Ponzi scheme, first they allow their victims to think they’ve made a small profit, but ultimately all their funds “disappear”.
Some people blame themselves after falling victim to fraud, but you’re not to blame – only the offender is responsible for this crime taking place. Even the most careful people can be caught out, and sometimes fraudsters only need the smallest piece of information, such as your address, email, or phone number, to commit a crime.
Romance scams aside, cybercriminals often enjoy other ways to victimize people in the run-up to this holiday. Our job is to make sure you stay protected. So this February 2022, follow these simple steps to make sure your Valentine’s Day runs smoothly.
💌 Online Gifts
- Make sure you aren’t getting scammed by any online offers – if the price is too good to be true, it probably is.
- Buy from sites you trust. There have been reports of phony florist websites in the run-up to Valentine’s Day. You can avoid these sites by using a security web extension like Online Security.
- Be cautious when it comes to paying. If sellers don’t allow payment through credit card transactions or a secure payment service, this is a red flag.
- Watch out for e-greeting cards that could steer you into visiting, downloading, or buying malicious software.
💌 Dating Apps & Sites
- Be careful what you write on your dating profile. Avoid listing personal details such as where you work, your full name, what kind of hobbies you have, or the names of your pets. This kind of information could be used to exploit you.
- Be wary of any technical permissions requested by a dating app or website. Some apps are more intrusive than others, and might request permission to collect highly personalized data from your device.
- Watch out for phishing or fraud campaigns. It’s wise to investigate before opening any links or attachments sent to you inside the dating app or site.
- And NEVER respond to any requests for money or loans of any kind.
💌 Beware of Dating Bots
Dating-app bots are coded software that simulates a “chat” with users by utilizing natural language processing. They mimic human conversational patterns in order to spam or scam users. If you’re unsure whether your new connection is a bot or not, there are a few things you can do to check:
- Does the profile picture look too perfect? Perform a quick reverse image search on Google Images to see where else on the web that photo has been used.
- If you ask personal questions and the replies seem pretty generic – this could be a sign that it’s a dating bot. The text could easily just be a computer program that someone has written.
- Check out their bio – does it make geographical sense? Do dates and timelines match up? Is it full of spelling mistakes? Are there clickable links? These are all potential signs to be aware of.
Love is what makes the world go round – this Valentine’s Day, we hope everyone enjoys their celebrations while also staying cyber safe.
Happy Valentine’s Day! ❤️