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  • Sophie Hall, Ethical Hacker, Scottish Business Resilience Centre, shares guidance on how to be aware of scammers and stay safe on Valentine’s Day
  • Photo credit: Kostiantyn Li

    Love can make you blind, but don’t let it stop you from keeping an eye out for scams and cyber threats during this romantic holiday. As the clock ticks down to Valentine’s Day, many are excited to spend time with their significant others, some are waiting for the shops to discount the chocolate, meanwhile hackers and scammers are preparing to seduce you into handing over your data. But in what way are they flirting with you?

    E-Greeting Cards

    It’s hard to resist opening a card from a “secret admirer”, but do they want to infect you with their love or horrible malware?

    Scammers can send a greeting card via email or social media knowing that it will strike curiosity into many. After clicking the link, it could potentially take you to a dodgy website or to download malware. Malware can also be attached in an email or message, disguising itself as a card.

    To stay safe:

    • Check the sender’s email address for suspicious email domains.
    • Check where the link goes first, don’t just click it.
    • Don’t download attachments from an unknown source.
    • When in doubt, delete it.

    Delivery Scams

    On the lead up to Valentine’s Day, many stress over if their gifts will arrive on time. Scammers know how much pressure this can cause and can exploit this.

    For example, if you receive an email claiming your flowers won’t be delivered unless you re-enter your card details, you might enter them in a panic without analysing the email for discrepancies first.

    Attacks like this could catch you out easily if you have actually ordered something. This unfortunately could lead to you gifting your personal information and credit card details directly to the scammer.  

    To stay safe:

    • Check the sender’s email address for suspicious email domains.
    • Watch out for suspicious website addresses.
    • Be cautious of emails with an urgent tone, as this is common practice for scams.

    Fake Shops

    If money is tight a site offering discounts on beautiful jewellery and cosmetics might be exactly what you need, but sometimes it’s too good to be true. Fake stores have the potential to steal your personal and credit card information.

    Another way some stores offer huge discounts is by sending counterfeit products. Laboratory tests have shown products such as counterfeit perfume contained poisonous chemicals and even urine. If you cannot afford the real deal, instead of giving your spouse an allergic reaction, maybe just get them a card…

    To stay safe:

    • Check you’re using the real store’s website.
    • Buy from reputable stores that you trust.
    • Check reviews of shops you do not know.
    • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

    Dating Apps

    Still single this Valentine’s Day? The pandemic has transformed the way many people date, with more fish in the sea than ever on apps like Tinder, Hinge and Bumble.

    Dating apps require you to share a lot of information publicly. Any malicious person could create a fake account, view user’s information, and talk to them. People can often share personal information or sexually explicit photos. A malicious user could use the app to humiliate, blackmail, scam people or gain information for other attacks.

    When it comes to dating apps and security, it’s controversial. But if you’re set on using them, there are multiple ways to stay safe.

    To stay safe:

    • Be cautious of which apps you choose to use.
    • Don’t give away too much information.
    • Be on the lookout for fake profiles.
    • Stay safe when talking to strangers, just because they’re hot doesn’t mean they’re trustworthy!

    Romance Scams

    You might be looking for a future with someone, but they might be looking for a future with your money. Scammers have been known to build relationships with people and then ask for money. Their reasons will typically be for emergencies, such as medical bills, plane tickets and visas. Their idea is that if you really like them, then you are more likely to hand over your money. The scammers are right.

    To stay safe:

    • Don’t be fooled into giving large amounts of money to your online “lover”.
    • Look out for “love bombing” – if someone’s feelings are exceptionally strong soon after talking to them, they might be trying to scam you.
    • If something feels a bit off, it probably is.

    Have a sweet romantic night in with your partner or a crazy night out with your single friends on the 14th of February, just stay safe and don’t let a scammer break your heart.