February 13, 2012 at 3:28 pm
by Christina Tynan-Wood
Valentine’s Day is a big-spending holiday: Flowers, jewelry, and gifts are being bought by the bucketful by those who are lucky in love. And those who are single on February 14th are constantly reminded of this fact. I love it that there is an entire day devoted to romance. And I hate to be a downer. But romantics aren’t the only ones who enjoy this love frenzy: For Internet scammers, this is a big pay day. I plan to indulge in some romance myself tomorrow. But today, I am offering only a buzz-kill cyber-safety warning.
The folks at McAfee, sent me a list of the most common Valentine’s Day scams they found from analyzing data from previous years:
- Valentine’s Day deals that sound too good to be true usually are. Scammers know you are shopping for romantic gifts. So they send emails that claim to be great Valentine’s Day sales but actually distribute malware and other viruses to unwary consumers who click on the images.
- Scammers know you are hoping to get Valentines from a secret admirer, too. So they use “Love Exploits” that ask you to open a message laden with malware. It can come in the form of a link or attachment, such as a cute video or Valentine’s Day theme for your social profile. Once downloaded, it stealthily installs malware on your computer.
- If you are single, scammers are hoping you are willing to let down your guard for a little romance. So watch out for online dating scams. In a typical scam, the cybercrook creates a fake online dating profile, complete with photos, in an attempt to establish a relationship and gain your trust.
So be careful. If you don’t know the sender, don’t click on the link. Never enter any passwords into a Web site you arrived at by clicking a link in an email. It’s always safer to type in the URL yourself. Don’t download cards — or other files — from strangers. And be careful what you tell any would-be online suitors. He might be trying to find out things that are important to you to better guess at your online passwords. And never use things you might share in a social network – pet’s names, kids names and birthdays, where you went to high school, etc – as passwords. Those are much too easy to guess. And, as McAfee is trying to remind us by pulling together all this data for us, make sure you are using malware protection on your computers. The days of silly, renegade viruses are over. Malware these days does its best to run on your machine without your knowledge so it can better gather data that will earn its creator money.