Valentine’s cards. Chocolate hearts. Flowers. Cyber scams.

Wait, what?

Yes, Valentine’s Day often sees an increase in financially motivated romance scams.

On a day where couples, classmates and sweethearts rejoice, lonely people can fall victim to internet-facilitated crimes.

A typical romance scammer will seek to gain the trust of someone looking for love. The scammer typically uses fake photos and personal details to achieve better results – and of course, to protect their identity.

Once the scammer has developed good rapport with their target, they will typically present a money problem.

“I need money so I can come and visit you.”

“I have fallen sick and need some assistance with medical bills. Once I get better, I can visit you.”

“My child is in trouble. Can you transfer some money?”

The sky’s really the limit when it comes to the variations of excuses. The only constant is they’re out to get at your purse strings in addition to your heart strings.

And the problem has grown to be a huge deal. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complain Center:

  • In 2017, more than 15,000 people reported in saying they were victims of romance scams. Total reported losses were over $211 million. This doesn’t factor in the victims who didn’t report their case.
  • In 2018, the number of victims increased to 18,000, with reported losses ballooning to $362 million.

Read the full FBI Public Service Announcement here: https://www.ic3.gov/media/2019/190805.aspx.

Of course, romance scams aren’t the only thing to be vigilant about on Valentine’s Day.

Your run-of-the-mill phishing and malicious emails will still be tossed around. There will also be scams related to the day: fake e-cards that lead to malicious websites, payment or date delivery confirmations for Valentine’s Day flowers or sweets, and other false holiday-related communication.

“Vigilance and common sense can be powerful allies in combating internet scams,” said Brian Walker, CEO of InCare. “When something doesn’t sound right, don’t rush to action. Instead, take a moment to process things.

“Scammers tend to phrase things to elicit a rushed response. Don’t fall into their trap.”

“Cyber scammers are opportunistic,” added Aaron Allen, Director of Technical Services at InCare. “They’ll use holidays and important occasions to their advantage. They thrive in busy times of the year, where people may be a bit stressed and may possibly have their guard lowered.

“A healthy skepticism coupled with an awareness of the types of threats out there can help you stay safe. To keep your cybersecurity IQ high, sign up for our weekly security tips. Easy-to-follow advice, sent directly to your inbox.”

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