Not many people want to think about the heartless on Valentine’s Day, but identity thieves often use the holiday to their advantage. They see it as an opportune time to reel the lovestruck in by using disingenuous companionship, false promises to meet up and then striking with requests for money. Others pose as retailers offering Valentine’s gift deals that are simply too good to be true.
Identity theft experts and the Better Business Bureau are warning those on the search for love about scams that target romance. Here are some common traps to look out for and the best ways to avoid them.
The Soul Mate Disguise
More scammers are flirting with the act of “catphishing,” which involves making up a fake identity in order to deceive victims. They often pretend to be a soldier serving overseas, and may go to great lengths to get victims to believe it, by enlisting the help of a real name and photo of a service member that they found online. Eventually, these fictitious service members beg their victims for money, claiming that they need it for airfare to visit or for supplies overseas.
If you encounter such a character on an online dating site or elsewhere, you should know that as soon as money is requested, it’s a major red flag. Other tip-offs include giving excuses for not meeting face-to-face, using terms of endearment too early on and asking you to keep your relationship a secret.
To avoid wasting your time with someone like this, conduct your own background check by searching online for social media accounts and basic info such as their hometown and age that may turn up from search engines. Some states, like Connecticut and Arizona, also offer online public searches of court records.
The Malware Trap
This relationship always ends badly. You begin communicating with a potential love interest through online chatting or emails and eventually, you receive a suspicious link or a request to download a specific file. If you click on it, you may unknowingly download malware onto your computer. As a result, you’ll find yourself with a computer virus or a keystroke logger that can reveal all of your passwords and personal information to a scammer.
The BBB emphasizes that you should never click on links that seem suspicious. With a simple click, you can wreak havoc on your computer and expose your personal information to others.
Falling for Phony Florists
The BBB is also warning about the phony florist scheme. These scammers pose as florists that promise a deal that seems too good to be true. You may be lured into clicking on links that download malware or a virus onto your computer. Furthermore, once you order, you pass on your personal information, including your credit card information, to an identity thief.
Always do your homework when purchasing items online, even when it comes to flowers. You should make sure you are ordering from a legitimate site and be especially leery of deals that are emailed or messaged to you through an online site like Facebook. Whenever in doubt, call your local BBB to check on the reputation of the retailer you’re considering doing business with.