Love is in the air, and while Cupid is sharpening his arrows for Valentine’s Day, scammers are sharpening their skills and using holiday-themed keywords to target unsuspecting users. Whether you’re looking for your soul mate or just trying to buy something special for your sweetheart, hackers see this as an opportunity for profit as you scan the web for ideas.
As we’ve discussed before here in the blog, cybercriminals are always looking for new ways to increase profits by infecting the largest number of users possible. This means that they’re most likely to target widely used platforms (like Android), software used by large businesses or banks (like Windows), and keywords around hot news events or holidays (like Valentine’s Day or Winter Storm Nemo).
So before you get swept up in the romance this Thursday, take a moment to run down our holiday safety checklist below. Education is half the battle, and knowing which scams to look out for could save you and your devices from Valentine’s Day scams.
1. Malicious Valentine E-Cards
E-Cards are a great way to share a Valentine with a far-away friend, but they’re also one of the easiest ways for hackers to spread malicious software. Before you open up a Valentine’s Day email or attachment, even if it’s from someone you know well, double-check with that person over the phone to make sure the email is legitimate.
2. Too Good to be True Deals
“$10 for a dinner for two!? I’ll take 5!”
Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you ever receive unsolicited emails offering discounted prices on holiday gifts, dinners, flowers, or romantic getaways, do not click on the email or download any attachments. Most likely, it’s an effort to either infect your PC or mobile device with a virus or steal your credit card information on a phony e-commerce site. When searching for deals, make sure you use a safe search plug-in like McAfee SiteAdvisor that provides color coded ratings in your search results to tell you what sites are safe to click on. SiteAdvisor is available with McAfee All Access and McAfee Mobile Security. In addition, only buy from online retailers who display a security seal like McAfee SECURE on their website, which indicates that the site is scanned daily for security vulnerabilities. You can learn how to identify a true security seal here in the McAfee e-commerce blog.
3. Fake Dating Profiles
There’s a saying used often in digital marketing that states, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” The message is: The person you’re talking to online could be anyone–from your next-door neighbor to a seasoned cybercriminal. If you receive an unsolicited invitation to connect on social media or dating websites, stay on guard for potential scam opportunities. Criminals often foster fake online relationships with unlucky singles, only to steal their personal information or ask for large sums of money later on.
4. Love-Themed Mobile Apps
Valentine’s Day wallpaper downloads and love-themed mobile apps are also prime real estate for cybercriminals. These downloads are most often available in unofficial Android app stores, and they are used to install malicious software on your mobile device or steal your personal information. Especially around holidays, when you’re bound to do more online shopping, make sure to keep security software like McAfee All Access updated. McAfee All Access will scan ALL of your devices for malicious content (PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets) and block risky websites proactively.
For more information on how to avoid online drama this Valentine’s Day, check out our Love, Relationships, and Technology survey, and be sure to follow us on Facebook and on Twitter with @McAfeeConsumer.