Every year, fraudsters and scammers love Valentine’s Day more than normal people. Why? Because celebrators can be so predictable and vulnerable!

How many ways do scammers and cybercriminals love Valentine’s Day?

Let us count the ways, based on past statistics from Forter:

    1. Valentine’s Day fraud attacks: Typical Valentine’s Day products, such as sales of floral bouquets, are attacked more during the short period before Valentine’s day. Why?
      • Fraudsters know it is easier to hide in a larger crowd
      • It is easier for fraudsters to resell the items during this period: lots of lovers are looking to express affection, but they are also looking for deals. It is easy for fraudsters to offer great deals on the things they are reselling, because they did not pay anything for them in the first place. It is all profit.
    2. Timeline. Based on previous years’ data, fraudsters typically have only about 10 days to snare victims. They probably love the adrenalin rush to rake in the victims because everything is halted after that special day
    3. Favorite items to scam with:
      • Food: Scams involving chocolate-dipped strawberries typically shoot up three times compared to attack rates the rest of the year. Regular strawberries are also targeted, but at 1.5x increase in incidence
      • Flowers: Scams involving floral arrangements typically shoot up 5x compared to attack rates the rest of the year. However, attacks against potted plants are barely impacted by Valentine’s Day
      • Jewelry: Love bracelets – varying according to the brand, type, design, etc., are also scammers’ and fraudsters’ favorite. Somehow, they love scamming with bracelets far more than necklaces
    4. Geography: Wherever Valentine’s Day is celebrated, you will find scams. Forter’s incidental data shows that fraudsters are particularly likely to use the stolen payment methods or accounts of victims that live in large US cities
    5. Impersonation: Fraudsters invest in impersonation schemes, often creating email addresses that look like a plausible match for the victim, and using (or appearing to use) an IP address from within the appropriate city where their targets live
    6. Shipping: Scammers often use the billing address of the victim as the shipping address, and then attempt to reroute the package after the order has already been confirmed.
    7. Food and groceries: Attacks against food delivery sites and apps, including groceries as well as ready-to-eat food, also go up before and during the special day. Attacks are two to three times higher for many merchants in this category. Two possible reasons:
      • If they are already targeting special food items, they opportunistically attempt to steal others also
      • There is an assumption that people often eat together, or cook together, or both, around Valentine’s Day, and fraudsters are hoping this will give them a boost in terms of both hiding in the crowd and reselling items that they used for their con jobs.

Fortunately, staying vigilant against Valentine’s Day scams and fraud involves the same best practices for staying safe against all seasonal online scams and fraud.

Tips to avoid being scammed

    1. Do your research on what you want to buy, but buy only official websites: ignore anything that comes to you via email, SMS or a pop-up ad.
    2. There will be an increase of emails, notifications, pop-up ads with amazing deals all asking you to CLICK on something or OPEN something to access the deal. Unfortunately, many of these will be fake and scams so pay close attention and do not click!
    3. Use a third-party payment service that gives you an extra layer of protection. You can also get yourself a gift credit card or a separate credit card that is only used for online transactions.
    4. Do not use free public Wi-Fi for your e-shopping as it is not secure. If you must, get a VPN (virtual private network) subscription that grants you privacy and protection while you are online via the public internet.
    5. Be aware of parcel delivery scams via email and SMS warning you of fictitious “delivery failures”. Always go to the official website to track parcels.
    6. Make sure not to reuse passwords and login details for your online accounts. Using the same email address is fine—however, do not ever reuse your passwords. If there are too many to remember, you can write them down or ideally, get yourself a password manager tool.
    7. For e-merchants, the following perennial rules apply always:
      • Patch your software and check that your networks are protected from vulnerabilities.
      • Take your employees through security awareness training to avoid falling for scams and social engineering attacks in both their personal and professional lives.
      • Make sure all your employees know what to expect in relation to paying invoices or transferring money. If they do not understand what a Business Email Compromise (BEC) is, the chance of them falling for one is very high.
      • Educate your customers on what to look out for, to avoid being scammed. Have a page on your website dedicated to communicating with customers on any scams that have been reported.
      • Use social media channels to keep customers up to date with scams and use such platforms to educate them about staying safe online.
      • Educate customers in your physical stores to stay safe online and offline.

Finally, when it comes to online flirting and dating, love scams are much trickier to manage, but this article lays the ground rules for the shrewd romancers!