Ahhh, Valentine’s Day, a chance for some to express their love for one another, while the rest of us expand our online dating app radius from 50 kilometres to 150 kilometres.
While some may see February 14 as the most romantic day of the year, scammers see it as an opportunity to take advantage of those looking for love.
To help you avoid the pain of a broken heart and a skimmed bank account, we have pulled together a list of the types of scammers to watch out for this V-Day, and some tips on how you can avoid getting caught in a bad romance (Ra-ra-ah-ah-ah Roma-roma-ma Gaga, ooh la-la).
Who to watch out for:
The spammer scammer
Identity harvesting is the most popular scam for this period; beware of Valentine’s Day e-cards that appear in your email inbox. If opened, they may download malicious software on your device. Scammers can use the harvested information and pictures to create fake identities or to target you directly with a scam.
“Let’s take this to the next level”
Be careful about over-sharing, especially early in a relationship or with someone you’ve just met online. Take it slow! We’re not just talking about ex-partner horror stories, but also your personal information including your birthdate, address, middle name and maiden name, or any financial information.
Before you give over any information to someone you do not know, ask yourself, R U in Control?
The stage five clinger
Valentine’s Day is often the start of a ‘grooming’ period for scammers. If you meet someone online and after just a few DM’s they profess strong feelings for you, be suspicious. Ask yourself; would someone I’ve never met really declare their love after only a few emails?
“We should keep this a secret”
Be wary if someone you’ve met on social media or a dating site wants to quickly move to a private mode of communication such as private email or text.
No one likes to be stood up. Be cautious when communicating with an individual that claims to live close to you but is working overseas. Be wary of ‘excuses’ such as their camera is never working, or always having a reason not meet.
“Show me yours, I’ll show you mine”
Don’t share intimate photos or use webcams in an intimate setting with someone you don’t know or trust. Scammers can use these photos or webcam recordings to blackmail their victims.
Don’t agree to transfer money for someone else. Money laundering is a criminal offence. Even if you trust the person, there is never any reason to share your bank information. If someone asks for payment information including bank routing details, mother’s maiden name, credit card numbers, report it immediately.
What do to about it:
Do some research
Ask questions and look for inconsistencies in their online profile compared to what they tell you. Search to see if there have been any reported scams that sound similar to the story given to you by your new online romance.
Ask yourself – are they faking it?
Take note of unusual spelling and grammar mistakes. Watch for poorly written, vague messages, sometimes even addressing you by the wrong name. Often scammers are working several victims at once (ouch!). Use Google’s ‘reverse image search’ function to check if their profile photos appear elsewhere on the internet.
Change your settings to private
Ensure access to your social media accounts is restricted to known friends only.
Lock it down
Update your security settings and passwords.
Share the love
If you’ve met someone online, make sure you talk to someone (a close friend/family member) about your new love interest. Pay attention if friends and family members raise concerns.
Report scams to police
If you have been the victim of a scam, report it. Gather all the available information, including the scammers’ profile name, how you made contact, social media screenshots and email. These may help police track down the person or people involved.
If you have lost money, given remote access to your device or given over your personal particulars, report this to ReportCyber (www.cyber.gov.au/report)
Members of the public can learn about scams at www.scamwatch.gov.au or the Queensland Police Service’s R U in Control campaign at https://www.police.qld.gov.au/safety-and-preventing-crime/r-u-in-control.
We hope you follow our tips and have a happy, scam-free Valentine’s Day!