Love hurts, but for online romantics this Valentine’s Day, it could hurt a lot more.
The day signals a huge consumer spend – $23 million in 2017 according to the Commonwealth Bank – on flowers, dinners, and gifts with an increasing share of purchases made online.
It also spells opportunity for scammers.
In a nutshell:
- Be cautious of discounted product offerings on social media sites
- Romance scams are ‘hyper-personal’, meaning they are of an overly intense nature that is designed to capture and isolate victims
- Speak to a friend who is not invested in the relationship before any major event like wiring money or paying for travel
Fraudulent pop-up shops, operating chiefly on Facebook, are fly-by-night operations that promise discounted products to eager buyers. Scammers behind pop-up scam shops simply close and run with buyers’ money.
With the sale of flowers on Valentine’s Day increasing 500 percent compared to an average weekday it is easy to see why these stores are among the top threats to Valentine’s Day romantics and to online shoppers.
Buyers should be cautious regarding offers for discounted flowers and gifts made from social media stores and seek out reviews from previous buyers where they exist before purchasing.
Romance scams are another serious threat facing Valentine’s Day romantics. These scams are more likely to be encountered during Valentine’s Day as users flock to dating sites.
These scams that we’ve previously covered typically target middle-aged, well-educated women who tend to be “more impulsive, less kind, more trustworthy, [with an] addictive disposition”.
Victims are targeted by scammers who are experts in the art of the romance con. Many scammers co-opt identities of social media users, such as military and law enforcement service people, to lure victims. Some even enlist criminal call centers where English-speaking men and women can help bolster the romance con by placing phone calls to victims.
The cost of romance scams is difficult to estimate due to a widespread unwillingness among people to report falling victim.
However, the scams are designed to work. Academics say they work based on four key signs of manipulation including isolation, monopolisation, degradation, and withdrawal.
Phishing emails and malware
Scammers rarely create phishing campaigns to target annual events such as Valentine’s Day.
However, one phishing campaign operating since at least November last year has been foisting malware – specifically ransomware and cryptocurrency miners – on unsuspecting victims.
The emails bear subject lines such as “My letter just for you” and “Felt in love with you” and are known in cyber security circles as the ‘Love You’ malware campaign.