Valentines Day, Whole lotta love

Gary Hibberd

14th February 2020
 

Dependent upon your relationship status, the 14th of February will mean everything or nothing to you!

But there are a group of people out there who have been eagerly awaiting the most romantic day of the year and have been preparing for weeks.

I’m not talking about the lovelorn or the newly in love couples. I’m talking about the cybercriminals.

Because nothing says “I love you” more than a phishing email in your inbox!

It’s a sad fact-of-life that criminal activity increases around holidays, especially online, and especially around Valentine’s Day. Why? Because it’s a holiday where people throw caution to the wind and start looking for extravagant or unusual gifts to give to their loved ones.

Sadly, it’s also a day where there is more panic buying than Christmas eve in a petrol station! Yes, it’s not just your partner who knows that you leave your shopping to the last minute, the Cybercriminals do too. And they are counting on it.

 

Phishing is not romantic

It is worth remembering that cybercrime is big business, and like any big business they have turned to the online shopper as a source of revenue.  So, as shops are gearing up for the rush of new customers so are the cybercriminals.

These organisations have been creating their email (phishing) campaigns and preparing their malicious software for weeks and are ready to send these messages to you. But even if you’re not in a relationship or the 14th February holds no allure for you, the cybercriminals have something special in store just for you too.

 

I Love you

These are possibly the most important three words in the English language. Written in song and verse for a Millennia, and the cybercriminals know you are primed for it.

As you are telling your friends that you don’t care about Valentines day. Cybercriminals are preparing their emails full of infected shopping links, and scams to extract money for goods that will never arrive. But they are also creating fake “Someone loves you” messages, to be sent out to millions of people who just want to hear these words.

They say that “Curiosity killed the cat”, well it can also kill your bank balance too. Even those of us in committed relationships might be curious to know who their secret admirer is. It is part of our DNA to want to feel connected and be part of a group. Being told that you are loved demonstrates that you are part of a group, and therefore will be safe. This is the caveman (or woman) inside our heads who wants to feel safe and secure.

The cybercriminals know this, and they will exploit it.

 

Don’t go breaking my heart

I don’t want you to be broken hearted on 14th February (or any other time for that matter), but when we become complacent or under pressure we are more likely to become victims of cybercrime.

We need to take action to prevent becoming a victim, so my advice is always to;

 

  • Stop
  • Think
  • Click

 

If you receive an email with a tempting offer, such as a 5 course meal, with flights to Paris (including hotels), for £200. Or perhaps the chance to see a show in London, with tickets, hotels and meals, all for £150. You’ve got to ask yourself is this offer too good to be true? Because it probably is.

Cybercriminals also know that people might be expecting flowers or other gifts through the post, so be on the lookout for the “Sorry we couldn’t deliver your item” messages. These will often give you just enough information to pique your interest, such as an image of the flowers, or “Includes special message” text. Of course, there is always a link for you to press which will allow you to get the items delivered to you.

If you receive an email telling you that someone has sent you a recorded message of love, and all you’ve got to do is ‘click this link’ to hear what they think of you. Don’t click the link! Sorry to tell you, but chances are that your love interest is probably sending the same message to 10 million other people.

If someone really does like you (and why wouldn’t they?!), I’m sure they’ll be in touch when you don’t respond to this strange recorded message(!)

Finally, it is likely that you’ll receive direct messages from people on social media who “want to be your friend’, but sadly that’s not all they want. Cybercriminals know that there are a lot of people who are feeling unloved and uncared for, and any sign of affection however remote it may seem is enough to stir them into action.

‘Catfishing’ is a term used to describe someone whose sole intention is to get someone to form an emotional connection, online and then exploit them (usually for money). Don’t be ‘Cat-fished’. If someone, especially a stranger is being overly romantic with you online, ask yourself “Does this feel genuine? Are they who they say they are?”

Facebook has over 2.4 billion active users online each month, but there are an estimated 170 million fake accounts. That’s almost three times the population of the UK. So, chances are that “Debbie from Doncaster” is actually “Derek from Dorking”!

Don’t give them the satisfaction of being the winner in this losers game! When faced with emails, or messages ask yourself “Does this seem legit. Does this seem real?”; Stop… Think… Click (if you are convinced it’s ok to do so).

 

Whole lotta love

Cybercriminals are playing with our emotions. They know how we operate, and they are willing to exploit our weaknesses at every turn.

Everyone reading this knows that Valentines Day is highly commercialised, and yet many of us buy into this commercialism. And the cybercriminals know this.

Be safe online and adopt the mantra; STOP. THINK. CLICK. You won’t go far wrong with these three little words, even if those other three little words allude you. For now.

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