In past posts, we’ve discussed how certain seasons – the holidays and Black Friday specifically – can be a nightmare when it comes to the prevalence of online scams and fraud. While November and December are obvious months when online shoppers should keep their guard up, in recent years there has been a significant uptick in financial and identity theft attempts around Valentine’s Day as well. Following the simple tips below can help to ensure that your Valentine’s Day shopping around the web doesn’t end in financial heartbreak.
Be Wary of Dating Sites
Those looking for love are often feeling a little extra lonely this time of year. Scammers know this as well, and will often take advantage of those that are maybe a little too desperate to find that perfect someone. If you happen to strike up a conversation with someone through an online dating website, take the same pause that you would when shopping for a high dollar item like a classic car or luxury watch. As you communicate with the other person, a definite red flag should be an avoidance of conversation anywhere other than via email. While it’s prudent to be cautious when communicating with strangers on the web, it’s also odd to not eventually move that conversation to the phone, or even in-person.
Similar to the routines run by criminals during the holiday season, many scammers will send out emails dressed in the guise of an online retailer or shipping company. If you receive an email that just doesn’t look quite right, or comes from an email address you don’t recognize, NEVER click on any embedded links. Many browsers will allow you to preview any hyperlinked text by simply scrolling over the text. Before you click, look toward the bottom left-hand site of your browser window to see where that link will send you.
Don’t Fall Too Fast
Love at first site is always possible, but be cautious if anyone on a dating website professes love right out of the gate. We all hope that that perfect someone is out there, but if something seems too good to be true it probably is. These claims of love are often followed by a deep desire to visit the other party in person, but they’re unable to due to financial hardship. Scammers will then ask their targets to wire money directly, or send a personal check so that they can then make the trip to visit. Of course, that trip never happens, and the target is out whatever funds were sent.
Nobody wants to assume that every chance at love could be someone simply trying to scam them out of money, but taking the time to pause and reflect on any “too good to be true” scenario this time of year is a smart move.
For more information about how you can protect yourself against online scams and fraud, be sure to see our posts on the five most common internet scams, the surprising payoff behind online fraud, and what to do if you think you have been scammed.