Protecting your heart – and wallet on Valentine's Day

Online scammers out in force to prey on lonely hearts at Valentine’s

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Spare a thought for the lonely hearts this Valentine’s Day.
While the hopelessly in love will be swept off their feet and showered with flowers and chocolates, the not-so-lucky in love may be getting scammed.
Online experts say romantics are increasingly using technology to direct Cupid’s arrow – but, unfortunately, cybersecurity vigilance is not usually top priority when the hormone-charged online wooing hots up.
Simon McCullough, an account manager at F5 Networks, said the number of people using dating applications [apps] in the hope of finding “the one” increased dramatically at this time of year.
“Technology can undoubtedly aid anyone’s quest for love,” McCullough said.
“The problems arise when we use it with reckless abandon or without proper awareness of security issues and their ultimate consequences.
“Hearts can be broken in a multitude of ways – make sure it isn’t because your personal data was stolen and exploited,” he cautioned.
McCullough said Valentine’s Day was also prime time for online retail scams.
“Much like Black Friday, cyber criminals are laying traps.
“They will be poised to pounce wherever and whenever they can, touting everything from dodgy greeting cards and fake florists to sketchy jewellery and other seasonally inspired lures,” he said.
Digital platforms consultant Dorette de Swart said many people were not prepared for, or aware of, the downsides or negative consequences of online networking.
“The internet opened a world of information, entertainment, communication and even relationships, but with that also scams, hacking and stalking.
“Protecting yourself online is essential to avoid being catfished, scammed or victimised,” she said.
Catfishing is luring someone into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.
“Make sure you’re communicating and sharing information and your location with people you know and trust, and be reminded that when you meet someone new online, the person on the other side of the screen can be just about anyone – a profile picture is not always reflective of reality,” De Swart said.
Ramon Thomas, managing director of NETucation, cautioned internet users not to be generous with their personal photographs.
“One of the trends that I’ve noticed is that [especially] women tend to post pictures of their children. Do not do that,” Thomas said.
“Don’t post photos of your family – just stick to posting photos of yourself.
“Otherwise you’re exposing your family to the online crooks that may be lurking out there and looking for something.
“And if you feel uncomfortable with sharing your personal data like your Facebook information you shouldn’t use Facebook to register.
“Create a separate profile that is not linked to your existing social media because that has your real name and has a lot of other information about you that could be leaked if those dating apps are hacked.”
McCullough offered tips to safeguard hearts and data:
Always secure your data with robust passwords and change them often – multifactor authentication is preferable.
Avoid promiscuous clicking. Online greetings cards from secret admirers may chime with the Valentine ethos but, chances are, it is a fasttrack to getting phished.
When up and running on a dating app, be extremely wary of anyone professing their undying love. Scammers are adept at appearing credible and will try every trick in the book to win your trust.
Ask plenty of questions and avoid being lured off the dating app into e-mail exchanges or onto other platforms.
“While the possibilities of love have infinitely expanded, so too have the risks,” he warns...

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