Valentine’s Day isn’t just a day for romance. It’s a time of year when cyber criminals and scammers launch attacks such as phishing, vishing, smishing, and social engineering.

Australia has begun issuing warnings to singles, informing them of the “pig butchering” or “romance baiting” scam that’s prominent on Valentine’s Day. It starts with the attacker assuming the identity of an attractive and affluent individual and fostering an emotional connection with their victim.

In 2022, multiple Australians have fallen victim to the romance scam, suffering an average loss of $40 million.

People click on links in emails and texts—never pausing to think about the communication and whether it’s legitimate. Today’s youth are typically very tech-savvy and know their way around computers and mobile devices. But remember—just because someone is tech savvy doesn’t mean they are security-wise.

In fact, Gen Z and millennials tend to delay mandatory IT updates longer than older generations. Specifically, 58% of Gen Z and 42% of millennials often put off these updates, compared to 31% of Gen X and 15% of baby boomers.

Older generations have been slower to adopt technology and are likely to have weaker passwords and not engage in two-factor authentication. They may also have a harder time detecting a social engineering attack.

Help your loved ones protect their personal information from social engineering attacks and other cyber scams by sharing your security awareness knowledge with them.

Here are five best practices for everyone—from the young to the more mature, experienced technologist, because reminders are always helpful, regardless of age or expertise.

1. Beware of phishing attempts this Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day and other holidays, scammers ramp up their phishing efforts. Their tactics range from installing malware through deceptive links to extorting personal information. Here are essential email practices to remind your loved ones about:

  • Be cautious about opening emails, especially if you don’t recognize the sender. Even if an email from a known sender feels odd, it’s best to be cautious.
  • Consider the context—is it normal for this person to email you, especially at this time? If you’re unsure, a quick phone call can verify their identity.
  • It’s wise to avoid clicking on links in unexpected emails.
  • Never disclose confidential information in an email.
  • And remember, if a deal in an email seems too good to be true, it likely is.

Staying aware of these practices can help safeguard you and your loved ones from phishing threats this Valentine’s Day.

2. Watch out for phishing’s cousins, vishing, and smishing

Other social engineering methods to get you to give up personal information, call or contact an organization or person via phone, or install malware by clicking a link or opening a file come at you via text message (smishing), phone (vishing), or social media platforms that have been compromised.

These fraudulent communications can appear to be from the government (IRS, Census Bureau, or law enforcement) or someone you know whose account has been compromised. A successful vishing campaign that senior citizens should be aware of is a phone call from a grandchild asking for money.

The guidance above holds—if you receive unusual communications via text, phone, or social media.

3. Remember to stop and think

It sounds simple but in today’s fast-paced world, we sometimes forget to do this.

Slow down. Don’t get caught in the immediacy of technology. Break the technology habit and stop mindlessly trusting everything. Stop and think about what you’re about to click on. Ask yourself if it’s legitimate and expected. Check to make sure it’s secured.

4. Smart and secure online shopping for last-minute gifts

When hunting for that perfect last-minute gift online, ensuring your shopping experience is safe and secure is crucial. Here’s how to shop smartly:

  • Verify the website’s legitimacy. If it’s your first time on a site, take a moment to confirm its authenticity. Look for “https://” in the URL – the ‘s’ stands for secure, indicating encrypted communication. Also, a closed padlock symbol is a good sign of a secure transaction.
  • Examine security certificates. Delve deeper and check the site’s security certificates for added assurance.
  • Look for trust seals. Seals from third-party security vendors can be a good indicator of a site’s reliability.
  • Be aware of identity fraud risks. According to the National Council on Identity Theft Protection, the FTC received 4 million total identity theft reports in 2023, with total losses estimated to be a whopping $10.2 billion.
  • When setting up an account on an online store, opt for multi-factor authentication for an extra layer of security. Use a strong password, and although saving your payment information might seem convenient, consider the risks if you don’t shop frequently on that site.

By following these steps, you can enjoy a safer online shopping experience, even when it’s down to the wire!

5. Avoid using public Wi-Fi

Think twice before using public Wi-Fi for your online shopping needs.

It’s crucial to avoid entrusting personal details like your address or credit card information to an open network. Public Wi-Fi lacks the security needed to protect sensitive information, so it’s always safer to use a secure, private connection for your online transactions.

Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones This Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day isn’t just about love and affection; it’s also a prime time to be cyber-smart! As we celebrate this special occasion, let’s stay vigilant against those who might misuse it for malicious purposes.

Follow our handy tips above to safeguard yourself and your loved ones from romance scams. Remember, the key to enjoying a worry-free Valentine’s Day is being aware and proactive in protecting your cyber well-being. Let’s spread love, not scams!

 


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