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SPAR – Cybersecurity Scam of the Week – It’s Valentines Day! Beware!


In years past, we would be warning you about romance scams on Valentine’s Day. And while that is still a valid warning, scammers have branched out this holiday to other areas, specifically shopping scams.

First of all, romance scams are not dead. They are still profitable for scammers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reporters that last year, people parted with a record $547 million as the result of romance scams. This loss represented a nearly 80% increase from a year earlier. Many victims were taken for thousands of dollars, with a median loss reported to the FTC of $2,400.

Last-minute shoppers need to be on their guard, too. According to Bitdefender research, there was a big spike in scam emails related to Valentine’s Day shopping, similar to those that pop up around other heavy shopping holidays, like Christmas. Scammers are usually looking to steal credit card information or login credentials for email and social media accounts.

Delivery of these scams is also being extended past phishing emails. Scammers are reaching out through social media, dating apps, and texts.

Tips for avoiding Valentine’s Day scams

Be skeptical of anyone who reaches out to you through an unsolicited email, text, or phone call. This is also true for social media, even if it’s someone who seems local because they’re a member of your neighborhood Facebook group. Though the person may seem more “real” and legitimate, there’s a good chance he or she isn’t. And if someone claims to be overseas, like a soldier or a woman looking to leave Russia, consider it a big red flag.

Never give money to people you’ve only met online. If someone you’ve never met in person asks for money to travel to the US and see you, to pay for medical care, or to help deal with a sudden tragedy, you should regard it as a scam. The same goes for the keys to your cryptocurrency wallets and most personal information, like your Social Security number.

Be wary of people you meet through dating apps. Keep the personal information you post on them to a minimum. Never give your home address and don’t use a profile photo you use elsewhere, Botezatu said. Cybercriminals or stalkers could use it to do a reverse search and find your other social media profiles, which could give them more information than you want to disclose about where you work or live. On the flip side, do your homework. People who use dating apps are probably tech-savvy enough to have a social media presence. Check it out.

Take a wingman (or woman). When meeting someone in person for the first time, pick a public place and tell a friend or family member where you’re going. Better yet, take a friend along. Never consent to a first date at the other person’s home.

Deals that seem too good to be true probably are. Did you procrastinate again this year? Delete those emails offering great last-minute deals on candy and flowers. Instead, go straight to the retailer’s website. Or just pop down to your local florist or candy shop.

Good cybersecurity will keep you safe. As always, set good passwords, use two-factor authentication and make sure your antivirus softwareoperating systems, and apps are all up to date. These basic practices will go a long way toward protecting you if you click on or download something you shouldn’t.

What else has been reported to abuse@uthsc.edu this past week?

  • [Ext] **Name of Recipient** – this was another attempt to spoof a Dean’s name asking for a “favor” (to buy gift cards for a scammer)
  • [Ext] Prompt reply needed – just like the one above, someone’s name was spoofed using an @gmail.com email address

Keep reporting suspicious emails to abuse@uthsc.edu for examination and any other questions for the Office of Cybersecurity should utilize TechConnect to report an incident.