Romance scam alert: Don’t let a Cybercriminal be your Valentine


Happy Valentine’s day! Matt Cooke, Cybersecurity Strategy, EMEA at Proofpoint is urging UK end-users to be alert this Valentine’s day, and the whole Valentine week as romance takes over our inboxes and social media feeds. He wants to send a serious message to all of us to be vigilant as more and more scammers are looking for financial gain by sending malicious texts and emails.

See below Matt’s romance scam alert advice

1.Remember, when it comes to your personal data: You Belong With Me. Never share personal or financial information including bank account or credit card details with someone you don’t know.

2. Think your Soulmate sent you a gift card from your favourite store? Look out for spelling, fake logos and grammatical errors, these can suggest a message is a scam.

3. Waiting for flowers or a present to arrive on your doorstep … but receive a failed delivery text This is not Your Valentine. Do not click through links or open attachments from unknown senders whether that’s over email, text, social media or online.

4. In A Moment Like This, be cautious about phone calls or emails that come out of the blue with restaurant offers or other prizes.

Matt adds: “Cybercriminals are opportunistic and consistently target people with social engineering tactics, to gain trust and get unsuspecting individuals to fall victim to their scams. They respond in real time to events and calendar dates that have the attention of the public, so as Valentine’s Day approaches, we urge people to be aware of potential romance-themed scams hoping to exploit emotional vulnerability.

Watch out for ‘threat actors’

Our researchers have previously seen threat actors’ use a variety of tactics in so-called romance scams. For example, the rise in “pig-butchering” scams, in which fraudsters play the long game to socially engineer a target into falling victim to crime perpetuated by large cybercrime ecosystems. The emotional manipulation, friendly tone, and sheer duration of these scams allows genuine feelings to develop, and the actor exploits that emotion for financial gain, to the loss of sometimes millions of dollars.

Text messages and social media

In addition, conversational abuse through text messages and social media has been one of the fastest growing threats in recent years. These scams are particularly concerning because threat actors spend time and effort (often weeks) building trust with their targeted victims through emotional manipulation, friendly tones, and lengthy pre-exploitation phases – allowing genuine feelings to develop, thus making their schemes harder to detect.

Seasonal and romance scam alert

Scammers will also capitalise on the season of love by crafting convincing emails and leveraging the popularity of gift cards, flower and gift deliveries, and restaurants bookings on Valentine’s Day to extract financial gain by prompting recipients to click on malicious links.

To protect yourself, remain vigilant against unsolicited messages, especially those requesting personal information or requiring you to click on unfamiliar links. Verify the legitimacy of any unexpected communication through official channels before taking any action. By staying informed about common tactics used by cybercriminals and maintaining a healthy scepticism, you can safeguard yourself from falling victim to scams and enjoy a safe Valentine’s Day celebration with your loved ones.”