Tag Archives: Holidays

Valentine’s Day scams: phishing, malware and identity theft.

It doesn’t matter what it is, there’s always a scam based on it.

As February 14th approaches, in addition to the usual horrible rom-com movies and terrible greeting card poetry, there are some specific types of fraud you’ll want to avoid.

Phishing

If you get an email that says your online floral purchase didn’t process and that you need to re-enter your credit card information, it’s a safe bet you’re looking at a phishing message.

The link embedded in this email will take you to a site that might look legitimate, but is really only designed to steal your card information and possibly install malware on your computer. Delete the message with extreme prejudice. If you think it might be legit, contact the company directly, but most likely you’ll find out it was a scam.

It’s another example of how crooks adapt to the situation. 99% of the time, if you received this message, you’d know it was a scam. However, around the middle of February, there are hundreds of thousands of people to whom the phrase “just bought flowers online” applies. When this message goes out, it’s probably going to find a lot of potential victims.

Malware

I dislike e-cards. I really do. I don’t think I’ve opened one since around 1998, actually. To me, they’re either a waste of time (when they’re out of the blue) or a way to say “wanted to technically contact you, but didn’t want to spend $2 on a card and the sound of your voice is like nails on a chalkboard to me” (when they’re sent for holidays and birthdays). In any case, they’re never entertaining or sincere.

They’re also a source of malware infections. When you get an email that says you’ve got an e-card, proceed with caution. If you want to read it, the best thing you can do is contact the supposed sender directly to find out if they actually sent it to you. However, even the e-card sites that aren’t trying to nuke your computer with viruses can still annoy by installing adware. In any case, make sure your virus and spyware protection are up-to-date.

What I do is just delete them outright. If somebody asks, “Hey, ‘ja get that e-card I sentcha?” just reply, “Yeah—it was really great, thanks!” and leave it at that. Most of the time, you’ll be fine.

Identity Theft

People are looking for dates around this time of year, too. If you’re really desperate to have a date on 2/14, I guess my first piece of advice would be to ask yourself some tough questions, but if you can’t get past the idea of being single on V-Day, watch out when it comes to online dating sites.

First, there are fake dating sites designed to harvest credit card and personal information, putting you at risk of fraud. There are also people who post fake profiles, in an attempt to lure you into revealing personal information that can be used for identity crimes. Stick with the larger, more well-known sites, use a screen name instead of your real name, and set up a new email account with one of the free web-based providers. That way, you’re covered if they sell your address to spammers, and no weirdoes end up with your “real” email address. It makes it easier to disappear.

Don’t trust links to any dating sites that come in the form of unsolicited emails or via Twitter or Facebook. Those are almost always going to not be what is promised.

If it were me, I’d probably skip the online avenue altogether and consider attending a social event. Everywhere from churches to bowling alleys have singles events this time of year. Maybe try that; at least you won’t have to give up your credit card numbers.

Ten reasons you should stay at home and shop online this Friday.

Well, the day after Thanksgiving is fast approaching, at least here in the states.

Now, I’ve managed to weasel my way out of shopping for anything on this day for the past several years, and this year will be no different. I’m a fan of a low-key sort of Christmas, where the main event is having everybody get together, rather than the emphasis on loot.

However, not everybody shares my flip attitude towards tradition, so I know a lot of you are planning to head out and join the fray. I’d like to encourage you to consider staying at home and shopping online this Friday, though, for the following ten reasons:

  1. Online retailers, especially the major companies, have unbelievable security these days. It is safer than ever to shop online. In fact, it’s probably safer than shopping in person.
  2. When shopping with your credit or debit card, you’re not liable for any fraudulent charges (unless your contract is set up really weird, which might occur but should be very rare).
  3. Shoulder surfers: It’s impossible for someone to sidle up and take a photo of your credit card if you’re not in the store to begin with.
  4. Skimming: you can’t be tricked into sliding your card through a skimming device if you’re not even in the vicinity of an ATM or other card-reading machine.
  5. Theft: it’s also exceedingly difficult for someone to steal (or “find”) your wallet if you’re at home.
  6. Scammers: I know you would never be tempted to buy a TV from some dude in a gas station parking lot at night, but you’ll never even see him if you shop online from established retailers (he might be lurking about on Craigslist, though, I guess).
  7. A lot of Black Friday sales are bait-and-switch schemes. Stores use the frantic nature of the day to unload items that are…almost what you were looking for, but not quite. Online, it’s easy to closely check an item (without some nutjob trying to tear it out of your hands).
  8. Also, a lot of stores will advertise an item at a wildly discounted price, with fine print that states they have a “minimum of four per store.” You realize that means there are only four per store, right? This generally doesn’t happen online.
  9. You’ll save money just by not driving your car around all day, forlornly circling parking lots in search of something, anything, that looks like a space your car might fit into.
  10. You’ll spend less money, because you won’t get caught up in the insane “get yours before somebody else gets it” mentality the stores depend on.