When love is in the air, so are romance phishing scams.

As Valentine's Day approaches, we want to keep you safe from falling victim to the deceptive tactics cybercriminals utilize during the season of love. Whether you've used online dating platforms extensively or are a casual social media enthusiast, it's crucial to stay vigilant and be aware of the three main ways these schemes work.

The Charm Offensive:

Imagine receiving a sweet message from a stranger on your favorite dating app or social media platform. They seem genuine, charming, and genuinely interested in getting to know you better. The catch? They might not be who they claim to be. Romance scammers often create fake profiles using stolen photos and information, luring victims into a false sense of security. The charm offensive is their first weapon, making it easy for unsuspecting individuals to overlook red flags. This ploy is also known as catfishing.

How to Stay Safe: Before getting emotionally or financially invested, verify the authenticity of the person you're talking to. Conduct a reverse image search to see where else online their images may be used that can point to a discrepancy. And be cautious if they avoid video calls or in-person meetings. It’s likely much more than a case of shyness.

The Fake Identity Crisis:

Romance scammers frequently play on emotions by fabricating a crisis requiring financial assistance. They may claim to be in a foreign country in desperate need of financial help. This is where the trap tightens – victims, in the spirit of love and compassion, may end up sending money or providing personal information, falling victim to a carefully orchestrated social engineering scam.

How to Stay Safe: Never send money to someone you've only met online, no matter how convincing their story may seem. Never provide any personally identifiable information online and remain cautious with any sharing of information in general. Be skeptical of sudden emergencies and requests for financial aid, and report suspicious behavior to the platform’s customer service or terms of service departments.

The Long Con:

Some romance scams don't unfold overnight. Scammers invest time in building a deep emotional connection with their victims, gaining trust over an extended period. It’s a deep game of catfish and can even be bolstered by new deepfake technology to appear and sound like a real person. Today’s deepfakes can impersonate not only celebrities but anyone who may have shared one too many pictures or videos on their social media accounts. The more that’s out there, the more a cybercriminal has to work with. Once trust is established, these scammers may start asking for more personal information or money, using the emotional bond they've created to manipulate their victims further.

How to Stay Safe: Take your time getting to know someone online. Be cautious about sharing sensitive information, and if you notice any inconsistencies or strange behavior, don't hesitate to question it. Trust your instincts, and don't let emotions cloud your judgment. Be aware of emerging technologies capable of duping you and don’t be afraid to ask for a public in-person meeting to determine true interest and verify account authenticity.

The Bottom Line

This Valentine's Day, don’t fall in love with cybercriminal schemes and romance scammers. Stay informed, stay cautious, and spread the word to protect yourself and those around you. Remember, at PhishingBox, we're dedicated to keeping you safe from cyber threats. Happy Valentine's Day!