Home > 2014 > Identity Theft

5 Valentine’s Day Scams to Avoid

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 0 Comments

Cupid has some competition this Valentine’s Day: Scammers are taking aim at your heart and pocketbook with scams that can lead to identity theft and more.

Beware of these five sweetheart swindles and follow our expert tips to protect yourself:

1. Infected E-cards

Online greeting cards are an easy way for scammers to infect your computer with malware that gives them remote access to your files, online banking accounts and passwords. Or it can enlist your computer as a spam-sending “botnet.”

Tip: Don’t click on embedded links from incoming e-cards, especially when they’re from an unnamed friend or secret admirer. Steer clear of names you don’t recognize and senders like webmaster@hallmark.com. Even if you recognize the sender’s name, go to the card company’s website to open the card and read it. Legitimate e-cards provide a notification message with a confirmation code that lets recipients open cards at those sites.

2. Google Gotchas

Many gift-giving sweethearts begin their online shopping on search engines such as Google or Yahoo instead of a specific retailer website. Scammers take advantage by creating bogus websites. Posing as legitimate vendors, they sell counterfeit goods or nothing at all while collecting customers’ credit card information that can be fraudulently used.

Tip: You’re safer shopping for a sweetheart’s gift from a reputable retailer’s website. Type the address instead of relying on keyword searches via search engines. Some bogus websites found on search engines look like the real McCoy, but are merely well-designed copycats.

3. Facebook Fiends

Beware of poems, love letters, quizzes or other messages on social media websites purported to come from friends. They may be scammer-sent ruses that get you to download malware or make purchases on unsafe websites. Also beware of Valentine’s Day’s teasers or apps that lead you to survey websites that generate commissions for scammers or, depending on the information provided, put you at risk for identity theft.

Scammers use tricks like the ones listed here to compromise your identity. If you’re worried about your identity becoming compromised, you can monitor your credit for free using the Credit Report Card, a free tool that updates two of your credit scores every month. Any unexpected, big changes in your credit scores could signal identity theft and you should check your credit reports, which you can access for free once a year from each of the major credit reporting agencies.

Tip: Think twice before opening Facebook messages with generic greetings such as “Valentine’s Day” and “Special Greeting.” Even if you know the sender, realize the message may not be from him or her. Some rogue apps are instantly spread to others after being opened or posted on a Facebook wall. Also don’t believe claims such as last year’s “Facebook anti-spam dialog box,” a ruse that has led users to a dubious survey.

4. Sale-Related Spam

Expect an inbox littered with offers for deals on chocolates, jewelry, roses and other Valentine’s-themed trinkets. But be skeptical unless the offer is from a company you’ve done business with—and that already has your contact information. Links within such emails can also unleash malware or lead you to scammer-run copycat websites.

Tip: Carefully read the address. For example, look for “www.tiffany.com” vs. “www.tiffanyco.mn” (suggesting a Mongolia-based website). Try this neat trick: Without clicking, point your mouse to hover over the link to see its full address. Copy and paste (again, without clicking) that link into a Microsoft Word document. By right-clicking on the pasted link and selecting “Edit Hyperlink” from the menu that appears, a pop-up window should appear that shows the Web address to which the link directs in the “Address” field.

5. Romance Ruses

The most despicable sweetheart swindle of all costs the typical victim more than $10,000—and has caused enough shame and heartache to prompt some to commit suicide. These scams go like this: Smooth-writing Romeos, often part of overseas organized crime rings, scroll dating websites and chat rooms. Stealing photos from legitimate modeling websites, they invent fake identities tailored to their victims’ interests. (You mention you love dogs, they claim to be a running an overseas animal rescue.) After weeks or months of online wooing comes the inevitable request: They either ask for money via a wire transfer for some emergency—or a plane ticket to meet you. Or they send you checks for you to cash and forward back, but what’s sent is usually counterfeit, leaving you liable for forwarded funds and possible arrest for check fraud.

Tip: Before giving away your heart and money, investigate your new sweetie at RomanceScams.org. If his or her photo is posted, know it’s a scammer who stole that picture. Signs you’re headed for a rip-off: Your new cyber companion is too quick with declarations of love; writes with “Scammer Grammar,” which is inconsistent with the typically assumed identities of educated businessmen or military officers; and claims a hard-luck or feel-good personal story, such as working for an animal rescue or orphanage.

More on Identity Theft:

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team