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Porn no longer scammers' favourite bait

13 Feb 2015

After analysing a wave of scams spreading worldwide before Valentine’s Day strikes again this year, internet security software providers Bitdefender researchers have found that pornography is no longer a scammer’s favourite bait with Valentine-themed spam containing links to pornographic videos falling by 1% in 2015.

“But that doesn’t mean scammers have gone all romantic – they’re just resorting to other old tricks to leave them heart-broken, and broke,” the company says.

Some seasonal scams never get old. These include fake travel offers, heart-shaped diamond jewellery, clothes, personalised e-cards, restaurant coupons and more. 

Here are some of the most popular Valentine’s Day scams of the season:
1.     Travel offers
Watch out for emails promising a romantic getaway for two or plane tickets at unbelievably low prices - you can end up paying for your trip and staying at home, too. Even offers from reputable brands should be viewed with a critical eye.
2.     Restaurant discounts
They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but be careful not to order adware and malware with your pizza! These sites can collect your location and other very personal details which reveal your identity to thieves.
Wine-tasting events have also become quite popular and identity thieves were quick to seize on the opportunity this year. They attract wine-lovers using names of celebrities like Johnny Depp but once the users click, they can be redirected to a fake site that steals account credentials.
3.     Donation scams
Scammers are known to take advantage of people’s good will on any occasion and Valentine’s Day is no exception. Emails claiming to be from PETA or UNICEF encourage users to make a donation in the name of someone they love, but the money will most probably end up in hackers’ hands.
4.     Phony jewellery
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend but they can also prove to be their worst enemy. These types of scams are extremely popular these days, so users should research sellers’ sites before paying a lot of cash for a fake diamond ring or other precious items.   
5.     Gift shopping
Scammers know everyone is shopping for the perfect Valentine’s Day gift, be it flowers, watches or clothing items.
6.     Personalised e-cards
Compared to last year, there is a decrease in the number of tricks inviting users to download Valentine’s Day wallpapers or special greeting cards that redirect to fraudulent websites.
7.     Mysterious items
Some scammers have gone completely undercover, luring users with a mysterious offer in hopes of stirring their curiosity.

As tempted as you may be, don’t rush into buying gifts over the internet without a detailed preliminary check. Remember these simple security tips:
•  Avoid buying anything while connected to a public Wi-Fi network. If you must, use a dedicated payment solution such as Bitdefender Safepay to securely connect to your bank account or e-payment website from an unencrypted hotspot.
•  Ignore spam messages. Ask friends for advice or check the legitimacy of an online shop on forums by simply googling it.
•  Choose only web shops with SSL certificates to confirm their identity. A URL starting with HTTPS and a padlock at the end should indicate you are on the right page.
•  Use an antivirus solution that can handle fake advertisements and get rid of them for you. Always keep your browser, your software and your antivirus updated. Banker Trojans and rootkit-based malware steal banking information, transactions or even log into your online bank accounts while laying low on your system.

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