On Valentine's Day, people's emotions run all over the map – some are head-over-heels and want to shower their loved one with gifts, while others are despondent because currently they have no one special in their life. Whatever your love status, one thing to guard against at this time of year is scams.
Valentine's Day brings out the best – and worst – in human behavior. Our impulse is to be generous and search for the ideal gift. Internet thieves know this and coolly set traps for unsuspecting shoppers. And, not surprisingly, dating websites experience greater activity, along with a corresponding increase in relationship scammers.
Here are some of the more common Valentine's Day scams:
Electronic greeting cards are popular year-round, especially near holidays. Scammers count on you not paying attention when you receive an email with an innocuous subject line like, "Someone you know just sent you an e-card."
Unless you're certain someone sent you an e-card, never click on links or follow instructions to download software to open the message. Chances are you'll load a virus or malware onto your computer, dooming you to receive endless spam or even endangering your personal and financial information.
Valentine's Day is the busiest day of the year for florists. Since many people order flowers online, these purchases are a common target for fraud. A few tips when choosing a florist:
Beware of emails and social media ads touting great deals on other Valentine's themed gifts like chocolates, jewelry or lingerie. Unless you've previously done business with a company that legitimately has your email address, be skeptical. Watch out for minor typos in the web address – http://www.macys.comm/ instead of http://www.macys.com/, for example.
It's no coincidence that dating websites are busier during the winter holidays and leading up to Valentine's Day. Lonely people's defenses are lowered, making them vulnerable to online romance scams. Before they know it, victims are conned into sharing personal or financial information, or lending money – money they'll never see again. Watch out for these warning signs:
Bottom line: Don't let your emotions get the better of your common sense when it comes to matters of the heart. For more tips on spotting and reporting online scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission's website (www.ftc.gov).
Jason Alderman directs Visa's financial education programs.