Several strategies are now available for consumers to stay protected against online fraud associated with dating and e-commerce risks leading up to Valentine’s Day, according to a technology security company.
According to the National Retail Federation, Valentine’s Day spending will reach an all-time high of $18.9 billion, much of which will be spent online.
Additionally, online shoppers will spend an average of 40 percent more than offline shoppers leading up to Valentine’s Day. With this increase in spending, shoppers and e-commerce websites are a prime target for cybercriminals leading up to Valentine’s Day, according to the data.
ThreatMetrix which cites cybersecurity strategies to avoid getting stung by Cupid’s arrow leading up to Valentine’s Day warns that increase in consumer spending and mobile dating App usage go hand-in-hand with increased online fraud
“Online shopping risks surrounding Valentine’s Day should be considered in the same light as the holiday shopping season and any other significant spending day,” said Andreas Baumhof, chief technology officer, ThreatMetrix. “Consumers must make sure to only purchase from legitimate websites, use unique passwords across websites and avoid storing credit card information online. To keep consumers protected online without added friction, retailers should leverage a trust intelligence network to differentiate between authentic and suspicious transactions. Following the influx of data breaches in 2014, there is a much higher risk of stolen identities in use, so retailers must watch out for red flags such as changes in IP addresses, shipping addresses or login credentials.”
Online fraud and cybercrime surrounding Valentine’s Day goes beyond online shopping. Consumers must also be wary of risks associated with phishing emails and online dating. ThreatMetrix has identified several preventative measures for consumers to avoid falling victim to cybercrime this Valentine’s Day and throughout the year. These include:
Only open emails from trusted sources – Surrounding any major shopping holiday – including Valentine’s Day – cybercriminals seize the opportunity to send phishing emails disguised as receipts from a recent purchase. If a consumer purchases flowers for example, he or she may receive a fake email receipt and once the email is opened, it will download malware on the user’s computer. Consumers must only open emails from trusted sources and websites, even if the subject line looks familiar.
Limit information shared on mobile dating apps – Mobile dating apps such as Hinge, Tinder and Zoosk have exploded in popularity and according to Venture Capital Journal, such apps have raised more than $70 million in capital in recent years. Consumers must exercise the same caution they use with other online activity including only downloading mobile apps from legitimate sources such as the Apple Store. Location-based dating apps also pose risks for consumers, as the more information shared with dating apps – including location, phone number and email address – the more information a fraudster as to piece together and steal an identity. To mitigate risks, consumers should limit the amount of information they share on dating apps, social media and elsewhere.
Exercise caution with online dating – While one in 10 Americans have used an online dating site or mobile app, cybercriminals often create fake profiles to scam online customers or steal identities. One red flag to look out for includes a potential match claiming to be from Nigeria and requesting a wire transfer to cover travel costs. Another risk is when a user shares a link with his or her match, which in some cases turns out to be malicious and downloads software to steal personal information.
“Just as mobile and online spending continuously increases year-over-year, so does online dating and as the industry gains popularity, cybercriminals determine new ways to compromise identities,” said Baumhof. “In the online dating world, users have no way to determine if their matches are authentic or fraudulent. Therefore, consumers must prioritize privacy and cybersecurity when looking for love online this Valentine’s Day and online dating websites must put preventative measures in place to stop cybercriminals in their tracks. In fact, data from the ThreatMetrix Global Trust Intelligence Network (The Network) suggests that fraudulent account registrations occur almost twice as often for online dating sites compared to the average across industries.”
The most effective way for online retailers and dating websites to differentiate between authentic and fraudulent activity is through information sharing, leveraging an anonymized global data repository, such as The Network, which analyzes over 850 million monthly transactions and protects more than 210 million active user accounts across 3,000 customers and 15,000 websites and mobile applications.