Keep your computer secure this Valentine’s DayWhich?’s tips for avoiding love-themed scams

12 February 2011

heart of petals

You could go for a themed pink wedding, or use the colours of the rainbow flag

As Valentine’s Day approaches, it’s easy to get swept along by the romance of the occasion. But while you may catch the love bug, it’s not all hearts and flowers as far as your computer is concerned. 

Valentine’s Day is a popular time for online scammers and criminals to exploit unsuspecting romantics and cause mayhem. Here are our top tips for keeping your computer and your details safe on the most romantic day of the year.

1. Be wary of e-Valentine Cards

We all love to get cards on Valentine’s Day, but if a message of love pops up in your inbox, resist the temptation to open it up. Email cards or e-cards are a popular and effective way for scammers to take control of your PC. If you receive an eCard from someone you don’t know, don’t open it. If you do know the person, email them separately to make sure the card is genuine.

2. Don’t take Facebook Valentine’s messages at face value

Social networking sites like Facebook are another favourite for villains and spammers on the lookout for unsuspecting victims. If you receive Valentine’s messages from a 'secret admirer' via your Facebook page, or see a link to a Valentine’s-themed website, steer well clear. At best you’ll get a marketing survey to fill out, at worst you’ll end up spamming your friends or exposing your computer to malware.

3. Act with your head not your lonely heart

If you’re looking for love this Valentine’s Day, be cautious about the level of information you give out online. You wouldn’t hand your personal details to someone you’d just met in a pub, so don’t do it online either. Internet chat rooms are a popular place for scammers to prowl. They’ll target their prey with seemingly innocent flirtatious chat when all they’re actually after is personal information.

Be cautious when using online dating websites, too. However long you’ve been chatting online, don’t give away too much, and definitely don’t give away any money if asked. Find out how to reduce the risk of criminals accessing your details in the free Which? guide to protecting your online ID.

4. Phishing for compliments

Ordered chocolates or flowers online for your loved one this Valentine’s? Make sure you don’t fall foul of Valentine’s phishers. Phishing emails are messages disguised as something perfectly innocent that attempt to elicit credit card or bank account details from unsuspecting recipients. Valentine’s themed phishing emails include messages purporting to be from the company you bought the flowers or chocs from to say that your credit card has not gone through and asking you click on a link to a website and re-enter your details. If you’re unsure whether it’s genuine, go back to the website where you bought the gift, find a phone number and ring them to check.

5. Make a date to update

Internet security software is a cruicial factor in keeping your computer free of malicious viruses and other threats. But it’s vital to make sure it’s up-to-date, too. Ensure that you have internet security software installed and that it’s set to update automatically.

Find out more about how to keep your computer safe from viruses and other internet security threats with the Which? guide to choosing anti-virus software

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