Not every Valentine's Day message is as sweet as it may appear.
With the year's most romantic day just around the corner, spammers are taking advantage of both singles and couples with "find your Valentine" spam email and too-good-to-be-true discounts on jewelry, nightlife and other items.
In one particular scam that computer security firm Symantec reported on its blog, victims are infected after opening a malicious ZIP file.
In another, victims are given a bogus discount code and lured into clicking to a page that requests sensitive personal and financial information to be used to commit fraud or ID theft at a later date.
Scammers are infecting singles, too. They know that if you're not shopping for that special someone, you're probably looking for him or her.
Scammers tug on singles' heartstrings with messages from "your secret crush" and the like. They hope to infect computers with malicious email attachments or to direct potential victims to Web pages where private details are demanded.
Dangers lurk outside of Internet users' email inboxes as well. Those seeking a live human connection in an online chatroom could be duped by a "chatbot" into thinking they're talking to a real person.
With a little bit of preprogrammed flirtatiousness, a machine can gain a user's trust and direct him or her to sites that could infect machines with malware, or lure users into entering financial and personally identifiable information.
By that same token, fake online dating profiles have proven to be an effective method of gaining a victim's trust and extracting personal details. Victims can and have had their identities stolen and have even been blackmailed.
The old adage still applies: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Consumers need to be wary of unsolicited messages that promise deep discounts and skeptical of any page that asks for sensitive information.
No matter how lonely or how much users long for love as Valentine's Day approaches, it's important not to let those feelings get in the way of safely surfing the Internet.
A computer virus is much more difficult, and a lot less fun, to remove than a lipstick-laden smooch on the cheek.
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