Let's start with some disappointment: You have not won any Valentine's Day jewelry or flowers or chocolates, despite what that email you just got says. You also didn't win new perfume, and, sorry again, you haven't been automatically entered into a sweepstakes for $50,000 worth of prizes. If you can come to terms with this in the run-up to Feb. 14, your computer and bank account will be much better off.
Symantec researchers have spotted phishing emails already spreading around the Web promising women enticing, romantic gifts like berries, bouquets and bracelets, as well as less-alluring but sure-to-sell items like weight-loss pills -- all at unbelievable, discount prices.
Unbelievable is the key word; every year scammers cast a wide net in the weeks before Valentine's Day in the hopes of snagging susceptible victims, in this case, most often women hungering for an Edible Arrangement or a Cartier Love bracelet, or any number of gifts.
The crop of emails Symantec found come with addresses including, "Valentine's Berries," "Valentine's Gifts," "Valentine's Day Sweets," and variations on the theme, and attempt to lure victims with subject lines such as: "Be Different! Give yourself a gift for Valentine's Day"; "Impossibly delicious berries from $19.99 — the PERFECT gift for Valentine's Day!"; or "Got Fat? Get Thin. Lose 30 pounds before Valentine's Day."
Like any phishing scam worth its weight in impossibly delicious berries, some of the emails redirect recipients to Web pages that request their personal information and bank acount details. Others, Symantec noted, take users to a phony Facebook app that, if installed, can fire any number of weapons upon victims' computers.
To stay out of trouble when shopping for Valentine's Day gifts, make sure you go directly to a store's website; don't purchase anything from a site included in an unsolicited email. Make sure the site you buy from is secured with HTTPS encryption and, as always, install anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer, which can help weed out email offers that are out to harm you.