Cyberscamsters on prowl on Valentine''s Day

Raj Kumar Sharma

New Delhi, Feb 13 (PTI) Finding a date online for thisValentine''s Day or sending a gift to your partner through awebsite?

Well, it can be troublesome as cyberscammers would bepreying to exploit gullible Internet users through e-cards,spams and viruses in this season of love, say experts.

From fake online dating profiles used to fool people, tophony eCards, be aware of cybercrooks who can pull on yourheart strings to try and get what they want - your money andsensitive information, they say.

"Malware attacks that occur during special days orfestivals employ social engineering tactics that play uponhuman weaknesses and influence people into falling for scams.

With Valentine''s Day nearing, cyber criminals scout forvulnerable hearts to trap by using fake online dating profilesor phony e-Cards that link to malware," says Vinoo Thomas,Technical Product Manager, McAfee Labs.

Spam and phishing attacks usually increase duringValentine''s Day, as a lot of people send e-cards, and shoponline. Cyber criminals take advantage of this increasedonline traffic by sending spams, free holiday offers andinvites to parties.

"The surprise e-card from an anonymous sender could giveyou a lot of heartache as it may be having a hard drive hackthat can steal your identity. And that online flower purchasefrom an unprotected website can cause problems through creditcard theft," says Pavan Duggal, a cyberlaws expert.

According to a recent report by online market researchcompany Juxtconsult, there are around 49 million internetusers in India out of which 25 million browse the internetevery day.

"An anonymous email may ask about your financial details- usually your credit card number. Needless to say, theinformation you provide will end up with a scammer who canempty your credit card or bank account in just about no time,"says Duggal. .

E-cards have been around since the advent of the internet and scammers widely use them as means of conning people.

"This usually starts when you receive an email with alink to open an e-card sent to you by your loved one. Awebsite opens prompting you to do something like updating yourFlash player by asking you to allow some installation. Whatactually happens is that a Trojan or backdoor worm getsinstalled, siphoning all your vital information for theperusal of the scammer," says Thomas.

Most of such websites disappear with in four to fivedays. Online threat protection company AVG Technologiesestimates that around 8 to 14 million unique users worldwideare exposed to social engineering scams.

If someone is tricked into such a scam, it can leave ahuge hole in his pocket.

"If a victim is scammed into sending money to their lovedone in distress � they can forget about the money sent. If agift was purchased at a fraudulent website � a knock-offproduct of inferior quality could be delivered or worse stillthe victim''s credit card information could be misused toconduct fraudulent financial transactions," says Thomas.

To avoid such online romantic scams, one should notdivulge personal and banking information on the Internet.

"Do not accept offers which appear too good to be trueand do not click on unknown links or emails. Prevention isbetter than cure," says Duggal.

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