Valentine’s Day celebrates love and affection, causing many people to feel more trusting and hopeful around the second week of February. Identity thieves unfortunately take advantage of this goodwill and run a variety of schemes to get their hands on your personal information and bank account. This Valentine’s Day, enjoy a fun night out with your loved one and rest assured that you did everything you could to help protect your identity.
Here’s how you can get started:
- Don’t overshare online: Social networks like dating sites typically ask you to share personal information such as your birthday and special interests. Be mindful of what you’re publishing, and remember that everything you post could be used to assume your identity.
- Protect your passwords: If you’re a member of a dating service or website, make sure you’re using a password that’s unique to that account. Otherwise, a hacker could gain access to your password and try using it to unlock your email and bank accounts. Your password should be long and complicated, with a mix of upper and lower case letters as well as numbers and symbols. It shouldn’t contain personal information like your birthday or your anniversary, as these can easily be discovered online. If you’re having trouble keeping track of your passwords, try using a password manager to keep them secure yet accessible to you.
Criminals will be sending out malicious links via email, social networks or even text messaging around Valentine’s Day. They can even make it look like one of your friends on Facebook sent you a link, encouraging you to click on it so your computer downloads malware. Here are some tips for avoiding these tricks:
- Don’t click on messages from friends that seem out of character: If you see that a friend has forwarded you a link, don’t assume it’s really from them. Cyber-criminals can see who you’re friends with online and send fraudulent messages in the hopes of catching you off guard.
- Don’t click on urgent messages: Criminals use a sense of urgency and anxiety to get people to click on their messages. If something reads “urgent” or “open now” it’s probably a scam. Instead, contact the institution or person separately so you can verify or dismiss the situation.
- Don’t fall for special offers: Identity thieves will often send messages promising special offers on seasonal items, like 50 percent off an order of flowers or a month’s’ free trial of Match.com. If you think an offer might be real, go to the company’s website to search for the promotion rather than clicking directly on the link.
- Don’t trust a legitimate-looking URL: Thieves can create websites with URLs that are only slightly misspelled when compared to a legitimate institution, so that it’s difficult to catch the difference and easier to fool people. The safest policy is to never click on links.
You can and should have a wonderful, crime-free Valentine’s Day. Just be wary of links and don’t let anyone steal your identity along with your heart.