Thursday, February 09, 2006

Phishing for a Lonely Heart

Romance Scams are not new on the internet. In the past, they have become a variation of Advance fee fraud (419) activity. The typical ploy was to establish e-mail/IM contact with a victim and get them to send money.

Now, it seems, the stakes are getting higher. Valentines Day could bring on a surge of phishing attacks designed to install malware (malicious software) on computer systems. The end-result of many of these attacks is personal and financial information being stolen and used to commit identity theft .

Here is a warning from Michael Carr of Purdue University, courtesy of TMCNet:

Electronic Valentine cards promising sweet nothings may instead infect loved ones' computers with a nasty surprise from a cyber scam artist, according to a Purdue University computer security expert.

"An e-mail or instant message from a 'secret admirer' on Valentine's Day may be specifically designed to pique your curiosity," says Michael Carr, Purdue's chief information security officer. "It's human nature and exactly what the bad guy is counting on."

According to the article, and Mr. Carr, here are items to be wary of:

- Not clicking on links or attachments unless they are part of an expected e-mail or instant message from a reliable, known source.

- Protecting your computer with current anti-virus software and manufacturer-recommended system patches.

- Checking the authenticity of a questionable message by contacting the sender via telephone or another messaging technique.

Sometimes dangerous e-mails can even arrive having been forwarded by or appearing to have been forwarded by people known by the recipient. Carr says even these messages also need to be evaluated and confirmed by a phone call to the sender.

"If you continue to have doubts about the e-mail or instant message, just delete the message," Carr says. "It is not worth the risk of being a victim."

"Information Technology at Purdue, also known as ITaP, provides free- of-charge computer security advice, including how to identify spam and phishing scams, on the Web at

Here is the full story by TMCNet:

Expert: Electronic Valentine Cards Present Cyber Security Risk

Here is a previous post, I did on Romance Scams:

Criminal Activity on Dating Sites

A lot of these scammers lurk on dating sites and there is a Yahoo Group, Romance Scam 419 Yahoo Group (US) that is (in my opinion) the best resource out to learn how to avoid being a victim, or go to if you have become one. The members of this group support victims and actively go about scamming the scammers.

Here is what they do, in their own words:

"Welcome to the group Romancescams. Please feel free to tell us your story whether it is your own personal story or that of someone you know. This group provides a safe haven for all, free of criticism and judgment. Our goal is to educate by getting the word out to as many people as possible. Check out our photo, link, database, and file pages when you get the opportunity."

I highly recommend you find the opportunity to visit them and educate yourself. The group and it's members truly give a lot of themselves to help others, which is a noble cause. They also get quite a bit of revenge on the immoral people, who take advantage of other's feelings.


Anonymous said...

Hi Ted,

How come no picture. Will you be my Valentine?

prying1 said...

Don't fall for it Ted - She's phishing!