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Is Valentine’s Day Open Season for Hackers? 5 Email Scams to Watch Out For

February 13, 2015

Valentine’s Day – a time of year that instantly conjures up images of love, candy hearts, roses, and… email security? While all holidays are alluring to hackers, Valentine’s Day packs a special punch, allowing cybercriminals to bring a little romance into the mix.

When love (and desperation) is in the air, people are a little more likely to click that risky link, or to open that suspicious email. Although hackers are constantly coming up with new and innovative ways to get access to your private information, there are five standbys in heavy rotation that can put your email security at risk:

1. Online Dating Scams

Everyone’s looking for love on Valentine’s Day – especially hackers. While it isn’t too strange to receive a rogue email or two from some man or woman claiming to be the love of your life, the frequency of these tends to increase around Valentine’s Day.It shouldn’t be surprising that OkCupid warns its users about phishing attempts, as while it’s unlikely an online dating profile has information a hacker wants, many people often use one login for multiple sites. That makes any stolen account a potential gateway for hackers into your inbox — or worse.

2. Risky Risque Photos

Holiday-themed viruses are nothing new, and the Valentine’s Day trojan is perhaps one of the oldest. Trojans are viruses that masquerade as something tantalizing, tempting you to click on them so that they can spread onto your system (and then to everyone on your contact list).Your best bet to avoid viruses? Never open an attachment sent to your email, regardless of who sent it. The same goes for strange links, even accidentally clicking something in your inbox can compromise your email security.

3. Accidental Sharing

Of course, there’s always the chance that receiving tempting attachments isn’t the problem – it’s sending them.While we’d love to live in a world where everyone is mature when it comes to ending a relationship, there’s always the chance that an ex might get a little too share-happy with embarrassing letters, stories, or pictures. If you use Virtru, you have the ability to recall previously sent secure messages at any time, even months after you’ve sent the email. Virtru can also save you if you have a little too much to drink on Valentine’s Day, and send your ex a long letter about why you’re just perfect together. When you send a secure message with Virtru, you’re not damned to eternal embarrassment when you sober up — just recall your message, and act like it never happened.

4. E-Card Phishing Scams

Hey! It’s your uncle, and I’m sending you a gift card. All you have to do to claim it is to click this link and fill out all of your personal information. Don’t forget your social security number!Sound familiar? Sure, most phishing attempts aren’t so transparent, but you should always be suspicious of anyone claiming to be a friend, relative, or just a benevolent soul (or potential love interest) trying to send you some extra cash for questionable reasons.There’s never any reason a company will ask you for your personal information through an email, and there’s never any reason you should ever have to trade your personal information in order to redeem a gift.

5. Spam

Nothing quite says “I love you” like an inbox stuffed with email you’d never want to read. Of course, while spam is universally annoying, not many know just how dangerous it is. A large chunk of the spam sent these days is laced with malware, even if there isn’t an attachment present in the email. Sometimes, a link will redirect you to another website that will automatically begin downloading an unwanted program.Making matters worse, since spam frequently changes with the season, it’s not unlikely that Valentine’s Day spam will hit your inbox with messages about “local” flower sales and fake shipping requests that might just fool you into clicking on them. While it might seem difficult to fall for a scam like this on the surface, if you legitimately order something around this time, you might be tricked into clicking on a mimic.The best way to protect your email security against something like this is to never click a link in an email – even if it appears to be legitimate. If you’re waiting on a confirmation code or a tracking number, you should always be able to directly log in to the website in question to retrieve that information.

Protecting your email security during the holidays doesn’t have to be difficult, it’s just a matter of paying attention to what’s in your inbox. Be careful about what email you open, and don’t trust a subject line to tell you the whole story.

Don’t open attachments, don’t click links, and think twice before sending anything too embarrassing to your friends. But, just in case you do, grab Virtru and give your email security (and your pride) a little extra protection.

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