With Valentine’s Day festivities fast approaching, criminal specialists have warned those looking to spoil their loved ones with unique gifts to keep their wits about online bargains.
Much-like the fever witnessed around public holidays, and Black Friday specials, the day of love is no exception for criminals looking to take advantage of, defraud and deceive members of the public.
Specialist Investigator Mike Bolhuis said as February 14, draws closer there was a surge of fake online retailers who were offering attractive deals on flowers, gifts, or even romantic getaways.
Bolhuis said what often ended up happening was that the items never get delivered to customers or are of substandard quality.
In other instances, he said criminals lured their victims through phishing emails or messages containing Valentine’s Day promotions or e-cards containing malicious links that lead to phishing websites.
“It is advisable for people to stick to reputable and well-known online retailers, but also for them to check reviews and ratings before making any purchases.”
While others may be looking to find new love interests, Bolhuis said scammers were also luring hopefuls by creating fake online dating profiles to establish romantic relationships and eventually, request money or personal information.
“People need to be cautious when interacting with strangers online at all times. Avoid sharing sensitive information and be sceptical of requests for money or financial assistance from someone you’ve just met online, especially those who quickly profess their love.
“Every year we hear heartbreaking stories to solicit donations in the name of love on Valentine’s. Remember these scammers will sell anything and everything associated with valentine's day including luxury brand handbags, shoes, jewellery, and even motor vehicles,” Bolhuis said.
The specialist investigator said the key to staying safe and avoiding being taken for a ride was research, or alternatively use credit card or other payment methods that allow one to dispute charges if they are dissatisfied.