Beware of Valentine’s day related online frauds: Experts warn UAE

By Shilpa Annie Joseph, Official Reporter
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Cybersecurity experts have warned shoppers to be vigilant about cybersecurity and phishing schemes when purchasing goods for their loved ones, with a spike in online orders expected for Valentine’s Day this year.

“Valentine’s Day 2021 might look a little different this year with COVID-19 restrictions likely dampening the mood. And while this may prevent couples from dining out in droves, cyber threat actors will seize the opportunity to attack unsuspecting lovers,” said Carl Wearn, head of Threat Intelligence Risk & Resilience at Mimecast, a UK-based IT security company.

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He further stated that companies also need to be more cautious about Valentine’s Day phishing attacks this year, because more employees are using corporate-owned gadgets for personal use and the possibility of targeted phishing attacks is high.

A recent Mimecast survey found that 87 percent of UAE respondents said that they frequently use company-issued devices for personal matters, while 66 percent reported a rise in personal usage of company-owned devices this year.

Furthermore, the survey findings showed that 50 percent revealed they did not report suspicious e-mails to their IT or security departments, putting organizations at risk of severe violations.

Carl Wearn
Carl Wearn
Head – Threat Intelligence Risk & Resilience

“Romance fraud increases exponentially year on year, and with the current pandemic, this year will almost certainly be a bumper one for online romance fraudsters. If you believe you have been a victim please, please speak to friends or family and report it to the police. This kind of offending can, and does cause real hardship as criminals seek to take advantage of an individual’s good nature and demand ever-increasing amounts of money.”

Furthermore, despite the recent changes in society, there is still personal shame among people for being a victim of such crimes, and many may mistakenly believe that being a victim is their own fault.

This is never the case, Mr. Wearn pointed out that, “The individuals carrying out these acts are highly skilled and completely dedicated to what they are doing. It is often a full-time job for them and you are extremely unlikely to be their only victim. Any request for money must be declined. At that stage, it is best to draw a line and cut communication.”

Paul Ducklin, Principal Security Researcher at Sophos commented, “Even if there is just one cybersecurity thing you have been meaning to do for months, such as getting a password manager, turning on two-factor authentication, or setting a proper lock code on your phone… why not use Valentine’s Day to show a bit of cybersecurity love to yourself by actually doing it? And then keep on doing it!”

Cybersecurity improvements that you make in your own digital life help everyone else at the same time, he added. “Remember that if one of your accounts gets hacked, the crooks are almost certainly going to use that account to try to scam or trick your friends and family, using your name to win their trust. So, if you protect yourself better on Valentine’s Day, you protect your loved ones better, too.”

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