On the most romantic day of the year, it's easy to over-share information and become a victim of hacking or fraud. Here are five tips on how to guarantee your Valentine's Day will be ruined by hackers, spammers or scammers.
Valentine's picture from Shutterstock
1. Let someone duplicate your credit card
If you're going out for a romantic dinner with a loved one, make sure you hand over your credit card to the waiter at the end of the meal and let them walk off with it. With luck, the card will be taken and run through a card skimmer, then duplicated and used or sold on the black market. (Counterfeit and skimming fraud cost Australians $37.8 million last financial year, so make sure you keep your card within sight at all times.)
2. Have your card data stolen online
When ordering flowers online, don't order through a reputable florist. The dodgier the website, the better your chances of seeing lots charges appearing on your card from a gambling site you've never heard of. When entering your credit card information, make sure that the page is not secure and has no browser padlock showing so anyone listening in on your purchase can steal your data more quickly and easily. (Unencrypted transactions or "spoof" websites — ones set up to look like legitimate businesses — are filled with the kinds of naughty surprises you wouldn't want to get on Valentine's Day. Only order from secure and reputable online florists.)
3. Use your card's magnetic stripe wherever possible
Make sure you never rely on the chip protection built into your credit card, because it's much easier for a hacker to remotely steal data from a retailer or food outlet that still relies on running your card through a magnetic stripe reader. (Hackers have stolen hundreds of millions of credit card numbers from retailers and restaurants in recent years. If you're not sure whether they are using chip technology or not, then simply pay cash.)
4. Share as much personal info as you can with everyone
Single and ready to mingle? According to research conducted by iAcquire, dating websites see significant spikes in traffic after Valentine's Day as singles see friends, colleagues and strangers celebrating on social networks. If you're relying on a dating website to find that special person, make sure you share as much personally identifiable information as possible so they can apply for loans, credit cards, or make other financial commitments in your name, without your knowledge. (Share enough about yourself to be interesting to a potential partner, but not enough to identify you — after all, isn't getting to know someone part of the enjoyment of dating?)
5. It's OK to be infected with malware, if it comes from a naked girl
Tinder has taken the dating world by storm, and scammers haven't been far behind. They have set up an army of automated accounts to mimic the behaviour of potential matches and prey on the lonely. If you see a message from a scantily clad girl offering to get personal, she is almost certainly a robot that will take you to a website which might attempt to install malware on your device that steals your personal and credit card information that can be sold on the black market for a good profit. (Ignore any links provided in Tinder conversations, and ask questions to ensure the "person" at the other end of your chat is not a cleverly written program before sharing any personal details - including your phone number.)
Getting hacked can be a real pain, and we're not talking about the kind of pain 50 Shades Of Grey promotes. Hackers see peak holiday seasons as an opportunity to steal sensitive personal information off the unsuspecting, and that threat exists whether you're buying a pair of movie tickets, a bottle of champagne, or an extra large tub of ice cream to eat alone.
So this Valentine's Day, remember to use protection. Data protection. Because that credit card you're using to buy a box of chocolates? It could be the very same one a criminal will use to buy a hot tub filled with chocolate.
Stephen Cavey is a data security expert for Ground Labs.