While Valentine’s Day is usually about lovers showing their affection for each other, many singles use the day to, erm, well we don’t know because we plan on playing games.

For those who prefer searching for their perfect match the ease of online dating is undeniable. Seriously, who wants to go through the effort of looking presentable in the hopes of meeting a mate at your local watering-hole when you could just swipe photos of would-be partners from the comfort of your couch? Just me then?

Sadly, as with most online activities, online dating is plagued by cybercrime and folks looking to take advantage of the Lonely Hearts Club.

“Although they come in different flavours, in most cases the criminals committing romance scams study the profiles of their victims and collect personal information, such as their work activity, their level of income, and their lifestyle, because the mismanagement of our personal information in the digital age allows a criminal to build a fairly detailed profile of a future victim,” explains chief executive officer at ESET South Africa, Carey van Vlaanderen.

Romance scammers use various techniques to lure unsuspecting victims into their web of deceit. Scammers will try to emotionally manipulate their target to send them money. Other methods employed by romance scammer include sextortion and catfishing.

So how do you protect yourself from cybercriminals looking to break your heart, bank account or both?

For starters look for inconsistencies in their profile and their conversation with you. Naturally not all inconsistencies constitute a threat but apply a degree of caution should you spot any.

It’s also advised that you hold back on compromising information. Don’t tell somebody you just matched with your physical address or your work address. It’s also advised that you don’t share your phone number. While this is good advice it’s also rather difficult considering WhatsApp’s ubiquity. Our advice is to suss the person out on the platform you met before handing over your mobile phone.

The ESET South Africa CEO also advises folks be suspicious of anybody that constantly has an excuse for not meeting in person. Building on from that point, always meet people in a public space first and tell a few friends and family where you’ll be and when to expect contact from you, just in case.

“It is common that after a while (weeks or months) and after having established some confidence, the person you know will tell you a very elaborate story that ends with a request for money, sending a gift or something similar. Never send money to someone you have met in an online dating scenario before getting to know them personally,” adds van Vlaanderen.

The best piece of advice is to trust your gut. If something feels off or suspicious walk away.

Stay safe out there folks.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]