Broken hearts put holes in wallets

It's not even Valentine's Day and hopeless romantics have already had their hearts broken... and wallets lightened.

Ever-vigilant malware creators haven't missed the opportunity to scam romantics using obfusciated Valentine's Day messages to deliver malware, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

These types of attacks have risen by 30 per cent according to the competition watchdog, which said it was impelled to publicly warn users after receiving more than 550 complaints of such scams last year.

Fraudsters know that trust is the key to profiting from love: Scams are proflic across online dating web sites, chat rooms and social networking platforms where love-struck victims are conned into providing just enough details to facilitate identity theft or are convinced to wire cash into a thief's bank account.

ACCC acting chairman Peter Kell said fraudsters often exploited significant social events such as Valentine's Day.

"Scammers prey on the victim's emotional vulnerability by representing that they wish to travel to Australia or are in urgent need of money and ask for help to pay for airfares, passport, family hospital bills and other costs," Kell said in a written statement.

He noted the case of a woman who blew $95,000 and lost her house after a scammer masquerading as an online friend requested the money for medical treatment.

Another victim lost money after he paid for a supposed friend to visit and stay in Australia, and was scammed further when the lady didn't arrive and convinced him to pay for another flights.

In the US, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launched investigations into unscrupulous scammers who cashed-in on donations to victims of the Haiti earthquake in January, and spurious anti-virus programs which are estimated to have collected a whopping $150 million from victims paying for fake, broken or non-existent software.

Australian law enforcement agencies are chasing fraudsters who last December used the badge of the Western Australia Police to give legitimacy to an eBay scam.

As part of the Online Offensive--Fighting Fraud Online initiative users are warned to

  • Only give personal details to persons you know and trust.
  • Be wary of anyone who you have not personally met that asks you to send them money, gifts or your banking and credit card details.
  • Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social network sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity.
  • Carefully assess people's profiles.
  • When you agree to personally meet, tell family and friends where you are going.
  • Keep your computer updated with the latest anti-virus and anti-spyware software and use a good firewall. Increasing numbers of Australians are falling victim to scams, especially online.

This story, "Broken hearts put holes in wallets" was originally published by Computerworld Australia .

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