Be Cautious of Malicious Cupids Exploiting Valentine’s Day Romance

Be Cautious of Malicious Cupids Exploiting Valentine’s Day Romance
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This article originally appeared in on February 12, 2019.

If e-commerce retailers think they can let out a sigh of relief after making it through the holiday season, don’t exhale just yet.

Valentine’s Day is this Thursday, and according to the National Retail Federation, U.S. consumers spent nearly $19.6 billion on Valentine’s Day gifts in 2018. Sales are projected to reach more than $20 billion in 2019, evidence that love sells. Increasingly, consumers are turning to online retailers to deliver romantic trinkets to their soulmates, which means fraudsters will be actively attempting to exploit online consumers who are looking for those last minutes gifts to express their love.

“The economics of Valentine’s Day is important because it’s one of those times of the year when retailers experience a significant lift in sales as people purchase gifts like roses and jewelry, the perfect dinner, and entertainment,” said Mike Bittner, digital security and operations manager for The Media Trust. “More often than not, consumers do the research and make the purchases online, clicking on ads and creating opportunities for bad actors to stage online attacks. Each year, their range of methods grows—from hijacking ads and payment pages, to funneling payment information in transit, to phishing campaigns via digital wallets and apps.”

In 2018, more than a quarter (29 percent) of Valentine’s Day shopping occurred online. Lovers and friends are gifting everything from jewelry and flowers to concert tickets and spa days. While e-commerce retailers will likely see order-spikes this week, it’s important to remember that likely enmeshed in all those upticks are instances of fraud.

“It is always a challenge for merchants during any holiday season as cybercriminals try to blend in with the crowd,” said Don Duncan, security engineer for NuData Security, a Mastercard company. 

In order to protect against fraudsters, Duncan said many merchants are implementing a layered defense that includes technologies that identify customers by their online behavior looking for those subtle patterns that unmask cybercriminals long before they make it to the checkout. Bittner agreed that retailers should get back in holiday mode leading up to Valentine’s Day.

 “If the past year’s data breaches are any indication, cyber crooks will steal identity and financial information by distributing malicious ads and compromising heavily trafficked sites,” he said. “Publishers and online merchants should zealously guard their digital assets for any irregular activities and unauthorized digital third parties who might unknowingly enable bad actors to carry out their attacks.”