Protect Your Heart (And Wallet) From These Valentine’s Day Scams

This is the year. It’s the year you’ll wake up on Feb. 15 without the stinging sensation of intense regret that inevitably follows after mourning Valentine’s Day at the bottom of a booze bottle, covered in bits of melted chocolate stuck to you in your sleep, because your beloved turned out to be a scammer. Because this year, you’re going to be prepared for any romance scams that may come your way.

While scams that prey on the tender-hearted can pop up at any time of year, Valentine’s Day is a big event for scammers, who know some folks are even more susceptible to take the romantic bait.

We’ve covered some scams in the past, and our esteemed colleagues down the hall at Consumer Reports have also highlighted a few that you may not know about. We share this knowledge with you, so you can use it to arm yourself against having an even more spectacularly crappy Valentine’s Day than you usually do. No regrets.

The online romance scam: In which lonely hearts on the Internet find a potential love match on a dating or social networking sites, and said object of affection asks for money to travel to meet their heart’s content in the flesh. It doesn’t end well. Experts (and common sense) suggest not sending money to anyone you don’t know, even if they tell you they really, really love you and this could be the real thing.

Fake e-cards: Though the idea of a surprise e-card from a friend or admirer might be a nice one, that electronic greeting card that just arrived in your email inbox could be a ploy to send you to a spoofed website. It might look like Hallmark or Paperless Post, Consumer Reports points out, but clicking the link to open the card could invite malware into your computer that will allow scammers to spam the ever-loving heck out of you, and give strangers access to your address book.

Look for a confirmation code that shows the card is legitimate, and use your browser to open the website instead of clicking directly on the email link.

Phishing with Phlowers: You should already be aware of phishing emails, which try to dupe recipients into handing over credit card and other personal information. Scammers can use those skills on Valentine’s Day by posing as a florist, and sending emails that warn you that the bouquet you ordered for your loved one can’t be delivered in time. What to do? You have to log in and re-enter your credit card information — which is a huge red flag.

This scam feeds on the fear many people might have around Valentine’s Day, the fear that their thoughtful gift won’t arrive on time. Don’t click on any links like that, and don’t give out your credit card information unless you want a scammer to be really sweet on you. Call the florist directly if you have any doubts about your order.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.