Internet dating and romance scams, commonly called “sweetheart scams,” target people with online dating profiles or through social media networks, and are becoming more common. The Internet makes it easy for people to create fake identities, using other people’s pictures to pretend they are attractive and interested in you.
After a bond has been formed, the scammer will typically ask to borrow money, either for a travel expense to come visit, or because of an “emergency” to one of their family members or even to themselves.
The State Department offers these tips on how to recognize sweetheart scams:
- The scammer and the victim meet online – often through Internet dating or employment sites.
- The scammer asks for money to get out of a bad situation or to provide a service.
- Photographs that the scammer sends of “him/herself” show a very attractive person. The photo appears to have been taken at a professional modeling agency or photographic studio.
- The scammer has incredibly bad luck— often getting into car crashes, arrested, mugged, beaten, or hospitalized — usually all within the course of a couple of months. They often claim that their key family members (parents and siblings) are dead. Sometimes, the scammer claims to have an accompanying child overseas who is very sick or has been in an accident.
- The scammer claims to be a native-born American citizen, but uses poor grammar indicative of a non-native English speaker. Sometimes the scammer will use eloquent romantic language that is plagiarized from the Internet.
The FBI also offers additional advice on dealing with sweetheart scams. You can report Internet scams to www.ic3.gov.
Learn more about sweetheart scams and how to avoid them.
The Internet provides unprecedented levels of connectivity and information across many channels, such as email and social networks, and it also helps us accomplish everyday tasks like paying bills, filing taxes and much more. October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM), which encourages you to always pay attention when you’re sharing information on the internet.
NCSAM is a reminder that emerging cyber threats require shared responsibility to help create a safer cyber environment. Each week of October has focused on a specific cyber security theme; this week focuses on the need to develop cyber security education programs to help train the next generation.
The Department of Homeland Security suggests the following tips to help keep you and your information safe online:
- Set strong passwords and don’t share them with anyone.
- Keep your operating system, browser, and other critical software optimized by installing updates.
- Limit the amount of personal information you post online and use privacy settings to avoid sharing information widely.
- Be cautious about what you receive or read online – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Learn more about National Cyber Security Awareness Month and find out about all of the safety themes highlighted this month.
How can I protect my Identity on the web, and who can i trust?
Asked by an anonymous Tumblr user.
Scammers, hackers, and identity thieves are looking to steal your personal information and money. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
- Use security software that updates automatically. This will make sure your protected against the latest threats.
- Treat your personal information like cash. Every time you are asked for your personal information, think about whether you can really trust the request
- Check out companies to find out who you’re really dealing with. If you see an ad or an offer that looks good to you, take a moment to check out the company behind it.
- Give personal information over encrypted websites only. To determine if a website is encrypted, look for https at the beginning of the web address (the “s” is for secure).
- Protect your passwords. Create strong passwords and keep them in a secure place, out of plain sight.
- Back up your files. Copy important files onto a removable disc or an external hard drive, and store it in a safe place.
Learn more about how to keep your information safe online.
DNS - Domain Name System - is an Internet service that converts user-friendly domain names, such as www.fbi.gov, into numerical addresses that allow computers to talk to each other. Without DNS and the DNS servers operated by Internet service providers, computers would not be able to browse web sites, send e-mail, or connect to any Internet services.
Criminals have infected millions of computers around the world with malware called DNSChanger which allows them to control DNS servers. As a result, the cyber thieves have forced unsuspecting users to visit fraudulent websites and made their computers vulnerable to other kinds of malicious software.
Check your computer’s DNS settings. If you’re a victim of the DNSChanger malware, you can register with the FBI.
Learn about DNSChanger malware and how it can affect your computer. (PDF)