By Jessica Patchett, Education and Awareness Specialist

Few things say Happy Valentine’s Day like a story on the ways in which cyber criminals exploit our inner romantic… But you know that we love to keep you all well informed of online risks and how to protect yourself.  

So, first up, let’s cover sextortion.  

This is a type of phishing communication that claims to have a compromising recording of you, which will be released to all of your contacts unless you pay a ransom. Just in case you’re not yet panicked, stressed and embarrassed, the email explains how the recording was taken and includes a password associated to your account. These details are used to make the scam seem more credible.

The reality is that the cyber-criminal is just guessing and hoping that the emotional triggers will make you take an action that you usually wouldn’t. As for the password, they likely found this in a previous data leak related to your email. 

Next, let’s talk about romance fraud.

Did you know that in 2020, £68 million was lost to criminals that commit this type of fraud? Romance fraud is the engineering of a supposed friendship or romantic relationship for fraudulent or financial gain. 

You may think that you’d never fall for such a con, but it’s often not so obvious. Fraudsters spend time and care gaining the trust of their victim and often money or gifts are requested over time.  

Learn more about protecting yourself from this type of fraud or how to support a friend you think might be experiencing it here.  

What should you do if you receive a sextortion email or are the victim of romance fraud? 

  • Don’t panic or feel embarrassed – you’re not alone
  • In your personal life, report any suspicious emails to Report@Phishing.gov.uk. This way you can prevent other people from falling victim to the same scam
  • If you receive the email to your work address, send it to Spam@Coop.co.uk or click on the ‘Report Message’ button in Outlook
  • If the email includes your password, change it. If you receive this to your work email, contact Spam@Coop.co.uk
  • If you have paid a ransom or think you’ve paid money to a fraudster, report it to 101 and contact your bank

Finally, we want to share some top tips for dating online safely.

  • When setting up a new profile, use a long and unique password and enable two-factor authentication where possible
  • Think carefully about the information you share
  • Take your time and never feel pressured to do something you aren’t comfortable with – don’t ignore red flags
  • Do a little research to confirm that the person you’re talking to is who they say they are. Try reverse image searching to check whether the profile pictures have been stolen
  • If you decide to meet someone in person, make sure your friends and/or family know when and where you’re going

Your resources  

So, to recap, being aware of romantic fraud when you’re dating online is really important. You should never send money, share information or do anything you’re not comfortable with online. If something doesn’t sound quite right, trust your instincts and end the conversation.  

Victims of romantic fraud aren’t only left with financial loss, but emotional betrayal. If you need support, contact Victim Support on 0808 1689 111. 

If you’d like to read more on this topic, our SharePoint site shares news topical news articles every Monday morning. On there, you’ll also find lots of other top tips that can help you stay safe online. 

We’re really active on Yammer too and welcome any questions you have on online security. And we’ll be sharing more content throughout Valentine’s Day so stay tuned!