Cybercriminals will often leverage certain holidays and other calendar events to target people with specific scams. Tax season will see an increase in tax-related scams. The summer months will trigger vacation and travel scams.

And Valentine’s Day will give rise to romance scams, often directed toward people who use dating sites and apps. For users of such sites, there are ways you can protect yourself, courtesy of the FBI and security providers Vectra and Thycotic.

SEE: Dark Web activities: 10 signs that you’ve been breached (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Criminals will search dating sites, apps, chat rooms, and other social media networking sites in an attempt to initiate relationships with unsuspecting users. The goal is to develop a connection that they can use to scam you out of money or gain access to personal information.

Victims of such scams sometimes avoid reporting them out of shame, embarrassment, or humiliation, according to the FBI. As such, the criminals can make a clean getaway.

Here are seven tips from the FBI to protect yourself from romance scams:

  1. Only use reputable, nationally recognized dating websites. However, be aware that scammers may be using them too.
  2. Research photos and profiles in other online search tools and ask questions.
  3. Never provide your financial information, loan money, or allow your bank accounts to be used for transfers of funds.
  4. Do not allow attempts to isolate you from family and friends.
  5. Do not blindly believe the stories of severe life circumstances, tragedies, family deaths, injuries, or other hardships geared at keeping your interest and concern.
  6. If you’re planning to meet someone in person you have met online, meet in a public place and let someone know where you will be and what time you should return home.
  7. If you’re traveling to a foreign country to meet someone, check the State Department’s Travel Advisories beforehand, provide your itinerary to family and friends, and do not travel alone if possible.

“Holidays like Valentine’s Day are a particular focal point for social engineering tricks as people tend to have elevated emotions,” Chris Morales, head of security analytics at Vectra, said.

“As many people feel particularly lonely on this day, any kind of attention would be comforting,” Morales said. “No matter how desirable a person may sound online, everyone must tread with caution. Only trust those you know in person and even then be cautious.”

Valentine’s Day is a special day for romance for many couples. For criminals, it’s a special day for scamming.

“For cybercriminals, Valentine’s Day is just another holiday and the opportunity for just another scam.” Terence Jackson, chief information security officer at Thycotic, said.

“If you don’t know who the mark is, it’s most likely you,” Jackson added. “Phishing is still the attacker’s weapon of choice, and there will be no shortage of well-crafted emails and messages designed to emotionally engage you and prevent you from making rational decisions.”

Toward that end, here are six practical tips shared by Jackson.

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
  • Stay clear of stories that pull at your heart strings from unsolicited sources or strangers requesting money.
  • Never share usernames, passwords, bank account numbers or credit card numbers with strangers.
  • Use common sense. That Romeo or Juliet is more likely a scammer than your soul mate.
  • If the request is from someone familiar, call them to verify the request. Don’t just take a social media message at face value.
  • If your new “love” is on a dating app, and one of the first requests is for money, run like the wind.

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