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Stop these V-day scams before they break your heart and your bank account

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Stop these V-day scams before they break your heart and your bank account

valen

As Valentine’s Day approaches, many people have love on the brain. Online romance, however, has complicated courtships and coupling dynamics by adding a layer of potential deception to every connection. While we do want to keep romance alive, it’s important to enter the world of online dating with open eyes and ears as much as open hearts. It’s vital to stay vigilant this Valentine’s Day so you don’t become a victim of a scamming Casanova.

One of the most common risks of online dating is falling for a catfish, someone who pretends to be someone else online. This is why Patricia’s email to us felt particularly relevant.

“I need your help. I have met a guy online and have been chatting for months. At first I was able to chat through his email and also by phone. Recently, some things have been said that are making me feel uneasy. I have used Truthfinder, People Finder, and Been Verified and can’t get any information on this guy. When I asked him about that, he told me has been hacked several times, so he doesn’t put anything on the internet.

Someone suggested that it’s possible he is using a VPN. Could this be possible, and if you think it is, can you please tell me how I can get the information I am seeking about this guy? Until recently, I was beginning to think that we may have a lot of things in common, but now, I am not sure.”

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—Patricia, Mt. Pleasant, WI

CLICK TO GET KURT’S FREE CYBERGUY NEWSLETTER WITH SECURITY ALERTS, QUICK VIDEO TIPS, TECH REVIEWS, AND EASY HOW-TO’S TO MAKE YOU SMARTER 

Someone holding a mobile phone showing an online dating match. (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson )

The high stakes of romance scams

Patricia, you aren’t the only one who has concerns over a developing online relationship. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in the most recent data, about 70,000 people have reported being victims of a romantic scam with reported losses of up to $1.3 billion; there are high stakes involved beyond just experiencing potential heartbreak.

MORE: BEST VALENTINES DAY GIFTS 2024

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Behind the virtual veil

It is certainly possible that the person you’ve been chatting with online could be using a virtual private network (VPN), which is a tool that encrypts your internet connection and routes it through a remote server. While the use of a VPN can make it hard to connect the online activity to a physical location, it would not be able to keep his information from being online.

There are, however, data removal services such as the ones we’ve covered here that can be used to limit his information online. Either he’s being proactive about his privacy and safety, or he’s a scammer with a well-thought-out strategy to scam you out of your money, personal information and identity.

MORE: DON’T EVER DO THIS ON A DATING APP

5 warning signs of online heart-breaking scammers

1) Quickly tell you they love you or try to create a strong emotional connection with you

2) Always have an excuse for not meeting you in person or video chatting with you

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3) Ask you for money, gift cards or other favors, often for urgent or personal reasons

4) Send you links or attachments that may contain malware or phishing sites

5) Have inconsistent or vague details about themselves, their location or their work 

valentine's scams 2

Woman in front of laptop making a heart symbol with hands.

MORE: HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM SOCIAL MEDIA SCAMMERS

Top scams to look out for this Valentine’s Day

With a special eye toward Valentine’s Day, here are some top scams that are particularly rampant during this holiday.

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Don’t click that Valentine: Scammers are sending out automated Valentine’s Day cards (usually through chatbots) made to look like they’re from friends and family, but once opened or link clicked (to retrieve the e-card), malicious software can be installed or your device hacked.

Be careful where you look for love: There has been an increase in new domains registered with romantic words around this time of year. Many of these websites have been flagged as potentially dangerous. Stick to established online dating services that include security measures. You can always do a separate search with the name of the dating site you want to check out with words like “scam” or “fake” to see if there has been any negative feedback or experiences.

Do practice good judgment about what you share: Sextortion is a technique where romantic scammers get you to send compromising photos or videos of yourself and then blackmail you for more compromising materials or money.

Sometimes, random scammers will bluff and claim they have a pornographic video of you that will be sent to all your contacts on your phone or computer if you don’t pay them, usually in Bitcoin. While this is an empty threat, shocked recipients of these types of emails have fallen victim to sending over money.

MORE: HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM & ‘VISHING’ SCAMS

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3 steps to avoid romance scammers and stay safe

1) Go slow: Don’t rush into any action, whether it is giving away your personal information or paying for anything. Trust takes time, so it’s okay to build this relationship one interaction at a time. You wouldn’t give a stranger at the grocery store your Social Security number or hand over all your money in your wallet in exchange for a check with your fitness instructor.

2) Trust your instinct: If something doesn’t feel right, it’s OK to end the connection with or without “evidence.” Don’t do anything that feels unsafe or wrong.

3) Saying goodbye: If you don’t feel safe, it is okay to end the connection without a conversation, especially if you feel like you’ll be manipulated into further conversation. It is okay to cut off contact and sometimes even block this person online.

MORE: HOW TO AVOID THE WORST DATING APP SCAMMERS 

What to do if you suspect someone is scamming you online?

Do not send money or personal information: If you receive unsolicited requests for money, bank account details or other personal information, do not comply. Scammers often use urgency and emotional manipulation to pressure victims into sharing sensitive data or making payments.

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Stay skeptical: Be cautious when dealing with unknown individuals online. If something seems too good to be true (such as winning a lottery you never entered), it probably is. Trust your instincts and verify any claims independently.

Verify the source: Before taking any action, verify the legitimacy of the person or organization contacting you. Search for their name, email address or phone number online. Look for reviews, complaints or warnings related to their activities.

Check for red flags: Scammers often create a sense of urgency to rush victims into making decisions. Offers that promise huge rewards for minimal effort are often scams. Be cautious if someone asks for your Social Security number, credit card details or passwords. Scammers may ask for payment via gift cards, wire transfers or cryptocurrency.

Install good antivirus software on all your devices because while you may be swayed by sweet nothings, your antivirus software won’t be. Having antivirus software on your devices will make sure you are stopped from clicking on any potential malicious links which may install malware on your devices, allowing hackers to gain access to your personal information. Find my review of Best Antivirus Protection here.

SCAMS ARE THE POLICY PROBLEM NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT

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Hands holding an iPhone with breakup texts. (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

MORE: HOW CUNNING ROMANCE SCAMMERS DUPED FLORIDA MAN OF NEARLY A HALF MILLION DOLLARS

What to do if you suspect you’re a victim of a romantic scammer?

If, like Patricia, you suspect you may have fallen prey to a romantic scammer, check out some of the resources and action steps to take.

1. Log out of accounts

First, log out of all your accounts on every web browser on your computer. Once you’ve done that, you should clear your browser history.

2. Scan your device

Use a trusted antivirus program to run a comprehensive scan to detect and remove any lingering traces of malware. The best way to protect yourself from having your data breached by romance scammers is to have antivirus protection installed on all your devices. Find my review of Best Antivirus Protection here.

3. Change your passwords

If romance scammers expose your passwords, be sure to change them immediately. Be sure to create strong passwords for your accounts and devices, and avoid using the same password for multiple online accounts. Consider using a password manager to securely store and generate complex passwords. It will help you to create unique and difficult-to-crack passwords that a hacker could never guess. 

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4. Use 2-factor authentication

Implementing 2-factor authentication is just an extra shield that will prevent a romance scammer from getting into your accounts. This way, even if someone steals your password or if you gave your password to a scammer, they will not be able to access your account without the second factor, such as a code sent to your phone or email.

5. Report the romance scammer

If you encounter a suspicious profile or communication on social media, online marketplaces or dating apps, report it to the platform. Also, report scams to your local police and file a complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint or to the Internet Crimes Complaint Center.

6. Search BBB’s scam tracker

Another tool to use is the BBB’s Scam Tracker. You can use it to search keywords or by category to see if your specific scenario or person is being mentioned in any scams posted.

7. Contact your financial institutions

Contact your bank, credit card company or other financial institutions if you suspect any fraudulent activity on your accounts.

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8. Monitor credit reports

Monitor your credit reports and scores for any signs of identity theft or unauthorized inquiries.

9. Invest in Identity theft software

You’ll also want to invest in identity theft software to protect your identity and financial accounts. Theft protection companies can monitor personal information like your home title, Social Security number (SSN), phone number and email address and alert you if it is being used to open an account.  They can also assist you in freezing your bank and credit card accounts to prevent further unauthorized use by criminals. See my tips and best picks on how to protect yourself from identity theft.

Kurt’s key takeaways

New scams, romantic or otherwise, seem to multiply, especially during the holidays, as these scammers prey on tender heartstrings. There are many dos and don’ts when it comes to online dating and cyber safety, but nothing replaces your instinct and common sense.

What’s the worst romantic scam you or someone you know has experienced? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact

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For more of my tech tips & security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter

Ask Kurt a question or let us know what stories you’d like us to cover.

Answers to the most-asked CyberGuy questions:

Copyright 2024 CyberGuy.com. All rights reserved.

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Odysseus achieves the first US Moon landing since 1972

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Odysseus achieves the first US Moon landing since 1972

Intuitive Machines has just made history by becoming the first private aerospace company to land a spacecraft on the Moon’s surface. Following its launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket last Thursday, the robotic Nova-C “Odysseus” lander built by Intuitive Machines has now touched down — also making it the first US spacecraft to successfully land on the Moon since the 1972 Apollo 17 mission.

Described by NASA as a “hexagonal cylinder” on six legs, the Nova-C Odysseus lander is carrying several science and research payloads for the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, which aims to collect important data about the Moon’s surface. It aimed for the lunar south pole, a region of particular scientific interest due to the occurrence of water ice hiding in permanently shadowed craters. Such data could prove useful before NASA’s Artemis program brings people back to the Moon in 2025.

It has a laser retroreflector array to help other spacecraft make precision landings and a radio navigation beacon to provide geolocation data to landers, rovers, and eventually astronauts. 

Image: Intuitive Machines

Odysseus captured several photographs during its journey to the Moon, including some “selfies” with the Earth a day after it launched. One image taken by the lander’s Terrain Relative Navigation camera shows the Moon from approximately 100,000 kilometers (around 62,137 miles), later followed by a close-up shot of the Bel’kovich K crater.

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Odysseus is expected to operate for 14 Earth days, after which Intuitive Machines anticipates that the incoming lunar night — a period of prolonged cold that the lander isn’t designed to withstand — will force it to shut down. Additional payloads from other, private customers aboard the lander include an “EagleCam” CubeSat camera system built by students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, and an art project by Jeff Koons containing 125 miniature Moon sculptures.

This is the first privately owned spacecraft to achieve its goal after the Astrobotic Peregrine lander, launched by United Launch Alliance last month, failed to reach the Moon.

Update February 22nd, 6:54PM ET: Updated to note Odysseus has reached the Moon’s surface.

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AT&T cell phone outage hits the US: How to use Wi-Fi calling

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AT&T cell phone outage hits the US: How to use Wi-Fi calling

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AT&T on Thursday confirmed an outage affecting thousands of cell phone users, including some customers on other networks who attempted to call AT&T users.

“Some of our customers are experiencing wireless service interruptions this morning,” AT&T said Thursday. “Our network teams took immediate action and so far three-quarters of our network has been restored. We are working as quickly as possible to restore service to remaining customers.” 

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If it wasn’t bad enough to find yourself unable to make phone calls from your mobile device, some iPhones are reported to be stuck in Emergency SOS mode as a result of the outage. There are a few steps that have been reported to restore cellular connections on some phones.  

CLICK TO GET KURT’S FREE CYBERGUY NEWSLETTER WITH SECURITY ALERTS, QUICK VIDEO TIPS, TECH REVIEWS, AND EASY HOW-TO’S TO MAKE YOU SMARTER 

A woman adjusts her phone settings to restore cellular connection. (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

How to fix your iPhone when it goes into SOS mode due to a network outage

Outages were reported by tens of thousands of users across the country. In particular, some iPhone users are being hit, leaving devices on SOS mode, preventing them from making calls, sending SMS text messages or using their cellular data.

iPhone’s SOS mode is triggered when your cellular connection is lost, which means you can only complete SOS calls or texts to emergency services. However, there are several things you can do to get your smartphone back online if you are affected by the outage.

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Here’s how to make calls with Wi-Fi Calling not relying on cellular service

How to make Wi-Fi calls on your iPhone

  • Click on “Settings”
  • Click “Cellular”
  • “Wi-Fi Calling”
  • Switch “Wi-Fi Calling on This iPhone” on
  • Click “Enable” Wi-Fi Calling”

If you have a problem enabling “Wi-Fi Calling”:

  • Make sure you have the latest iOS software update
  • If you are still having problems, it may have to do with what type of account you have (e.g., prepaid plans might not work).  If you can, log into your carrier’s account page to confirm that your account is authorized to enable Wi-Fi calling.
iPhone screenshots for WiFi calling

Steps to make Wi-Fi calls on iPhone. (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

How to make Wi-Fi calls on your Android phone

  • Click on “Settings”
  • Click “Connections” or “Calls”
  • Toggle on “Wi-Fi Calling”
Android screenshots for WiFi calling

Steps to make Wi-Fi calls on Android. (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

How to make Wi-Fi calls on your Samsung phone

  • Click the “Phone” icon
  • Tap the “More Options” (three vertical dots)
  • Tap “Settings”
  • Tap “Wi-Fi Calling,” and then toggle the switch to the right to turn the feature on
Samsung screenshots for WiFi calling

Steps to make Wi-Fi calls on Samsung. (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

MORE: WATCH OUT FOR THIS NEW MALICIOUS RANSOMWARE DISGUISED AS WINDOWS UPDATES

For some, turning on Roaming works to make cellular calls 

You can also switch to Data Roaming to regain service, but this feature may cost extra money, depending on your cellular carrier and plan. 

Find these settings in the same Cellular area described above.

Hard Restart can help some

Or you may want to force-restart your iPhone if it isn’t responding:

  • Press and quickly release the volume up button
  • Press and quickly release the volume down button
  • Press and hold the side button
  • When the Apple logo appears, release the side button

MORE: RANSOMWARE RAMPAGE HITS RECORD HIGH WITH THE U.S. ITS TOP TARGET

How easily things can go wrong

This should be a wake-up call to check your own digital security and protection. One weak device in your world can take down the rest of your technology at home.

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Don’t call 911 unless there’s an emergency

Several emergency 911 call centers throughout the US are being overloaded with calls from people simply testing to see if their phones are working. Fire and police departments are asking that people not call 911 unless they have an emergency.

Be prepared with antivirus security protection

Whether this event was a cyberattack or not, be prepared by adding antivirus security protection to all of your devices.

The best way to protect yourself from malicious attacks and disruptions is to have antivirus protection installed on all of your devices. Having good antivirus software actively running on your devices will alert you of any malware in your system, warn you against clicking on any malicious links in phishing emails and ultimately protect you from being hacked. Get my picks for the best 2024 antivirus protection winners for your Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices

MORE: TIPS TO FOLLOW FROM ONE INCREDIBLY COSTLY CONVERSATION WITH CYBER CROOKS

Kurt’s key takeaways

A cellular network outage is a reminder of how heavily we all rely on staying connected with our mobile phones.  There are steps you can take to circumvent cellular networks so you can still make and receive calls when a disruption strikes.  

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By using Wi-Fi calling, you can communicate with our loved ones and emergency services without relying on cellular service. By installing antivirus software, you can safeguard your devices and data from unexpected malicious attacks that can also prevent you from keeping your device operating.

How do you feel about the current state of cybersecurity in the world?? Were you ready for this outage? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

For more of my tech tips and security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter

Ask Kurt a question, or let us know what stories you’d like us to cover.

Answers to the most asked CyberGuy questions:

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Copyright 2024 CyberGuy.com.  All rights reserved.

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It’s just $32.49 to fix your Switch’s Joy-Con drift with Hori’s Split Pad Compact

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It’s just $32.49 to fix your Switch’s Joy-Con drift with Hori’s Split Pad Compact

I love the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Con, but they develop stick drift way too easily, and people with ham-sized hands like mine can’t play for long before cramps set in. They’re also pretty expensive to replace. I’ve personally settled on Hori’s Split Pad Pro Joy-Con replacements to remedy all of that, but it makes my Switch too bulky to fit comfortably in my smaller everyday carry. The Hori Split Pad Compact offer a nice balance between size, affordability, and added grip, and you can get a pair in white / yellow for only $32.49 (about $18 off) at Target.

The Split Pad Compact suffers from the same deficiencies as most third-party Joy-Con replacements: you’ll forsake rumble, NFC, and motion control, and you can’t use them individually as mini controllers. While those features are all nice, there’s no game in the Switch’s library of thousands that require them. The Split Pad Compact does have some tricks of its own, however, like programmable rear buttons and a turbo function.

Most of my friends swear by gaming headset brands like Turtle Beach and Astro, so much so they refuse to try anything else. That’s their loss — SteelSeries makes some of the most comfortable gaming headsets you can buy with their unique ski band comfort strap and thick ear padding. Plus, I think their 40mm drivers produce better sound than anything I’ve tried. That’s why I’m considering buying a second pair of the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless for Xbox and PC, now down to $279.99 ($70 off) at SteelSeries when you use code GET20. You can also buy a set designed for PlayStation and PC for the same price using the same code.

The headset is pricey even after the discount, sure, but it may be the last pair you’ll need to buy for a long while. The base station has an OLED display with a dial that makes it easy to manage audio levels, chat mix, and customize the 10-band equalizer (you can also make adjustments directly from the headset). Perhaps my favorite feature is the integrated charging bay for the spare battery it ships with to swap batteries midgame. I find it much more convenient than any wired charging model.

If you buy the version designed for Xbox and PC, the base station allows it to work with nearly everything. You can connect it via USB to Xbox consoles for 2.4GHz wireless, and there’s a second USB port that lets you connect other systems like a PC or Nintendo Switch. With Bluetooth, you can add PlayStation and mobile devices into the mix. There are also line-in and line-out ports for mixing in other audio sources or streaming. The Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is even suitable for daily outdoor wear thanks to a sleek and unassuming design, a retractable noise-canceling microphone, and active noise cancellation with transparency mode.

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