The Cyber Security Authority (CSA) has cautioned the public to exercise caution and due diligence in their online activities amid the Valentine’s Day celebration. Valentine’s Day is an occasion when people show their affection for others by sending gifts or items with messages of love.
The Authority said malicious cyber actors also used the celebration to defraud unsuspecting victims through various schemes.
It added that of the total losses recorded for 2023, at least GHC 3,558,940.00 was lost through online shopping and romance scams.
In a press statement issued by the Cyber Security Authority and made available to the Ghana News Agency, it said malicious actors created fake websites or online shops or impersonated existing businesses on social media, offering heavily discounted packages and items.
It added that victims were enticed to send money for these items which they never received, or they received in substandard forms.
The statement also said malicious actors created fake business listings or profiles with their contact details on Google Maps mimicking legitimate businesses or brands and used search engine optimization techniques to manipulate search results for the targeted brand to divert legitimate inquiries to the scammers’ contact numbers.
“After the unsuspecting victims engage and pay, usually to a mobile money wallet for products, the scammers block them from making further contact, and the expected delivery does not materialize,” the statement added.
It said malicious actors send unsolicited emails or messages claiming to be from a romantic partner, or a company offering Valentine’s Day deals.
The statement said these messages contained links or attachments that when clicked, install malicious software, known as malware, or steal personal information.
It said malicious actors created fake online profiles to deceive victims into believing they were engaging in a trusting relationship, using the relationship to persuade the victims to send money, provide personal and financial information, or purchase items for them.
The statement advised the public to be cautious of “too good to be true” deals on Valentine’s Day packages or gifts, and to use a reputable online marketplace or retailer when purchasing Valentine’s Day gifts.
It added that individuals should look for reviews and customer feedback before making an online purchase.
“While search engines provide convenient access to information, they can also display manipulated or misleading results, check on the official websites or with reliable sources to validate the contact details of shops rather than relying solely on search engine results,” it stressed.
The statement advised the public to be alert for fake online shops and hyped adverts, especially on Facebook, Instagram, and Telegram, where in most cases, individuals should request a physical location to enable the validation of legitimacy of the business.
“Insist on payment only after delivery and inspection, be wary of unsolicited messages or emails claiming to be from a romantic partner, especially those that make requests for money or other sensitive information,”
“Do not share personal information such as your Ghana card number, credit card information, or bank account details with anyone, ensure that mobile money payments are made to wallets in the name of the online shop you are dealing with,” it said.
The statement said the CSA has a 24-hour Cybersecurity or Cybercrime Incident Reporting Point of Contact (PoC) for reporting cybercrimes and for seeking guidance and assistance on online activities.