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Avoid heartbreaks online: Protect yourself from scams this Valentine’s season

By Brooke Villanueva Published Feb 10, 2023 11:05 am Updated Feb 10, 2023 12:23 pm

As people get busy expressing their love for their significant other this Valentine’s season, fraudsters, meanwhile, get busy expressing their love for... scamming. 

February is a time for love declaration through gift-giving. It could be flowers, chocolates, or any thoughtful present that could bring delight to the love of your life. 

Since scammers are well aware that people are willing to spend a lot of moolah for their loved ones this month, fraudsters get aggressive in tricking people into giving away important information and their one-time password (OTP) especially in online purchases, according to Carlos Tengkiat, Chief Information Security Officer and EDM of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.  An example could be sending bogus promotional or Valentine's deals that are too good to be true to trick people into sending a link or giving personal information. 

“It is a low-risk and high-returns activity for criminals,” Tengkiat said. “In the best-case scenario, the poor victim will only lose some of their money. At worst, they will lose all of it.” 

Here are some of the most prevalent methods that are often used by scammers as they pretend to be a trusted and reputable entity or person to acquire personal or account information: 

  • Phishing or vishing: These are messages you get from scammers posing as legit financial institutions or trusted organizations so you’ll be tricked into clicking a link. The link usually leads to a site that will install malware or ransomware on your device or reveal your sensitive information. These are either sent via email or SMS;
  • Vishing, which is similar to phishing, but is only done through phone calls or voice messages; and
  • Pretexting, where a cybercriminal comes up with a story that sounds credible in order to make their target trust them with their valuable information.

Such attacks, when successful, lead to much stress and heartbreak among victims.  Aside from the loss of hard-earned savings, the attack could cause fear and uncertainty. 

That being said, it is important to know how you can protect yourself from these attacks. RCBC, for one, has a cybersecurity campaign that supports the government’s efforts in combating fraud across the country. 

On top of spreading awareness through client education, the bank has also taken a holistic approach to tackling the problem by leveraging on the best and latest technology, guided by sound best security processes. 

To support BSP's push to counter phishing attacks, RCBC and RCBC Credit Card have removed all clickable links in emails or electronic direct mailers (eDM), SMS, and Viber sent to all clients. This is intended to increase protection for clients and help them to easily distinguish legitimate communications from phishing, vishing, and other cybercrime attempts. 

Tengkiat said RCBC is constantly working with other banking institutions, e-wallet companies, telecommunication firms, security organizations and agencies, and government institutions to ensure that these threats are mitigated and acted upon immediately. 

“In RCBC, we keep abreast of cybersecurity and fraud trends and deploy applicable controls using advanced technology and industry best practices to prevent these from happening,” he added. 

It’s important to note, however, that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility that also requires clients to be more careful in disclosing personal and account information that could compromise their accounts. 

This Valentine's season, the public is advised to be extra vigilant and careful in checking offers and promotions, especially those available online so they can safely celebrate the occasion. According to RCBC’s cybersecurity expert, here are some ways that could protect you from cyberattacks. 

  • Never share your OTP. If you give your OTP or one-time password to a scammer, they can take over not just your account but also your savings in the blink of an eye. “Banks or any institution will never ask for your passwords or OTPs via phone call, SMS, or email,” Tengkiat noted.
  • Be careful of unknown callers. Deal with unknown callers with extra caution and don’t let them manipulate you into giving your personal information.
  • Think before you click. Same with unknown callers, don’t just click on links on emails/SMS from senders you don’t know.
  • Practice good digital hygiene.“Update your devices' operating systems, use strong passwords (e.g. 12 characters, alphanumeric, special characters, etc.), delete unused applications/software, be cautious of what you download, and use safe browsers,” the cybersecurity expert suggested.
  • Be careful of what you post on social media. Scammers are always on the hunt for their next targets on social media. “Oversharing leads to creating a detailed public profile of oneself (e.g. where you work, interests, activities, etc.), which can be used by bad actors to gain your trust and eventually ask for your personal or account information,” he added.

Editor’s Note: BrandedUp is designed to provide you with insightful, inspiring, and educational content created by PhilSTAR L!fe in collaboration with brands like RCBC.