Despite our best efforts, cybercrimes are on the rise across the globe. In fact, 2019 was one of the worst years on record for data breaches. The reason? People keep accidentally downloading malware and getting phished left and right. Tap or click to see if you can pass this phishing quiz. Hackers and cybercriminals are successful in part because they pay attention to what’s going on in the world. And just like during Christmas, they’re taking advantage of the spirit surrounding Valentine’s Day. If you find yourself getting linked to unknown websites or receiving “special Valentine’s notes” from strangers, here’s why you’ll want to tread carefully.

Hackers love holidays, too!

Security researchers at Check Point technologies published a study revealing a startling spike in malicious activity on the internet during the month of February. Starting around Valentine’s Day 2018, and peaking each year after, scores of malicious Valentine websites have cropped up containing malware, spam and malicious advertisements. According to Check Point, the increase in malicious websites containing the word “Valentine” jumped over 200% compared to the previous months. Additional spikes were seen in malicious sites containing the word “chocolate.” The goal, as per usual with malicious sites and phishing scams, is to trick a user into visiting nefarious pages and infecting their systems.

But why Valentine’s Day?

Hackers are a tricky bunch, and they’re banking on people to search for Valentine’s Day content and chocolate in February. This is one of the reasons data breaches and hacks are so prolific in 2020. Hackers and cybercriminals keep their fingers on the pulse of news and culture, and ordinary internet users just can’t help themselves. Tap or click to see how hackers are stoking coronavirus fears for phishing attacks. To protect yourself this February, you’ll want to use the same brand of skepticism you would with any unknown email, file or website. Avoid visiting places you aren’t sure about. And if you can, seek out what Check Point refers to as “authentic sources” for information and entertainment. This means sticking to mainstream websites with heavy traffic that are unlikely to sport any kind of malicious code or advertisements. Additionally, be highly skeptical about “special offers,” which are a classic bait-and-switch tactic used by cybercriminals. An “80% off Valentine’s Day special on iPads” is 99% likely to be a scam, or worse. As with anything, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.