As Valentine’s Day approaches, love and affection will be on people’s minds. This is for good reason. After all, showing a significant other how much you care about them is what it is all about. Unfortunately, however, Valentine’s Day is also an opportunity for so-called romance scammers to commit “lonely heart” crimes. That means bad actors may attempt to exploit lonely people online to gain access to their personal information and financial resources.
Seniors, including those in our own home state of Florida, are perhaps the most vulnerable group to online financial romance scams. Why? The reasons vary but they may include, Older Americans typically have access to money, have a higher incidence of loneliness and social isolation, and are much less tech savvy than younger adults who grew up with the internet.
In a typical senior lonely heart scam, a cyber criminal will use social media, senior message boards, or even senior dating websites to identify and develop relationships with unsuspecting victims. Scammers will often attempt to move the communication to a more private setting, such as email, Instant Messenger, text messages or phone calls. From there, they will eventually request money or personal identifying information that could be used to steal the senior’s identity. They might concoct elaborate stories such as the need to borrow your credit card number to secure airline tickets to come visit you, or perhaps needing money for a sick relative.
Regardless of the pitch, the result is always the same: Your money will be stolen and you will never meet the person who you thought cared about you. The results are not only terrifying but extremely damaging.
How can you protect yourself and those you love now, and throughout the year? Let us share a few tips right here for you to consider:
Be extremely cautious if you meet someone online around Valentine’s Day who professes their deep-seated love in a relatively short amount of time.
Never solely rely on what someone tells you online if you have never actually met. Instead, perform internet searches to see if what they say checks out.
If the person provides a photo, conduct an image search to determine if the photo appears in other places that do not make sense.
Be cautious of anyone online who claims it was destiny or fate that brought you together.
Never send money via wire-transfer or pre-paid money card.
Never reveal personal information, such as your address, credit card number, bank account number, or Social Security number.
Talk to family, friends or a caregiver about the legitimacy of an online relationship.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of an online romance scam, do not wait to contact law enforcement. Do not be embarrassed, as this happens to more people than you know. Further, do not stop here. Make sure you and the seniors you care about have the estate planning and elder law planning that both you and they need to ensure that everyone is always protected. We encourage you not to wait to contact us so we may answer your elder care questions whether it is right now, or any time throughout the year.