By Heather McKinney~
In these isolated times, it is increasingly common to use the internet, social media, and dating apps to make connections.
While scams often surface on the internet, seniors especially should be aware of possible “romance scams.” A 2020 report by the Federal Trade Commission called these the costliest scams impacting older adults, with aggregate losses of $84 million.
So how can you determine whether a budding new romance is love at first sight or an attempt by a cunning Casanova to gain access to your pocketbook?
No two romance scams are exactly the same, but they frequently share certain similar characteristics.
In the age of COVID, it makes sense that more interactions are online, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still Zoom-meet your new crush. Dating website OurTime also features a video chat option that allows members to virtually meet and talk in real time. Facebook Messenger includes a video chat feature, as well. If your new love interest refuses to make themselves available on camera, they may not be who they say they are!
Scammers frequently use stock photos or photos stolen from other people’s social media profiles to lure in their victims. Try uploading their image to Google Images for a reverse-search to see if the photo is an original or copied from the web.
The early days of any romance is exciting. But be wary if your new match begins to sound too invested too soon. This could be a ploy to hook you and ask for money or favors later in the relationship. Take it slow, get to know one another, and let love take its course!
Many scammers claim to be busy business travelers, workers on a ship or oil rig, or members of the military. While this may be true in some cases, there is nothing wrong with asking for a little proof if someone makes themselves sound mysterious. Remember, true love is built on honesty and sharing.
We all fall on hard times now and then, but romance scammers like to pull on your heart strings. Maybe they’ll tell you about their beloved daughter, only to later ask for money to pay for her lifesaving surgery. Or perhaps they’re on a business trip and happen to leave their wallet in a taxi.
In any case, they may ask you to wire them money or send gift cards, which you will never get back. The values may start small, but, before long, they may manipulate the new attraction to ask for thousands of dollars.
If this has happened to you, you are not alone. These scams are incredibly common and are unfortunately impacting more seniors every year. A good rule is to never transfer money to new friends or love interests online, no matter how much you may like them.
If you transferred money to a new online friend, contact your bank to secure your account. You should report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov, and the media platform where you met the scammer.
Remember that love is in the air and on the Internet. But not every arrow comes from Cupid. Keep these scams aimed at seniors in mind as you search for love to protect yourself and others from possible romance scams!