February: The Month for Romance
SCAMS TARGETING SENIORS STILL RAMPANT
Older Americans lose tens of millions to romance scams, and the number of complaints filed has risen dramatically in recent years. Adults reported losing more money to romance scams in the last two years than to any other fraud reported to the FTC. From 2015-2019, there were 84,119 romance-scam complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). And this figure doesn’t reflect the number of romance fraud cases that went unreported because victims were embarrassed, ashamed, or unable to report due to issues like cognitive impairment. Loneliness is one factor that makes older adults particularly vulnerable to scams. According to an AARP summary of FTC data, “Online daters of all ages have fallen victim to the cruel crooks who break hearts and empty bank accounts. But…while the overall median loss resulting from a romance scam was $2,600, the median jumped to $10,000 when the victim was age 70 or older.” Most of the money stolen was wired, according to victims who reported. Another common method of transferring funds, according to the FTC, was “…using gift and reload cards (like Moneypak)…People said they mailed the cards or gave the PIN number on the back to the scammer. Con artists favor these payment methods because they can get quick cash, the transaction is largely irreversible, and they can remain anonymous.” How can victims be protected from romance scammers? Tips from the FTC include the following:
- Don’t send money or gifts to a sweetheart that you haven’t met in person.
- Talk with someone you trust about a new love interest. Pay attention if friends or family are concerned.
- Take the new romance—slow. Ask questions and be mindful of inconsistent answers.
- Try doing an online reverse-image search of the profile picture. If the image is associated with another person’s name, or details don’t match up, it is likely a scam.
Family members can help each other look out for romance scams by forming a team of loved ones and/or professionals who keep an eye on each other’s finances. Alerts for suspicious activity, like new wired funds, prepaid gift cards, or large withdrawals of cash, can be shared—across the miles. Shutting down romance fraud at its inception can prevent tremendous heartache and the loss of life savings, as well.