ROMANCE SCAMS ABOUND IN THE WAKE OF VALENTINES DAY
They are sometimes called “lonely heart” scams. Case in point: an older Oregon widower recently lost $200,000 in an online romance scam. The fraud scheme originated when he met a woman on an online dating service. Over the next several months, thinking that he would help his new friend invest in an art gallery, he wired payments to overseas accounts.
The pandemic makes romance scams a jackpot for fraudsters. Many of us are still sheltering in place. Older adults, including widows and widowers, are often targeted as they may be lonely for companionship. Social media sites like Facebook and dating apps are a breeding ground for these schemes.
Unfortunately, there are older "lonely hearts" all over the country who are now communicating with romance scammers, and their family members are not made aware of these relationships. The Federal Trade Commission reported over $300 million in losses from romance scams last year. I think we all agree that it is safest never to talk to strangers. But understanding that some folks will not follow this advice, here are a few tips about romance scams to share with loved ones:
- Be extremely wary about anyone you meet on social media. Even games like Words With Friends can expose you to scammers lurking on the site.
- Before conversing with any new ‘friends' online, make sure that all public-facing personal information is hidden from your profile. If you have trouble with this task – get help from a tech-savvy family member or friend.
- Warn family members, young and old, about online romance/friendship fraud. Encourage them to talk with you about new friends.
- If communicating with an online acquaintance turns into a conversation about a crisis or problem in their life, this should be viewed as a huge red flag. And if the conversation evolves into a request for money or a loan, the dialogue should be ended immediately.
A comprehensive fraud-prevention service will send an alert to members and designated loved ones – at the first sign of suspicious activity. These alerts can warn you that a loved one is in trouble – as experience has shown that victims of these scams are often too embarrassed to share what is happening.