Scam of the Month: Relationship Scams

RomanceScamAlfred, Lord Tennyson wrote that in springtime, “a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”  Well, the same can be true for seniors of any gender!  But even in matters of the heart, scammers can be waiting.  In fact, one common scam arises when a senior is looking for love online and meets (virtually) someone who lives out of town, perhaps in another state or even overseas.  The other person often describes himself or herself as a foreign national or an American living abroad (perhaps on assignment in the U.S. military or diplomatic service).

As time goes on, the senior and his or her new internet acquaintance exchange e-mails, texts, and photos, followed by frequent phone calls. The out of town person eventually declares that they’re madly in love and vow that the couple is fated to be together forever. The senior comes to believe that he or she has finally found the perfect partner.   As their relationship grows, the out of town scammer eventually asks for a small loan, usually for medicine or some other necessity.  If the senior sends money as requested, the scammer then asks for a larger amount, claiming it will help perhaps buy the senior a gift or fly to visit the senior.   But when your online relationship is with a scammer, the requests for loans just keep coming and growing, and they are never repaid.  In some cases, scammers overseas have even convinced seniors to open joint credit cards or grant them access to bank accounts.

We’re all vulnerable during the course of a courtship.  The only way for seniors to protect themselves while seeking romance online is to look for partners who are reasonably local—almost all dating sites require all parties to list their city of residence.  However, for those seniors who nonetheless decide to begin relationships with someone out of town or overseas, here are some tips:

  • Don’t include too much personal detail in your online profiles or messages (scammers can play this back to you to ingratiate themselves);
  • Be very cautious about letting requests for money (especially for transfers by wire) become a common occurrence in a relationship;
  • Never share your credit card, bank account, or PIN numbers with someone you’ve only met online;
  • Check out Facebook’s page on romance scams at https://www.facebook.com/RomanceScams; and
  • Remember:  once your money has been wired, it’s virtually impossible to get it back!
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