This article was written by freelance writer, Jess Walter. This is not an endorsement of AAG.
A new type of scam is toying with the emotions of men and women all over America in order to gain their trust and hard earned money. According to the FBI, romance scams resulted in the highest amount of victims compared with other types of online scams. Back in 2016, almost 15,000 cases of romance scams were reported to the FBI, and the victims’ losses exceeded more than $230 million. It appears that scammers have mastered how to target vulnerable and lonely people over the Internet as they hunt for their victims on social media.
While you may think that you and your family are safe from this type of fraudulent activity, there is a chance that one or more of you can be targeted by criminal syndicates. It was noted that the victims tend to be the baby boomer population, widowed or divorced women in their fifties, so if you or any of your relatives fit this description it is important to stay vigilant by following these tips to protect yourselves from romance scams.
Recognize how a romance scammer operates
You may know well enough how to protect yourself from mortgage scams or ignore the infamous Nigerian prince scam. But when it comes to romance scams, these syndicates are sneakier than you may think and operate on another level. Scammers usually go on social media to seek people who have had a devastating life experience over the past 24 months. They usually look for those who have lost a spouse, a child, those who are divorced or have lost a job.
The scammers create an ideal type of persona online, then they may claim to share the same type of experience that you went through. As you start confiding in the other person and once the trust has been established, he or she will get you to send money. This could go on for an indefinite amount of time, and should you hesitate to do so, the scammer can threaten to blackmail you or hurt you.
Block strangers from your social media accounts
Prevent this from happening in the first place by blocking strangers from finding you on Facebook or any of your social media accounts. Discuss the matter with your loved ones and help them adjust their social media settings in order to stay safe while using the Internet. It’s also a good idea never to add people that you don’t know to your social media accounts. If you work with elderly, they might need a little training on social media and the Internet. As an elder care marketer, I hear stories about Internet abuse on a regular basis.
Visit your senior relatives on a regular basis
Scam artists love to prey on the elderly due to their isolation and loneliness. This is why it is important to communicate with your senior relatives on a regular basis by calling them on the phone or visiting them at home. Encourage them to open up to you if they feel that someone is trying to take advantage of them online. For those of us who work in the elder care industry, we should try to monitor this for our clients as best as possible.
Don’t become a victim of a romance scam. Stay safe while using social media and never send money to anyone who you don’t know personally. If you or your loved one suspect an online scam, cut off all communication immediately and file a complaint with the authorities. If you are interested in hosting a program about this topic, contact Focus on Aging to provide an experienced elder law attorney who can speak about scams and elder abuse.