The dating scene has changed tremendously over the past several decades. Today, there are a variety of online dating platforms to choose from in the hopes of connecting with someone and creating a real relationship. However, when putting yourself out there, you run the risk of speaking with scammers, or people with intentions other than a genuine relationship.
Seniors are no exception to the rule. Last year the fraud watch department of Washington, DC-based AARP received a call from an elderly woman who had lost $300,000 to a scammer she met on an online dating platform. When the organization decided to look into the issue more deeply, they found that in just the past six months, an estimated $82 million had been lost to fraudsters. The Internet Crime Complaint Center found that 29 percent of the people who were scammed were women 50 and older. They also accounted for more than 51% of all financial losses in romance scams.
This is very problematic for senior citizens because many are unaware that they are being targeted by scammers. Director of AARP’s Fraud Watch Network Amy Nofziger, said, “That’s why we are educating them about this problem and ways to spot scammers and how to protect themselves.” Seniors are particularly vulnerable because many of them are widowed and lonely. A recent study at Northwestern University also found how people become more trusting as we age, which also makes seniors more susceptible to falling for a scam.
Once the scammer has the victim emotionally attached to them, they make false claims, such as needing money for a sick child or family member, or pretending to be overseas and ask for cash to travel to America. But then another event will occur that prevents them from ever coming, resulting in the need for more money.
There are a few signs to help identify a scammer:
- When the scammer is available online 24 hours a day, it is because scammers usually work in teams.
- When a scammer spells their name differently at different times.
- When the language contains misspellings or bad grammar. Most of the fraudsters are from overseas with the intent to steal money.
With everyone and everything available online, it can be difficult to identify what is fraud and what is genuine. But there are ways to check if someone is truly who they appear to be. If you're ever in the situation where you need to double check, try searching for that person’s picture through a Google search by photo feature. Many fraudsters copy photos from other people and the search will reveal where else the photo is used.
Dating websites are a great way to meet and connect with others. Just remember to always stay attentive when speaking with someone you do not know. Educate yourself about the dangers and risks associated with online profiles and always trust your instinct.