How to Avoid Heartbreak with Romance Scams
It’s February and love is in the air, but one romantic trend that is always a heartbreaker are romance scams. According to the Federal Trade Commission, romance scams claimed $138 million from adults aged 60 and older in 2020 during the Covid pandemic; and they continue to be prevalent, especially among the elderly. Older people are particularly vulnerable because they may have lost a partner and are lonely. Also, due to their longevity, they have often accumulated money, a fact which makes them a particularly attractive target for scammers. The median loss from a romance scam for people 70 and older is $9,000, but often it can be much more.
The prime months for romance scams are over the holidays and Valentine’s day. Scammers prey on loneliness, fake a love interest and typically reach out through dating or social media apps. Frequently, they use strategies known as “catfishing” and “love bombing”. Catfishing is a term describing someone who uses a fake identity online to find friends and romantic partners. They often use fake photos and a false persona to make connections so that they can later scam or even steal their victims identity. Love bombing is where a new romantic interest showers the victim with attention and gifts in order to gain trust and control over a relationship and later starts making financial requests or demands. The romance scammer usually presents as an exciting new person who lives or works abroad and quickly sets up an emotional bond with the victim. The emotional relationship moves fast with frequent arduous communications initially by an app and then by email or text. The scammer typically concocts romantic plans on building a future together. Then, the asks for money or gifts begin. Because the victim has formed an emotional bond with their love interest, they are often in denial that the relationship is not real and frequently acquiesce to the requests. Many times, it will be a victim’s grown relative who will have to step in to stop the scam. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gives online dating sites and apps immunity from liability for content posted by their users, it is therefore very important to prevent or catch these scams before they begin.
Here are 5 Tips To Avoid Romance Scams:
1.Be aware of poor grammar and spelling in communications: scammers are often operating outside of the country and have foreign IP addresses and make grammatical errors
2.Be wary of eager and early expressions of love and devotion: if they are telling you they love you after a few days of online communication, you are likely being love bombed
3.Do some research to check identity: do a google search of their profile, photos and background to see if it matches; do a reverse image search using a photo of them from their dating profile to see if it matches a stock photo; be wary if the new online love interest has social media profiles with few followers — this is often a sign of a catfish
4.Be wary of requests for money or gifts: strangers asking for money or favors is always a red flag; never send a stranger money and always consult with trusted family and friends if you are striking up an online relationship
5.Be suspicious if in person meetings don’t materialize: scammers are typically not in the country and will never want to meet in person
If you suspect that you or a loved one is a victim of a romance scam contact the FTC and report your suspicions https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/
Anne C. Sansevero RN, MA, GNP, CCM
Aging Life Care ® Professional
Founder & CEO