Avoiding Online Romance Scams: Do’s and Don’ts
Adults 50 and older are currently the fastest-growing population making connections through online dating sites and social media apps. Unfortunately, they are also the hardest hit by romance scams. As part of our efforts to raise awareness during National Consumer Protection Week, we want to give you a snapshot of how this scam works.
Romance Scams 101
You post a dating profile, and up pops a promising match — good-looking, smart, funny, and personable. This potential mate claims to live in another part of the country or travels abroad for business or military deployment. But he or she seems smitten and eager to get to know you better and suggests you move your relationship to a private channel like email or a chat app.
Over weeks or months, you grow closer to this individual. You make plans to meet in person, but your new “love” always has something that comes up to dash those plans. Then, you get an urgent request. There’s an emergency (perhaps a medical problem or a business crisis), and your online companion needs you to wire money quickly. He or she promises to pay it back, but that never happens. Instead, the scammer will keep asking for more until you finally realize too late that you’ve been swindled.
A Significant, Growing Problem
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 21,300 reports in 2018 from victims of romance scams — a 250% increase from just three years ago. Financial losses have cost victims $201 million in 2019 – six times the amount lost in 2015. Individuals 70 years and older were hit the hardest. These statistics don’t include those who decided not to report due to feelings of embarrassment or shame.
Seniors are especially vulnerable because they might be widowed, divorced or lonely; they are seeking real companionship in an unreal, virtual world. In addition, victims are often not tech savvy and typically do not catch on to the scheme until it’s too late.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Listen to your gut. If it sounds and looks too good to be true, it is.
- Do your research. Google the person with whom you are corresponding.
- Notify the dating site or maker of the app you used to meet the scammer.
- Give, lend, or send ANY Money Gram, Western Union, reloadable gift cards or any other means of sending virtual cash.
- Give out bank account access information.
- Provide ANY personal information about you, your family or your friends.
- Send any private photos. The scammer could later use these against you.
Forward this blog post and these tips to your family, friends and online network. See our “Sense and Centsibility” blog for additional tips on protecting yourself from scams, particularly phone scams.
If you or a loved one needs to get their finances in order — whether it was because of a scam, loss of income or for any other reason — LSS Financial Counseling can help. Call us at 888.577.2227 for your free, confidential financial counseling session, or GET STARTED ONLINE at your convenience.
Author Maria Taylor is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling.