It can be challenging to know how best to care for an aging relative. Living alone can cause seniors to become isolated and even make poor decisions, which can lead to safety risks like falling for romance scams.
In this article, we’ll outline everything you need to know about romantic scammers and how they target seniors.
If your loved one has fallen for a scam, you may want to consider finding an assisted living facility.
These facilities help seniors live as independently as possible while accessing both medical and community support.
Why Are Seniors At Risk of Scams?
Senior scams happen often, with seniors being common targets for scammers. These individuals see elderly people as isolated and easy to manipulate. What is more, older people tend to have access to lump sums of cash through retirement accounts, pensions, and life savings.
They May be New to Technology
It might be hard to imagine giving out your personal information or sending money to a stranger on the internet. But most of us have used the internet for most of our adult lives. Many seniors, on the other hand, are new to navigating the web and don’t necessarily know how to practice good internet safety nor identify truth from fiction.
Maybe They’re Lonely or Isolated
Seniors are often lonely and isolated, especially after spouses die or adult children move away.
Scammers see them as a target because they may be looking for a personal connection, such as a friendship or a relationship. Many of these scams happen on online dating sites.
Their Judgment May Have Reduced
One symptom of aging is having increasingly poor judgment or making rash decisions. In fact, this is a hallmark symptom of dementia, with some seniors making poor judgments that compromise their health, safety, privacy, and financial security.
What Seniors Are At Risk of Romance Scams?
Seniors who may be at risk of romance scams include those who:
- Are isolated, usually living alone and not frequently in contact with friends or family
- Are lonely, such as those who have recently lost a spouse
- Have access to savings
- Have dementia
- Use social media or online dating sites
What Is A Sweetheart Scam/ Romance Scam?
A sweetheart or romance scam is one of the most common internet scams to be found. In 2020 alone, 6,817 senior victims reported falling to a romance scam, resulting in more than $281 million in losses.
These scams start out on social media or on dating sites or apps. They might begin with a friend request from a stranger or a dating profile match.
Once the connection begins, the scammer befriends the victim and convinces them that they have a close relationship. The eventual goal is to convince the victim to wire them money, often thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.
How Can They Be Dangerous?
Scams can be dangerous in more ways than one. The most obvious danger is the threat of financial loss. Victims of scams have given away tens of thousands of dollars or even their bank details, leading to life savings being drained.
Scammers can also compromise privacy by sharing identifying details, including photos and personal information.
In some cases, victims may even be in legal trouble if the scammer implicates them in a crime, such as receiving stolen goods.
Of course, this doesn’t cover the shock and hurt of the victim learning they have been scammed.
Romance Scam Signs
Love bombing is a tactic used by many scammers. The term describes the act of flooding the victim with affection, compliments, and praise. This usually happens from the start of the relationship, with the goal of playing with the victim’s emotions.
Excuses for Why They Can’t Show Their Face
Sweetheart scammers have endless excuses for why they can’t visit in person or do a video call. They often claim that they travel for work. Other excuses pop up whenever visits are suggested, such as a family member dying. If the victim asks for a video call, they might say that their phone doesn’t work or needs to charge.
The Details Don’t Match Up
If you look closely, you might notice that the person’s information isn’t consistent. Maybe they say that they are in their fifties, but their picture is clearly of a much younger person and taken recently. Maybe they first say they don’t have children and later claim that their daughter is sick.
Offering to Send Money
One common tactic among scammers is sending or offering to send large sums of money to the victim. This is a way to lull the victim into a sense of security — while secretly accessing their bank details.
The ultimate goal of scammers is to ask for money. They often fabricate a sudden calamity (especially one that keeps them from visiting). This could be anything from a medical emergency to paying for the funeral of a relative, losing their job, totaling their car, or being evicted. In all these cases, the intent is to take advantage of the victim’s compassion and generosity.
Educating Your Loved One About Scams
Teach your elderly relatives and friends that scams can happen over the internet or phone. If they are interested in a relationship, talk to them about dating online scams.
- Not to send or receive money over the web or phone
- Not to accept friend requests from people they don’t know
- How to recognize signs of catfishing
- Never to send photos of themselves, especially not their face
- Not to share personal details, such as bank information
What to do When a Family Member is Being Scammed
If someone you know has been scammed, be compassionate. They may have suffered serious financial losses and are probably feeling humiliated and shocked.
Some victims also can’t admit that they were scammed. This might be from embarrassment, but it can also be because of the grooming they have undergone.
Don’t try to force them to admit it, simply offer compassion and understanding. You may need to file a police report, however, especially if you suspect that the victim’s identity was stolen.
Scammers sometimes use stolen identities to commit other crimes or even coax victims into being complicit with illegal actions. This can implicate the victim in legal charges.
Lastly, help the victim file a report with the FTC. This will help them protect themselves against further harm and gather data for the authorities.
If you are concerned for your loved one’s safety and security while living alone, it may be time to find an assisted living community. Our team of advisors is ready to help find the community that fits your needs.