There’s something timeless about love, romance, and courtship. Countless books, plays, movies, songs, and everything in between have been based upon romance - and it truly is a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, there are those who would prey on a person’s desire for love to gain financially. We’re talking about romance scams, which tend to affect senior citizens more than younger generations. Let’s take a closer look at this unfortunate phenomenon, and learn tools to discern when a new lover is too good to be true…
What is a romance scam, and why do they affect senior citizens more?
This is a situation in which two people begin a courtship, almost always meeting online. In many cases, the person works or lives overseas, so most (if not all) communication is online or over the telephone. Dating sites - despite their benefits - provide an environment ripe for dating scams. Senior citizens are particularly at risk because they may have life savings, they may not be technologically proficient, and if their spouse or partner has passed away, they may be lonely and looking for companionship or partnership. Seniors suffering from mild dementia or Alzheimer’s are also particularly at risk, especially if they don’t have a social network or support system in place. In any case, many senior citizens who realize they have been taken might be too embarrassed to share, so the best
So, how does the stereotypical scam go? Typically, the perpetrator reaches out to the victim first, and presents themselves as a great fit, etc. A courtship commences, and eventually a financial need is presented. This need is often a costly hospital stay, a vehicle accident, or sudden illness. Over time, these requests or needs may add up, and the damage can be in the thousands of dollars. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, nearly 6,000 people filed claims totalling $82 million over a six-month period in 2014. That is a lot of cash to be swindled!
What are the warning signs someone is being romantically scammed & how do you protect loved ones?
The best hedge against a dating scam is also one that takes some work: having a social network of people surrounding vulnerable seniors. This can be family, friends, caretakers, neighbors, etc. The point is that your elderly loved ones have people to talk to, to be socially engaged with, and to share any exciting dating news with! This can help someone catch the warning signs sooner, and hopefully prevent a loved one from being the victim of a romance scam. Here are some markers to look for that may indicate a potential trap (others can be found at RomanceScams):
- A romantic interest works or lives overseas, and therefore will not be able to meet in person for a long time (if ever)
- Personal and/or social information doesn’t match what you’ve been told when you search for the person online (for example, check social media accounts and news articles to confirm what a person says about themselves)
- Financial requests that begin small and grow exponentially, or problems cashing checks
- Misspelled words, lots of abbreviations, or webspeak
How can in home care help seniors when it comes to avoiding scams?
As mentioned above, one of the surest ways to protect loved ones from dating scams is to surround them with a supportive, social network. Caretakers can be an important part of this network, especially when they spend lots of time with those in home care. At Pennsylvania Agency of Nurses, we pride ourselves on the quality of person we hire, and the relationships that our clients develop with our employees is a great testament to that. Our geriatric care managers are extensively screened, competent and compassionate, and matched with clients based on needs and personality. PAN caregivers can help provide a social network in which seniors are cared for, feel comfortable opening up, and therefore avoid victimization through online dating sites.