“By Failing to Prepare, you Prepare to Fail” - Benjamin Franklin

Tips for Avoiding “Lonely Heart” Senior Scams This Valentine’s Day

Did you know romance scams, sometimes called “lonely heart” scams, often occur when scammers and bad actors attempt to financially exploit vulnerable people? This can be done in many ways, including online, by earning the trust of the vulnerable person through romantic manipulation and outright emotional deceit. Unfortunately, seniors tend to be targets of many kinds of scams, and they are especially vulnerable to lonely heart frauds due to higher incidence of loneliness and social isolation. 

Valentine’s Day provides a heightened opportunity for online criminals to take advantage of vulnerable Florida seniors. Let us take a minute to be proactive and share a few tips on how older adults can protect themselves.

First, remember, as the saying goes, if it’s too good to be true it probably is. Romance scammers typically present fake images of themselves and pretend to be someone they are not in reality. They often profess a strong attraction or deep seated love shortly after meeting the victim online, and then attempt to exploit the situation. These criminals are watching for vulnerable Florida seniors. Do not fall for it!

Once scammers feel they have moved past a person’s emotional defenses, they often move quickly to convince their victims to communicate in private forums, like email, messenger apps, or even by phone. This makes it easier to isolate their victims from others.

Criminals might allude to romantic vacations or a passionate future together if they could only afford it. This is aimed to tug at the heartstrings of vulnerable Florida seniors. They might say they have never felt this way about someone before. Be aware that this is not how real life relationships work and always use common sense.

Be careful of subtle manipulations. Little by little, giving into unusual requests can lead you down a path of providing personal and financial information that you would never offer at the beginning of a conversation.

When you start to suspect something may be wrong, look for telltale signs that something is amiss. If someone says they know you from your hometown, for example, and they are wrong about things they should know, then it could be a scam. Perhaps the scammer looked at your Facebook friends and developed a fraudulent online identity to get past your defenses. Another red-flag is if a seemingly familiar person refuses to meet in real life.

Hard luck stories from a previously unknown love interest are also common internet scams techniques. Before moving on to asking for money, the person may hint at financial troubles, such as a broken-down car or a sick relative. This is something all seniors, not simply vulnerable Florida seniors, need to be on the lookout for. The “grandparent” scam, or when a person pretends to be a grandchild who is in trouble, is something all seniors should always be on guard against.

For all of us, if you are unsure about someone online, cut off all communication. You do not have to do anything they say or take action. Finally, if you or someone you know has been the victim of an online financial crime, do not wait to contact the authorities for help. Further, you can contact an experienced attorney to learn more about your rights and appropriate courses of action. Remember, elder law attorneys have special training to help you navigate this and any potential elder care issues you may face. Do not wait to contact our law practice to learn more today.

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