Is it love for you, or your money?
The sweetheart scam is an increasingly troublesome scam that preys on older Americans. TwinStar members have reported being victims of the scheme that can be perpetrated online or in-person. The scammer convinces their victim that they are in love, using the emotion to bilk money from the unsuspecting elderly person.
Although almost any age group can be lured into this game of deceit, the most common target of sweetheart scams is usually seniors over age 60 who have accumulated wealth — even modest savings — through their own lifetime of hard work. Widows, widowers and recent divorcees of either gender who may be dealing with loneliness and grief tend to be the most vulnerable.
Here are a few precautions you can take to avoid becoming a victim of a sweetheart scam, courtesy of AgingCare.com:
Be aware of your environment
Try to look beyond the superficial — whether your first meeting is online or in person at a senior center, church bingo event, or other public gathering place. Sweetheart scammers are sweet talkers and accomplished at deception. Without becoming cynical, proceed cautiously with new social encounters.
Be honest with yourself
Look in the mirror and ask yourself the million-dollar question —"Why would a much younger person want to have a long-term relationship with me?" If you discover anything regarding money in your answer, you may be headed for trouble.
Never transfer or wire money to anyone
This is especially risky if you're communicating with a stranger you’ve never met in person, especially if they live overseas. Reclaiming fraudulently stolen funds is next to impossible, especially from someone living in a foreign land.
Keep in touch with family and trusted friends
Share your new social interests and friendships with them. Your loved ones usually have your highest well being in mind, and can be trusted to provide honest advice and, if necessary, frank warnings.
Consult a professional if an online relationship seems fishy
Law enforcement agents have investigated scammers and are experienced with sweetheart scams being perpetuated using social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest.
Do your homework
Most people have left some kind of digital footprint that even the minimally tech-savvy person can find. Use Google, Bing or other Internet search engines to discover additional information about new individuals you meet online or in person.
Use care in what you share on social media
Scammers steal personal information online and use your social media profile to learn more about you, your routines, your vulnerabilities, likes and dislikes. Some even monitor your social media news feed for friends and relatives they can pose as.