One of the biggest elder scams has claimed unlikely victims

This is a topic that has been visited before, but it’s so important: Protecting yourself or a loved one from being swindled or worse. With the online dating industry toppling $2 billion annually, it’s important for older men and women to understand the risks and learn how to safeguard their finances, as well as ensure their personal safety.

Online dating can bring people together who otherwise might never meet. Today, it seems, going online for love is as common as shopping at Amazon. But as with online shopping, dating in the tech age means predators are lurking in some cases, ready to pounce when the time and victim are right. People have lost their entire nest eggs to con artists.

The statistics give an even bigger picture. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reports that as people have lost as much as $82 million from so-called “romance scams” online. The majority were women. Authorities said women were more likely to report the crimes, while men feel embarrassed and ashamed.

“Older people are more vulnerable and targeted more for frauds and scams. They may be more isolated and may have more financial means, so we do know scammers target older Americans,” Amy Nofziger, an expert with the AARP Fraud Watch Network, told U.S. News and World Report. One AARP member contacted the Fraud Watch Network last year after losing $300,000 from a romance-related scam.

U.S. News offered safety tips for baby boomers looking for love. Share these with your relatives before they try dating in 2017. It’s likely much different than when they tried it the first time.

  1. Watch for emails with poor spelling and grammar. If you are messaging with someone who says he or she is an American who lives in your city, but whose English appears broken, it likely because they are using an online translation service and really trying to scam you from another country.
  2. Be wary of someone who is too busy to meet in person. For thieves prowling for victims, the aim is not physical contact at all, but a virtual relationship that eventually leads to a cash transfer. If the person says he is too busy to meet up but will “someday” then it’s a sign he might not have romantic intentions.
  3. Love is wonderful, but don’t trust it if the person professes it right away. Criminals claim to be in love at a relatively early stage of communication. Women often fall victim to thieves masquerading as older, sophisticated men, while their male counterparts are wooed by younger women. These are all wolves in sheep’s clothing, and really thieves who created false identities. Their photos are never real; they are part of the attempt to take a lonely widow or widower for everything he or she is worth.
  4. If they ask you for money, it’s a scam. Period.

The bottom line is, check out the people you meet online. Be cautious. No matter how young or old you are, believe in love – but use your head.

Our experienced and trusted estate planning attorneys have been serving Treasure Coast families for decades, and Michael Fowler is one of only nine attorneys in the state of Florida who is double board-certified in wills trusts and estates and in elder law.  Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.

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