Beware of the Latest in Senior Scams: the “Sweetheart Scam”

Senior old elderly person learning computer and online pension and banking internet skills protect against fraudIt’s been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began; a year of fear, isolation, and loneliness for a great many older adults. Physical distancing has taken away the ability to provide the warmth and comfort of a hug or even an in-person smile in many cases. Yet humans are social creatures, and this diminished socialization has numerous seniors turning their attention to online sources for connection – such as dating websites.

While this may appear harmless or perhaps beneficial, there can be unknown dangers for older adults specifically, known as sweetheart scammers. Here’s what to look for to help keep the seniors you love safe from senior scams:

  • Flattery that turns into requests for financial help. Financial gain is typically the sweetheart scammer’s primary objective. The scammer will use a variety of strategies to achieve that end goal, including targeting weak spots like loneliness. Praising, flattering, and professing everlasting love and affection for a senior the scammer has not met often moves into a request for money.
  • Overwhelming attention. The scammer will hone in on an older adult’s loneliness and vulnerability, lavishing relentless attention. Pay attention to how much time the senior is spending on conversations and texts with the person. You’ll also want to notice if the individual has been declaring his or her love for the senior, particularly early in the relationship. Scammers move rapidly to get to their end goal in the shortest time possible.
  • No online presence. A quick Google search for the older adult’s new love interest can help you assess if the individual is real. In the event the search produces no information of any kind in regards to the individual, it should immediately raise a red flag. You can also run a background check to uncover any criminal convictions, marriage/divorce certificates, or other public records.
  • A fake photo. Google supplies a reverse image search feature (images.Google.com) which allows you to determine if the individual’s profile picture is in fact a stock photo or stolen from another person.

You might even want to consider logging in to your loved one’s email account to monitor activity and help the senior discern between actual relationships and scammers.

Above all, talk with the senior about the prevalence of online sweetheart scams. Take note of your loved one’s description of his or her new love interest and exactly how the relationship is progressing. Point out any warning signs and help your loved one understand the danger he or she might be facing.

Generations at Home is here to help with safe, trusted caregivers to provide older adults with the cheerful companionship that alleviates loneliness, isolation, and desperation. Give us a call at 727-940-3414 or fill out our online contact form for a free in-home assessment for more information.