Look Out For Online Romance Scams
Welcome to another February and another Valentine’s Day and another week of chilling week romance scam stories.
The human heart is a fragile thing. And loneliness is a powerful and sometimes crippling motivator to add someone to your life hopefully for the rest of your life. Elderly black people are just as vulnerable to romance scams as other races. And, sadly, we are less likely to report it to the police or even family members. And that is where the evil of a romance scam comes sometimes succeeds. People lose millions upon millions of dollars to romance scammers every year. And many lose so much more, including family and friends.
Why? Its always about love and companionship. It’s often about needing someone in your life as a companion and lover. And finally its about wanting to believe the impossible. That that 23 year old bikini model is in love with a 60 year old apartment dweller living on social security. Or the distinguished 55 year old small business owner is in love with your grandmother who is nearly blind. Your parents or grandparents will never see or even speak face-to-face to these people. But they will send money and gifts in copious amounts because they believe they are in love. Why do people do this?
Often young women will prey on older men who need an ego boost. Older often men want to be associated romantically with young beautiful women. And black men are no less vulnerable to a pretty face and banging body! Sometimes they enter into the sugar daddy relationship and other times they are just fleeced and bled of every nickel. It’s not news.
Family members need to be on the look out
With most romance scams the elderly are a prime target. And I don’t mean just the really old. Mothers and fathers in their mid 50’s and 60’s are good targets for romance scammers. Many widows and widowers are looking for some excitement in their daily lives. So family members need to be on the look out for the snake that might be lying in wait.
Here are somethings to look out for to protect your parents from romance scams;
- Be alert to the activities of your older parents and relatives. Ask about their social media activity and become a friends on Facebook if you can.
- Ask to participate as a supporter if they are dating online. I know no one likes to spy but be alert to new people entering their lives via social media.
- Watch for changes in their mood. Are they happy or excited about a person they have not yet met face-to-face? Or are the suddenly disappointed and distant after starting a relationship. Both are bad signs.
- Are they spending a lot of time talking about or to this person who is far away or even in another country or state? Is this person only communicating via email or message app or telephone? Long distance romance scams are very popular and usually the most costly and painful.
- Is this person “out of your mother’s or father’s league”? What am I talking about? Are they extremely handsome or attractive? Are they too young for the person? Are they claiming unusual wealth and stature?
These are all bad signs and should set off alarms. You need to have a long and gentle talk about the new person in their life. Remember you are dealing with strong emotions. Ask questions but don’t make accusations or criticize. Make plans to meet this person if possible. Most romance scammers will not want to meet the family. But others will try to charm the entire family so be alert to overly friendly men and women that enter your parent’s or grandparents life. Watch for changes in the person’s life. How are they getting along with old friends? Have they become secretive about the relationship? Again, prying or spying is not a good strategy. Try gentle yet inquisitive questions and being supportive. You don’t need to be a spy but you do need to be aware.
The most dangerous romance scammer of all
The most dangerous romance scammer is the one who is deeply, madly in love with your parent or grandparent. The want to get married as soon as possible. Perhaps elope to get married. Should this happen the scammer is now legally bound to the victim. They are legally entitled to make decisions on their behalf and in some states even own half of the marital assets. These people are dangerous to the point of murder.
Rapid romance and sudden marriage are extremely dangerous situations and should be reported to the police immediately. Often the scammer will not want that attention and will back off or disappear completely.
Watch the money
Older people sometimes have a pension, savings and may own property, stocks or other forms of wealth however modest. That is usually what the scammer is after. So be alert to the new romance who needs cash, even a small amount. This is often how they open the door to asking for more. They use various excuses like sudden illnesses or travel. They may claim that their wealth is tied up in a business deal. Or they are losing their business and need an emergency loan or even a co-signer. The needs and reasons are endless and often, because of the emotions involved, believable to the victim.
Beware of the business/investment opportunity
One of the most sinister romance scams is the business of investment scam. You parent or grandparent may be offered an investment opportunity that seems legitimate. These scams often take time to come about because the scammer needs time to research the finances or resources of the victim. They will weasel their way into the person’s life and slowly begin to learn about their financial situation. When the moment is right they will offer the deal. And once the check is written they disappear often with the victims life savings. Again spying is not a good look but be aware of your parents money moves.
Romantic love is a strange and unpredictable experience. For the truly lonely heart it is a hunger that will not relent. And there are people, evil people, who are willing to feed that hunger to steal everything they can from you, your parents and grandparents.
The FBI offered the following warning signs to help identify a possible romance scam:
- Immediate attempts to communicate by email or messaging services outside of a dating site
- Claims to be from the U.S. but is currently living or traveling abroad
- Claims that being introduced was “destiny” or “fate”
- Reports a sudden personal crisis and pressures you to provide financial help
- Disappears suddenly from a site, but reappears under a different name
- Asks for money, goods, or other types of financial assistance without having met in person
The best defense against romance scams is education and awareness.
Now you know.