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The Sweetheart Scam: how to protect those you love

February 07, 2020
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Valentine’s Day reminds us of all the people we love, and family and friends are always at the top of our lists. Protecting our aging parents and friends is an important way we show love to the elderly people in our lives. Unfortunately, over two million elderly people fall victim to scams every year and there is reason to believe that many more go unreported. According to  statistics show that ‘elderly fraud is now a multi-million dollar business, with a $1000 loss being the median for someone over 80 years old.’ 

Many elderly are susceptible to scams due to decreased cognition. In addition, scammers are aware that elderly people have money to spare from retirement accounts. On the other hand, they may be on a budget and hopeful for a financial windfall. Either way, scammers can leverage financial circumstances to their advantage. One scam in particular—the sweetheart scam—targets many vulnerable elderly every year.

Often, elderly people who are lonely or have lost a spouse serve as prime targets for the sweetheart scam. Scammers go to great lengths to develop relationships with their victims online. They may even pose as a love interest. Once a trusting relationship has been formed, they begin expressing affection. This opens the door to the scammer asking for money. Often, family members discover the scam only after money has been sent, which makes it very complicated to get the funds back.

Family members should routinely ask questions about their loved one’s online activity and pay attention to any mention of new relationships developing online. Always be empathetic and continue asking questions. Do research to verify the identity of who your loved one is communicating with on online platforms and social media sites. If need be, gain power of attorney and monitor accounts for suspicious behavior.

Sadly, there are many types of scams that target the elderly. The Sweetheart Scam is just one. The great news is that awareness is the first step in protecting those you love. Stay connected. Stay alert. Stay safe. Your extra vigilance is worth the effort.