Do you have senior loved ones in your family who regularly use and enjoy the internet? Have you or members of your family ever cautioned them about people on the internet who may not be who they say they are? In fact, during the month of February there is a rise in the scam known as the “Sweetheart Scams” and you need to caution your senior loved ones about this scam. The month of February may be especially lonely for your senior loved ones if any of them are recently widowed or had to move to assisted living or a nursing home. Be sure to reach out to your senior loved ones with love, care and conversation during not only the month of February but at least weekly, if not daily.
At this time of year, the month of February, these scams, referred to as romance scams, “lonely heart” or “Sweetheart Scams”, are cause for alarm. Your senior loved ones need to be aware that during this time of year many online scammers will attempt to take advantage of the emotional vulnerabilities of people, especially seniors, as they share their feelings on the internet. Also, the reason that seniors are prime targets is due to the increased likelihood that they have access to money, are less tech-savvy than younger adults, and suffer from a higher incidence of loneliness and social isolation.
We have a few suggestions for teaching your senior loved ones how to avoid the “Sweetheart Scams” and any other internet scams.
- Teach your senior loved ones to not send any money to someone they meet on the internet. If your family loved ones tell you that they have recently met someone online and after a few online meetings this person begins to express genuine love and companionship interest and then asks for money, teach them to be skeptical because a genuine romantic partner will not ask for money. Another new scam is to ask for investment money for bogus investments like cryptocurrency. No matter how tempting, it is important to break off all communication immediately. Caution your loved ones to not offer to accept money either, it may be another way of gaining access to your financial accounts, or an illegal money laundering trap. You need to encourage them to protect themselves by reaching out to family and friends for advice.
- Teach your senior loved ones to be suspicious of anyone they meet online not wanting to meet in person. Would someone who is truly a romantic online interest really not be able to meet in person? If your loved ones meet someone online, advise them to be patient and take their time getting to know the person before committing to a relationship. In fact, remind your loved ones to be very careful of people who claim to have fallen in love with them very quickly, before they have met in person or even talked on the phone. Caution your senior loved ones, again and again, to not share personal information online, including their last name, address, and financial information. Again, it cannot be said enough, your loved ones should always reach out to family and friends for advice.
- Teach your senior loved ones to be careful of the claims of romance scammers. Your senior loved ones need to be extremely careful when they meet someone online who claims to be from the U.S. but is currently traveling or working abroad. Scammers often use this excuse to explain why they cannot meet in person. You and your family can assist your senior loved ones and use a search engine to check a person’s name, email, or phone number to see if they have a history of scamming. Be extra cautious if the persons your loved one is talking to claims they are in the military, an oil rig worker, or in a similar profession because many scammers use this as a ruse.
With families who have aging seniors using the internet it is important for the entire family to monitor the sites your senior family members are on. Also, be sure to protect them by talking about any new online relationships and pay attention if they seem concerned. When you do talk to your senior loved ones, be kind and thoughtful in your discussion. If your senior loved ones have been the victim of an online romance scam, contact an experienced Florida elder law attorney to learn more about your rights and appropriate courses of action.
Our office can help guide a family through long-term care planning for aging parents and loved ones. No matter where you are in life’s journey, we can help. The most important thing is to protect yourself and those you love. Whether you need to update your estate plan, are preparing for future long-term care needs, or have a loved one entering or already in a nursing home, we are ready to assist you. We have three convenient locations and are ready to serve the communities around Highlands and Polk County, Florida. Take your first step by contacting us today.