Unfortunately, across America, Sweetheart Scams are on the rise.  Sweetheart Scams occur when someone pretends to be in a relationship with another person over a period of time for the purpose of stealing from them. Theft can occur in multiple ways, including money, privacy, and identity.

The victims of Sweetheart Scams are typically older, isolated and lonely. While they may not have a considerable net worth, they do have a consistent income stream that the scammer will try to access. Many of the Older Americans who are targeted have recently lost a spouse or gone through a divorce. Through social engineering and research, the criminal is able to learn about a senior’s personal history as well as financial information to determine the best person to attack.

Many times, the scammers are so skilled at what they do that the victim does not even realize what has occurred until it is too late. These criminals reach out to seniors in a number of ways including dating websites, social media, phone calls, and mail campaigns. Let us share a few key tips on the patterns of Sweetheart Scammers and how you can protect yourself and the seniors you love.

1. Scammers are committed to a lengthy con.

Most victims will not know they are being attacked immediately. These criminals will not ask the new “relationship” partner for a large sum of money in the first meeting. Instead, the scammer will build the relationship over time.  After a bond of trust has been formed, the criminal will typically follow the pattern of asking for small things for good reasons. For example, his or her roof may be leaking or his or her child needs a bit of tuitions money. While the first inclination may be to give the money or bank account information, do not take this action. This opens the door to monetary theft and identity theft.

2. Do not give money to someone you have never met in person.

Many of the Sweetheart Scam relationships occur online. As a general rule, do not ever send large amounts of money over the internet. If you have never met this person in person, do not give him or her money. Never wire money across the internet. You need to meet the person you are in a relationship with face-to-face. If you do decide to meet, however, be sure to tell others where you are meeting and ask a trusted friend to attend with you.

3. Be careful of the private and personal information you release online.

Sweetheart Scam do not find happen by accident.  These criminals are looking for individuals with specific characteristics. For example, the scammer will look for signs of wealth, signs of loneliness and decreased interaction with others. The first step to preventing this type of attack is to look at your social media pages or your profile on a dating website. Have you written about your loneliness? Or about a new purchase of a car? These are key pieces of information scammers are looking for right now.

4. Be on guard when a person contacts you from overseas.

Many Sweetheart Scams occur with the scammer living overseas. As s general rule, if you have met someone who lives overseas, do not send him or her money. Also be wary of leaving the United States to meet your “sweetheart”. Before you take this step, talk to your friends and family about what you should do. Instead of traveling abroad, ask your relationship partner to meet you in America.

The key to stopping scammers is to make yourself aware that Sweetheart Scams exist or to help your parent understand the potentials risks that could be involved in a new relationship. These are just a few of the signs that you should be on the lookout for when you are learning to protect yourself.  If you have questions on this or any other issue as your parent ages, do not hesitate to let us know.