Reviewed by Mike Jorgensen, Esq.
Scams that target vulnerable seniors remain a prevalent issue in the Florida elder community. Whether it is a telemarketer scam, a mail scam, or an online scam, criminals are getting smarter, more sophisticated, and more difficult to identify. Unfortunately, these criminals focus on vulnerable seniors who may be lonely and more susceptible to scams. Recently, “Sweetheart Scams” are increasing in prevalence. Through this type of scam, a criminal poses as a person seeking a relationship with a senior. As the “sweetheart” relationship progresses through electronic communications, the criminal will typically ask the senior to send them money or to provide them with personal details, such as access to online banking accounts and the senior’s Social Security Number. Education is key to protecting the seniors you love from falling victim to Sweetheart Scams, which is why we want to share a few tips to help you identify if your loved one is being targeted.
Perhaps the most important first step is to talk to your senior loved one about the common elements of a scam. Not all scams are created equal, but many of them share common identifying elements. If your senior’s online love interest starts asking for money frequently or for your senior’s personal details, these concerns should be taken very seriously.
Encourage your loved one to be guarded from giving too much personal information when talking to people online. Remember, if the person on the other side of the line is a scammer, they will be very convincing. Your loved one should ask them to video chat, or if safe to meet in person before even thinking about sharing personal details with them. It is important to remember that there should be no reason for your senior, who has never had face-to-face interaction with the “sweetheart”, to require access to your loved one’s Social Security Number or bank account details. Common sense is key. If the romantic relationship seems contingent upon the senior sending money, this is a red flag.
Above all, it is important that your senior feels comfortable confiding in you or another close friend or family member if something seems suspicious. Those closest to your senior should have their best interests at heart and will be able to offer advice and guidance. If the online love interest becomes aggressive or threatening, it may be time to contact a law enforcement officer who specializes in Sweetheart Scams.
We know that falling victim to a Sweetheart Scam can be an embarrassing and overwhelming ordeal for your senior. If you need advice on how to handle this type of situation, or if your loved one wants to be connected to a Florida Elder Law attorney to assist them in creating a plan to protect themselves and their assets, please visit our Find a Lawyer page.