Beware of “The Sweetheart Scam” Targeting Aging Parents During Covid Isolation
By Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Attorney, AgingParents.com
Covid restrictions for those over 65 have greatly impacted lonely seniors stuck at home. Widowed aging parents may suffer most, with no one to touch them, be with them, or pay much regular attention to them. Some seek company on internet dating sites for those over 50 years of age. Know the risks if you have an elder in your family who is lonely and seeking company on the net.
Scams by criminals seeking to exploit elders who are alone are nothing new. But with so much pandemic related isolation, loneliness is more acute than ever. Schemes to extract money from lonely seniors rise up in new ways. If your aging parent is online looking for love, be on the lookout for potentially harmful connections they could be making. Here are some safety steps you can consider.
- Watch for signs of The Sweetheart Scam. It is characterized by a determined thief seeking out your aging parent, and insinuating him/herself into the elder’s life, using flattery, praise, proclaiming how wonderful the elder is and learning as much personal information as possible about the elder. At some point the scammer asks for money or financial information. Caution your loved ones about any request for money or other personal financial information.
- Listen carefully to your aging parent’s description of a new love interest. Red flags emerge. A week after meeting an elder, the scammer professes to be in love with the elder. Pronouncements of love very early in the relationship are another warning sign. Loneliness creates vulnerability. The scammer knows just what to say. Your loved one falls for it because if feels nice to have attention and the scammer relieves the feelings of isolation and loneliness. Your loved one can get ripped off and the “sweetheart” quickly disappears with money or ID theft.
- Monitor your aging parent’s email. If your family member is looking for love and companionship, predators know this. They get on dating sites, post a false picture and pretend to be interested. If you can learn your parents’ passwords, you can sign in and see who is contacting them. Yes, you’re being a busybody but ask anyone whose lonely mom or dad has been swindled and they’ll tell you they wished they had been a busybody and prevented it. Trusting your aging parent may not be enough.
- Do surveillance on the new “friend.” It’s too easy to lie on the internet. If your single Mom or Dad claims to have a new boyfriend/ girlfriend, find out the name of the friend and check that person out. When you do a simple Google search for a real person using a real name, you are likely to find out something about them. If there is absolutely no internet presence, no photo, nothing to identify the person, it’s a bad sign. Using a fake name and/or photo is one way a predator sneaks into a vulnerable person’s life and tricks them into giving up money, or other things of value. You can do a reverse image Google search on the photo the “friend” posts (Google.com/images). A fake stock photo is a tipoff of a scammer at work. They disappear quickly after the theft, leaving no trace.
Any crisis breeds new opportunities for criminals. This pandemic is ripe for exploitation of many kinds. It’s wise to watch over aging parents who are using the internet, and may try dating apps or sites promising the match them with a companion or date. It may be just fine but there are these dangers to bear in mind as well. Vigilant family members can protect a naive family elder from harm by taking action.
If you think this may be happening to your aging parent and you aren’t sure what to do, you can get our professional advice at AgingParents.com. Don’t wait until your loved one has been ripped off! Understand what you can do now by empowering yourself with our guidance about keeping them safe.
Contact us: 866-962-4464 or 415-459-1203, or at https://agingparents.com/contact-us/
Dr. Mikol Davis and Carolyn Rosenblatt, are also the co-founders of AgingInvestor.com
Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Elder Law Attorney offers a wealth of experience with aging to help you create tools so you can skillfully manage your aging loved ones. You will understand your rights and theirs so you can stay safe and keep them safe too.Dr. Mikol Davis, Psychologist, Gerontologist offers in depth of knowledge about diminished financial capacity in older adults to help you strategize best practices so you can protect your vulnerable aging clients.They are the authors of “Succeed With Senior Clients: A Financial Advisors Guide To Best Practice,” and “Hidden Truths About Retirement And Long Term Care,” available at AgingInvestor.com offers accredited cutting edge on-line continuing education courses for financial professionals wanting to expand their expertise in best practices for their aging clients. To learn more about our courses click HERE