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By Tom Blake
Do you know that a “friend request” you receive on Facebook, or an offer for a free COVID-19 test on Instagram, might be from a romance scammer trying to steal your money?
Are you aware that a phone call from a number you don’t recognize might be from a con artist claiming to work for the IRS who declares if you don’t pay delinquent back taxes that very day, you will be jailed?
Romance scammers are con artists. They are experts at defrauding people. Romance scammers slowly gain the trust of vulnerable, lonely people—often seniors or widows—and sooner or later start asking for money. Millions of dollars have been stolen from unsuspecting seniors.
The United States Senate Special Committee on Aging is so concerned about seniors being scammed that it publishes an annual interactive Fraud Book that anyone can view online by searching “Senate Interactive Fraud Report.”
The book is free to download. Do not download other fraud books that cost money and might appear on the search page.
In a recent Senate Fraud Book that I read, the opening “Dear Friends” letter said: “In 2020, the FTC estimated that Americans ages 60 and older lost at least $602 million to fraud, scams and financial exploitation schemes.”
The Fraud Book supplies tips from the FBI, FTC, and FCC on how to spot romance scammers and information from the FBI describing common techniques used by romance scammers, and details about COVID-related romance scams. The book includes a toll-free Fraud Hotline to report scams.
Another valuable tool for seniors for reading about romance and other scams is provided by the AARP Fraud Resource Center, which lists information on 76 types of fraud and scams, plus other valuable information. It can be accessed online by searching “AARP Scams & Fraud.”
After studying the Senate Fraud Report and the AARP Scams & Fraud pages, I compiled a list of 10 tips for seniors to avoid fraud and romance scams:
- Seniors shouldread and study the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging’s Fraud Report and the AARP Scams & Fraud pages.
- If a person on a dating site says he or she is working overseas, it’s a red flag. Stop communications with this person.
- Trust your instincts. If someone sounds too good to be true, that person is likely a scammer.
- If someone says that meeting you was fate and is quickly falling in love with you, it is a lie. A person cannot fall in love with someone he or she has never met face-to-face.
- Do not send pictures of yourself or supply personal information such as your home address to someone you’ve never met.
- Don’t be fooled by simple trinket-type gifts he or she sends (if the person has your address). The scammer gets the gifts for free from a scamming company.
- If a suitor says he or she is planning to visit you, and then cancels, the person is likely a scammer.
- Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally and do not help a friend send money.
- Do not answer your phone if you don’t recognize the number calling you.
- Discuss your doubts or suspicious activity with friends or contact someone like me for an opinion. Or call the fraud hotline number listed in the Senate Fraud Report.
Let’s put an end to romance scams. Beware of those social media “friend requests” and other warning signals.
Tom Blake is a retired Dana Point business owner and resident who has authored books on middle-aged dating. See his website at findingloveafter50.com. To comment: firstname.lastname@example.org.