Navigating Love Online

Tips for Older Adults to Outsmart Romance Scams
By: Hannah Miller

More adults are swiping right to find love online, in later life. It’s exciting, but there’s also concern due to the increase in online romance scams. More tech-savvy people means a wider area for criminals to focus on. They target those seeking companionship, meaning they’re unfortunately honing in on the elderly.
These scams are both a risk to finances and a person’s self-esteem. Recovering from something like this can be difficult.

The meaning of ‘romance scams’ 

It’s a type of cybercrime where scammers fake romantic intentions to trick their victims into parting with money. They’ll use manipulative tactics to gain trust and form a ‘relationship’.
The internet is a playground for these con artists, and older adults experiencing loneliness may have less experience with fraud and are especially vulnerable to this.

How they approach their victims

Fraudsters will target their victims through popular social media platforms and dating websites. They create attractive profiles and take the time to craft messages. They’ll aim to appeal to their victim’s emotions, making them feel wanted and desirable.

How they build up a ‘relationship’

The scammer’s aim is money. They’ll gradually build a story around their need for cash for things like travelling to meet them in person. This is where victims get caught out and might overlook cautionary signals or ignore any suspicions.

The ghosting act

Once the scammer gets what they want, they’ll disappear. This leaves the victim without the ‘relationship’ they thought they’d built as well as a potentially vast amount of money lost. It’s distressing and can take some time to recover from.

How can older adults be more digitally aware?

Both older adults and their loved ones should seek education and information to spot these types of crimes.

Number 1

Increased awareness

Understanding tactics used in romance scams is the first step towards protecting yourself or a loved one. By learning more, you can better safeguard yourself against them.

Number 2

Use spam filters and be tech aware

To prevent these types of fraudsters from contacting you by email, make use of spam filters. When visiting websites and applications, double-check they’re legitimate by doing a quick Google search beforehand.

Red flags to look out for

Number 1

They don’t speak about themselves

If you don’t know much about the person you’re speaking to, question why. If they’ve not given much away about their life, this could be a signal that something’s wrong. Especially if they give excuses as to why they can’t video chat or meet you face to face.

Number 2

Things are going quickly

Do you feel caught up in something that’s moving very quickly? If they seem keen to develop the relationship fast, especially before meeting them in person, things might not be as they seem.

Number 2

Financial requests

Scammers will often make up instances where they may need an urgent bank transfer of money. Ask them why this isn’t something they can solve themselves and under no circumstances send any money.

Number 3

They keep changing stories

They’ll often be targeting many victims at once, meaning they sometimes forget the stories they’ve told you. Keep your eyes out for details that don’t align.

Number 3

Do your research

If you’re suspicious, do more research into their social media profiles. Do they have many contacts on their profiles, are their emails a little too polished? If you’re concerned, ask someone to help you out and to look for signs of ‘phishing’.

Romance scam education

There needs to be much more awareness around romance scams. At Action for Elders, we run workshops on ‘phishing’ and we’re always here to help with the prevention of online scams for older adults, to increase knowledge further. We also assist in making sure the necessary security procedures are in place.

Closing summary

The increase in romance scams is proof of technology misuse. If you suspect yourself or someone you know is a victim of a romance scam, contact the authorities immediately. Let’s create a more secure and cautious online atmosphere. At Action for Elders, we aim to raise awareness by having online resources around Staying Safe Online, or you can get in touch with us if you require additional advice.

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