With Valentine Day approaching, many seniors seek their soul mate on matchmaking websites, dating apps and social media. The Washington, DC-based AARP warns those seeking love and affection from internet romances, “be cautious.” Twenty seven percent of those polled in a new AARP survey say a family member or a friend have encountered attempted financial scams while looking for love online.
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reports there were 15,000 victims of confidence fraud/romance fraud in 2017, with more than half over age 50. Financial losses in these scams totaled $220 million in 2016, says the Federal Trade Commission. This number is increasing…
On the heels of these report internet online scams, AARP Fraud Watch Network launched in 2013 as a free resource for people of all ages, kicks off an educational campaign to raise awareness of these devious schemes.
Internet Love Turns Sour
More than 54 percent of those adults have used the internet to find new friends, dates and/or romantic partners, according to the AARP survey released on February 12. But scammers also use the dating sites, apps and social media warns the aging advocacy organization. The AARP survey found that 11 percent of adults have either been victimized by an online relationship scam or know someone who was. More troubling, 53 percent of the victims reported suffering a negative effect on their physical and/or emotional health, the findings indicate.
Seventeen percent of respondents in the AARP survey said a friend or romantic partner whom they have only met online has asked them to help them financially in some way.
“Many of us, along with our family members, have successfully made new friends or even established deeper relationships online,” said Kathy Stokes, director, fraud prevention programs, AARP in a statement announcing the release of the survey’s findings. “But as with every other aspect of life these days, you must be aware that the criminal element lurks there also. Our message is: protect your heart – and your money,” says Stokes.
The AARP educational campaign to root out fraud on the internet includes advertising, webinars, podcasts, a funny video and even a tip sheet. Each of the campaign’s content elements urge consumers to recognize typical warning signs that their online suitor may actually be a fraudster: Watch out for those persons who profess love too quickly or immediately want to leave a dating website and communicate by email or instant message. If your new romantic interest sends you a photo that looks like it came right out of a fashion magazine. Be concerned if a person continues to cancel meeting you in person or makes a request for money for travel or medical emergencies, for visas or official documents, or losses for financial losses.
Keeping Out of Harm’s Way
Consumers may sign up for “Watchdog Alert” emails that deliver information about scams, or call a free helpline at 877-908-3360 to speak with staff and volunteers trained in fraud counseling. The Fraud Watch Network website provides information about fraud and scams, prevention tips from experts, an interactive scam tracking map., fun educational quizzes and access to AARP’s hit podcast series, The Perfect Scam.