On the Space and Treasure Coasts in Florida, where there is a high concentration of senior citizens, romance scams are some of the most common forms of fraud, constituting over $100,000 each year in lost funds. Recent reports suggest that Florida seniors, in particular, are often targeted by international and domestic romance scammers alike.
The FBI and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) say that romance scammers often target senior citizens with their schemes because they tend to be more vulnerable. Seniors are sometimes lonely or widowed after the loss of a spouse or friend. Combine this with a lack of technological aptitude and it’s much easier to perpetrate romance scams against them after a fraudster earns their sense of trust.
These scams are so common that the FBI recently formed the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force. Many international scammers specifically seek out American senior citizens in areas like Floria, where nursing homes and assisted living facilities are common.
Read on to learn more about what romance scams look like and how to avoid falling for them. Don’t wait until it’s too late to get out of a tricky or exploitative situation.
In recent reports, the FTC and the FBI have shared some valuable information about what seniors (and, in fact, all potential victims and dating profile users) should look out for when trying to avoid a romance scam.
Romance scams often involve foreigners, so watch out if someone makes a lot of spelling or grammar errors. While most non-native English speakers are obviously not romance scammers, it’s something to watch for, as some international scam groups target American seniors specifically.
Romance scammers will also often play the long game, in which they earn the trust of the victim they are targeting. Make note of someone on a dating app or website who parrots everything you say or seems too good to be true. Take note, too, if someone expresses too many extreme emotions for you right away. This is a common romance scam tactic.
Most people who truly want to get romantically involved with you will be happy to make in-person plans with you. If someone avoids video chatting or planning long-distance travel, they might be a romance scammer.
Once they get to the “scam” phase, romance scammers often claim they have a sudden family emergency, are stuck in customs, or are experiencing some other dire or tragic situation. They will often ask you to wire them money or send it via bitcoin, Western Union, or other anonymous platforms.
The rules of online dating are simple and universal. Avoid romance scams by asking for real social media profiles after an appropriate amount of time. Try to video chat or meet up in person as soon as you feel comfortable so you’re not just communicating by text or phone.
Never wire money to anyone you haven’t met in person and don’t already have an established, trusting relationship with. This way, you can ensure the person you’re talking to is sincere, rather than a romance scammer attempt to prey on you.