Are you familiar with the romance scam called the “lonely heart” scam? This scam occurs when scammers and bad actors attempt to financially exploit vulnerable people. How does this happen? It can happen in many ways, including online, by the scammer earning the trust of the vulnerable person through romantic manipulation and emotional deceit. Sadly, seniors tend to be targets of many kinds of scams, but they are especially vulnerable to the “lonely heart” scam due to their higher incidence of loneliness and social isolation. 

Be very aware that Valentine’s Day provides an even greater opportunity for online criminals to take advantage of vulnerable Florida seniors. We would like to encourage you to be proactive and we want to share a few tips on how older adults can protect themselves.

First, are you familiar with the adage, “if it’s too good to be true it probably is?” Typically romance scammers post fake images of themselves and pretend to be someone they are not in reality. Often they profess a strong attraction or deep seated love shortly after meeting their victim online, and then attempt to exploit the situation. These criminals are watching for vulnerable Florida seniors. Do not let them mislead you!!

Next, when scammers feel they have moved past a person’s emotional defenses, they will move quickly to convince their victims to communicate in private forums, like email, messenger apps, or by phone. These devices will make it easier to isolate their victims from others.

In addition, these criminals might allude to romantic vacations or a passionate future together if they could only afford it. This scammer is attempting to tug at the hearts of vulnerable Florida seniors. They may even say they have never felt this way about someone before. Remember and be aware that this is not how real life relationships work and always use common sense.

Also, be careful of subtle manipulations. When you give in little by little to unusual requests, you will find yourself being led down a path of providing personal and financial information that you would never offer at the beginning of a conversation.

Now, what should you do if you start to suspect something may be wrong?  Begin looking for telltale signs that something is amiss. For example, if someone says they know you from your hometown and they are wrong about things they should know, then it could be a scam. The scammer may have looked at your Facebook friends and developed a fraudulent online identity to get past your defenses. Another red-flag and telltale sign is if a seemingly familiar person refuses to meet in real life.

Finally, hard luck stories from a previously unknown love interest are common internet scam techniques. Before a person starts asking for money, he or she may hint at financial troubles, such as a broken-down car or a sick relative. This is something all seniors, not simply vulnerable Florida seniors, need to be on the lookout for. There is also a “grandparent” scam.  This scam has the scammer pretending to be a grandchild who is in trouble, and all seniors should be on guard against it.

For all of us, if you are unsure about someone online, cut off all communication. You do not have to do anything they say or take action. Finally, if you or someone you know has been the victim of an online financial crime, do not wait to contact the authorities for help. Further, you can contact an experienced attorney to learn more about your rights and appropriate courses of action. Remember, elder law attorneys have special training to help you navigate this and any potential elder care issues you may face. Do not wait to contact our law practice to learn more today. At Poucher Law, we work closely with clients to help them find the answers they need. 

We do telephone, computer, and face-to-face appointments. Our face-to-face appointments are held outside in the open air (frequently selected by clients for document signing) and inside our office conference room. We follow all CDC guidelines. Our office procedures adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols and are designed and enhanced by medical review and air quality engineering.