Protecting your heart and your money from relationship scams

Oct 23rd, 2019 | By | Category: Lifestyles

More than one-third of Washington adults report running into relationship scams when seeking love or companionship online.

They’re among millions of Americans who are meeting others on matchmaking websites, dating apps and social media. Not all those new connections are meant to be, as 37 percent of Washington residents polled in a new AARP survey (aarp.org/onlineromancescams) reported that they, a family member or a friend have encountered attempted financial scams while seeking friendship or a love interest online.

To help empower people to take steps to protect themselves and their family members, the AARP Fraud Watch Network has launched an educational campaign to raise awareness of online-based relationship fraud schemes.

The idea of going online to broaden one’s social networks continues to gain in popularity. More than half (56 percent) of Washington adults have used the Internet to find new friends, dates and/or romantic partners, according to the AARP survey. But scammers also use the dating sites, apps and social media. The AARP survey found that 18 percent of state residents have either been victimized by an online relationship scam or know someone who was. More troubling, a significant number of victims (64 percent) reported suffering a negative effect on their physical and/or emotional health.

“Many of us, along with our family members, have successfully made new friends or even established deeper relationships online,” said AARP state director Doug Shadel. “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.”

The AARP educational campaign includes advertising, webinars, podcasts, videos and tip sheets, all available at aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.

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, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network, which provides information about fraud and scams, prevention tips from experts, an interactive scam-tracking map, educational quizzes, and access to AARP’s podcast series, “The Perfect Scam,” was launched in 2013 as a free resource for people of all ages. Consumers can sign up for Watchdog Alert e-mails that deliver information about scams, or call a free helpline at 877-908-3360 to speak with staff and volunteers trained in fraud counseling.

Source: AARP

WHEN TO KNOW AN ONLINE SUITOR MAY BE A FRAUDSTER

  • They profess love too quickly.
  • The person immediately wants to leave the dating website and communicate with you through e-mail or instant messaging.
  • Your new romantic interest sends you a picture that looks more like a model from a fashion magazine than an ordinary snapshot.
  • He or she repeatedly promises to meet you in person but always seems to come up with an excuse to cancel.
  • They make a request for money for any of a variety of reasons — travel, medical emergencies, visas or other official documents, or losses from a financial setback. Nineteen percent of respondents in AARP Washington’s survey said a friend or romantic partner whom they have only met online has asked them to help them financially in some way.

Source: AARP Fraud Watch Network

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