Are you a senior adult? Were you aware that during the month of February and especially on Valentine’s Day there is increased activity by cyber criminals to take advantage of vulnerable California seniors? Have you heard of the romance or sweetheart scams, sometimes called lonely heart scams? These occur when scammers attempt to financially exploit vulnerable people, especially senior adults. By going online the scammer can earn the trust of the vulnerable senior adult through romantic scheming and emotional deceit. Unfortunately, because seniors are usually more lonely and socially isolated they tend to be targets of many kinds of scams, especially lonely heart frauds.

Therefore, because we have all this information about scams targeting the elderly online, we must be proactive in protecting our senior loved ones. To protect them we need to let our aging loved ones know how to be aware of these scams, how they could possibly be taken advantage of and how to take care of themselves. We want to share a few tips on how older adults can protect themselves.

First, when you are on a social media site or dating site or even Facebook and you meet someone for the first time, do not immediately believe everything he or she writes. Typically, romance scammers will post fake images of themselves and pretend to be someone they are not in reality. Beware, after only meeting you once or twice online, they will often profess a strong attraction or deep seated love in an attempt to exploit you and the situation. These criminals are watching for vulnerable California seniors. Do not fall for it!

Now, when scammers feel they have overcome a person’s emotional defenses, they will want to isolate their victims from others. They will then move quickly to convince their victims to communicate in private forums, like personal email, messenger apps, or cell phones. These private forums make it easier to isolate their victims from others.

As these cyber criminals get bolder they will invite their victims to romantic vacations or a passionate future together, if they could only afford it. The goal of this plea is to get money from you. They might even say they have never felt this way about anyone before. Remember, common sense tells us that most real life relationships do not work this way, so beware.

Always be suspicious of giving into unusual requests. Little by little these requests can lead you into providing personal and financial information that normally you would never give out to anyone other than family or close friends.

It is very important, if you suspect anything, start looking for signs that tell you something is off. If someone says they know you from your hometown and they are wrong about things they should know it could very well be a scam. Remember, scammers are crafty, they could look at your Facebook friends and develop a fraudulent online identity to get past your defenses. A huge red-flag is if a seemingly familiar person refuses to meet in real life.

There are other internet scams that all seniors, not simply vulnerable California seniors, need to be on the lookout for. You may hear online from someone who claims to be a former love interest and has a hard luck story and they may ask for money or hint at financial troubles. Another scam is the “grandparent” scam. In this scam a person pretends to be a grandchild who is in trouble and needs you to send money or your credit card. All seniors should be on guard against the “grandparent” scam.

Remember if you are unsure about someone online you have the power to cut off all communication. You do not have to do anything they say or take action. If you or a senior loved one has been the victim of an online scam, do not wait to contact the authorities for help. Further, you can contact an experienced California elder law 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 other potential elder care issues you may face.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. We want to help you protect beloved seniors in your life with these helpful tips this February. Our office is here for you and your loved ones. Please call us to schedule a meeting time.