Warning Signs of a “Lonely Heart” Scam This Valentine’s Day and Beyond

More than any other holiday, Valentine’s Day is a time to share openly about the love and care people have for their significant others. After all, why not? It is fun, invigorating, and emotionally gratifying. Valentine’s Day, however, can be a difficult time for those looking for love and companionship. To make matters worse, online scammers use the occasion to prey on trusting individuals through so-called romance scams, otherwise known as “lonely heart” scams.

Romance scammers typically assume false online identities and target vulnerable people, such as Virginia seniors, for money and identity theft. The latter is especially concerning for Older Americans because they usually have access to money, are less tech savvy than younger age groups, are less likely to report being financially exploited, and have a higher incidence of loneliness and social isolation.

Unfortunately, subsequent financial losses from these scams may pale in comparison to the emotional losses. As we work to protect our valuable senior clients and their loved ones, we want you to know that protection remains the best path forward. Let us share some common warning signs that all seniors and their loved ones should be aware of not only on Valentine’s Day, but throughout the year.

Warning Sign 1. When meeting a new person on a social media site like Facebook, or a senior dating website, be extremely cautious if your new romantic interest uses a picture that looks more like a model than an ordinary person.

Warning Sign 2. You are pressured to leave the open social media or dating website forum and communicate privately through email, text, or instant messaging.

Warning Sign 3. The new person you have met online lavishes you with attention and praise, while attempting to move past your natural emotional boundaries.

Warning Sign 4. He or she repeatedly promises to meet you in person but never actually follows through.

Warning Sign 5. The person you are interacting with makes simple mistakes like calling you the wrong name or forgets the names of your pets. Be aware that scammers often attempt to victimize multiple people simultaneously.

Warning Sign 6. Your new professed soulmate takes incremental steps toward asking for things you would never provide upon first meeting someone.

Warning Sign 7. He or she comes out and requests access to your personal information, credit card number or bank account data. Do not provide this information, no matter how sympathetic the reason may seem.

Romance scams are awful crimes, but they are also not limited to Valentine’s Day. In fact, online senior scams have become so prevalent that they are considered “the crime of the 21st century.”  Be smart, use common sense, and look for warning signs that something could be wrong. If you or someone you know has been financially exploited online, do not wait to contact both law enforcement and a qualified attorney to learn more about your rights and potential courses of action.