- Written by Tom Blake Tom Blake
Do you know that a “friend request” you receive on Facebook or an offer for a free COVID-19 test on Instagram might be from romance scammers trying to steal your money?
Are you aware that a phone call from a number you don’t recognize might be from a con artist claiming to work for the IRS who declares that, if you don’t pay delinquent back taxes that very day, you will be jailed?
These con artists are experts at defrauding people.
Romance scammers slowly gain the trust of vulnerable, lonely people, often seniors or widows, and sooner or later start asking for money. Millions of dollars have been stolen from unsuspecting seniors.
The United States Senate Special Committee on Aging is so concerned about seniors being scammed that it publishes an annual free interactive Fraud Book that anyone, especially seniors, can view online.
The book can be viewed by searching online for “Senate Interactive Fraud Report,” and it is free to download. Do not download other fraud books that cost money that might appear on the search page.
In a 2020 Senate Fraud Book that I downloaded, the “Dear Friends” letter got my attention with these words: “In 2020, the FTC estimated that Americans ages 60 and older lost at least $602 million to fraud, scams, and financial-exploitation schemes.”
The Fraud Book supplies tips from the FBI, FTC, and FCC on how to spot romance scammers, information from the FBI describing common techniques used by romance scammers, and details about COVID-19-related romance scams.
The book also includes a toll-free fraud hotline to report scams: (855) 303-9470.
Another valuable tool for older adults for reading about romance and other scams is provided by the AARP Fraud Resource Center, which lists information on 76 different types of scams and fraud, plus other valuable information. It can be accessed online at aarp.org/money/scams-fraud.
After studying the Senate Fraud Report and the AARP Scams & Fraud pages, I compiled a list of 11 tips for seniors to avoid fraud and romance scams:
1. Read and study the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging’s Fraud Report and the AARP Scams & Fraud pages.
2. If a person on a dating site says they are working overseas, it’s a red flag. Stop communications with them.
3. Trust your instincts. If someone sounds too good to be true, that person is likely a scammer.
4. If a person says that meeting you was fate and they are falling in love quickly, it’s a lie. You cannot fall in love with someone you’ve never met in person.
5. Do not send pictures of yourself or provide personal information to someone you’ve never met. Don’t give them your home address.
6. Don’t be fooled by simple trinket-type gifts. The scammer gets them for free from their scamming company.
7. If a person says they want to visit you, and then cancels, it’s a hoax.
8. Don’t let anyone talk you out of sharing information with your trusted friends.
9. Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally, and don’t help a friend send money.
10. Do not answer your phone if you don’t recognize the number calling you.
11. Discuss your doubts or suspicious activity with friends, or contact someone like me for an opinion. Or call the fraud hotline number listed in the Senate Fraud Report, (855) 303-9470.
Let’s put an end to romance scams. Beware of those social media “friend requests” and other warning signals.
Here are the two most important links I have provided to readers in 26 years of writing newspaper columns:
AARP Fraud Watch Network: aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/about-fraud-watch-network
U.S. Senate’s Fraud Report: aging.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Fraud%20Book%202021.pdf
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