06 Feb BEWARE OF “SWEETHEART” SCAMS
Dr. Sherry McCoy PhD
is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook . For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com. Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or email@example.com.
BEWARE OF “SWEETHEART” SCAMS
Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD – Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program*
Here we are in February 2020! Regardless of your age, when February comes around, almost everybody starts thinking about Valentine’s Day. Romance is in the air! Everyone is looking to fall in love. But, as has often been said, “Love is blind” – and that is exactly what con artists are banking on when they come after you with the “sweetheart scam.” Per the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, sweetheart scams “are much like other consumer scams, except these con artists are peddling their time and purported affection – all in an attempt to get the victim’s money.” (http://da.lacounty.gov/seniors/financial-fraud/sweetheart-scams) In this day and age, the internet is often the primary arena for criminals to launch romance scams. Scammers frequent chat rooms, online dating websites and social media just like everybody else. These online activities may expand your opportunities to meet the love of our life, but may also bring you in contact with sociopaths who are only interested in emptying your wallet, and could care less if your heart is broken in the process.
“Sweetheart scams” can take many forms and are particularly devastating to seniors, who are often considered easy marks by con artists because they may be lonely, isolated, and confused. Targeted seniors often live alone, and may be divorced or recently widowed. The US Department of Justice reports that veterans are being targeted in online romance scams. According to the FTC, “people reported losing $143 million [in 2018] to romance scams – a higher total than for any other type of scam reported to the FTC.” (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2019/02/romance-scams-will-cost-you). Scams of this nature usually long cons and don’t end until the victim’s money runs out. Suddenly, the “sweetheart” is no where to be found, leaving the older person with an empty bank account and a broken heart.
Reports from marketwatch.com (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/5-valentines-day-scams-to-avoid-2014-02-10) indicate that “sweetheart swindle(s) … costs the typical victim more than $10,000.” Additionally, fraudsters are often “part of overseas organized crime rings” who regularly cruise dating websites and other social media. These criminals steal photographs of models from authentic modeling websites and create fake identities that are tailor-made to match the interests of their victims. For example, if you say you’re interested in meeting someone who cares about animal welfare, the scammer profile might say he / she is involved in animal rescue missions overseas. After weeks / months of online courting, the fraudster – posing as someone who has fallen in love with you — asks you to wire her or him cash for some type of emergency or to buy a plane ticket to come see you. If you send the money, there will be another emergency, and another, etc.
Red flags – You may be involved in a “sweetheart scam” if your new cyber love:
declares he or she has “fallen in love with you” too quickly;
uses “scammer grammar” (online love letters are filled with typos, poor grammar, etc., which is inconsistent with their supposed identities);
claims a hard-luck story and needs you to wire cash right away
If you feel you have been the victim of a “sweetheart scam”, report the crime to the FBI at www.ic3.gov. If you have questions about Medicare fraud / abuse, or believe you have been the victim of Medicare fraud contact the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP*) at 1-855-613-7080. If you feel you have been the target or victim of a scam, report it to the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470, or the Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357 or https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1.
Remember: You may be a target, but you don’t have to be a victim!
*Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SSSAP2016/?fref=ts. For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com. Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.