Sherry McCoy

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 Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or


Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD – Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program


Welcome to February 2024! Not only do we have three holidays to celebrate this month — Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, and Presidents Day – we also have an extra day, February 29th! That’s right. 2024 is a leap year. So, here’s hoping that extra 24 hours will help us leap into an increased awareness of the nefarious strategies scammers use to target seniors! In particular, let’s take a look at Romance Scams and see what tactics we can employ to protect ourselves against con artists who are hell bent on stealing our money and breaking our hearts.


According to the Oxford English Dictionaries, a con artist is “a person who cheats or tricks others by persuading them to believe something that is not true” * in order to steal their money. In other words, con artists are professional thieves and liars. Their livelihood depends on their ability to tell lies so convincingly that people, generally speaking, have trouble discerning their lies from the truth. In a Romance Scam, the con artist pretends to be in love with you so that they can steal your money, property, valuables, etc. Once they’ve gotten what they are after, they hit the road, and you never hear from them again. Meanwhile, you’ve lost your financial security, possibly your life savings, and may find yourself destitute. **


You may also be left with a broken heart. Not so easy to deal with. It’s hard to accept that someone would stoop so low as to lie, cheat, manipulate and deceive when it comes to affairs of the heart. But con artists have no conscience. They don’t know right from wrong; or, if they do, they don’t care that their actions may bring harm to someone else. Because all they care about is themselves. They have a staggering lack empathy, and a deep disrespect for the rule of law.


According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “In 2022, nearly 70,000 people reported a romance scam, and reported losses hit … $1.3 billion. The median reported loss: $4,400.” *** Given the fact that scams in general are underreported, we can assume that the number of people who were victimized by romance scams in 2022 is significantly higher than these statistics.


RED FLAGS That a Romance Scam is Likely Underway

The following charts from the FTC*** show the favorite lies told by Romance Scammers and the top payment methods Romance Scammers used to steal money from their victims in 2022. Read them carefully. In fact, you might want to post these charts in a prominent location as a reminder to be on guard against Romance Scammers. Being Forewarned is Forearmed!

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

It is important to note that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is playing a larger role in the strategies scammers use to target victims across a variety of different types of scams. As noted in the FTC’s July 27, 2023, letter to the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, in “romance scams, … the scammer [can] fake a love interest by using chatbots to send messages [to targeted individuals].” **** This is disturbing because: “Where a consumer may have been able to easily identify and dismiss a scam before, now [with AI] they face greater challenges in determining whether the email, text, or phone call they received is legitimate. Many times, the AI-powered scams seem so realistic that the victims do not know the scammers have utilized AI in targeting them. In these situations, generative AI can exacerbate the false panic and sense of urgency victims often feel when targeted, compelling them to turn over the private or financial information the scammer requests.” ****


Tips to Help You Identify an Online Romance Scammer Using AI

According to Daniel Holmes, a fraud prevention specialist with Feedzai (a market leader in fighting financial crime with AI), there are seven indicators that your new online love interest might just be an AI scammer. ***** Suggestion: Post these important reminders on your refrigerator door!


1-Check to see if the profile of your new love interest is also on other social media platforms. For example, if you meet someone on a dating app, does the same profile appear on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, etc. If it’s legitimate, you would expect to find that person on a variety of social media platforms.


2-Pay attention to how recently the profile of your new love interest was posted. Note: “Generative AI like ChatGPT allows romance scams to be deployed at scale. Often fraudsters will down profiles pretty quickly so if they fail with one, they can be successful with another and they will move on to another profile with another picture.” *****


3-It’s a RED FLAG if: Your new online love interest refuses to send selfies or videos; or, if he or she sends similar selfies/videos all the time, or ones that are generic in tone, and don’t really reflect your current interactions with them.


4-If your new online love interest quickly tries to get you to leave the dating app and move into WhatsApp, suggesting for example, that it’s easier to access and send messages, etc., this is a RED FLAG.


5-If early on in the process of getting to know your new online love interest, he or she asks for money to help with an emergency of some kind, this is a big RED FLAG.


6-If your new online love interest plays on your emotions and asks for money, saying something like, “’I want to be with you, but I need to be able to get to your country, can you send me £2,000 for a ticket?’” ***** – It’s a scam!


7-If you keep asking your new online love interest to meet in person, and he or she keeps putting that off, or for one reason or another, it never happens – This is a RED FLAG.


REMEMBER — Together, We Can Stop Senior Scams!



*Dictionary Definitions from Oxford Languages, con art·ist noun INFORMAL a person who cheats or tricks others by persuading them to believe something that is not true, “the debonair con artist lives by scamming rich women.”


** “Retirees Are Losing Their Life Savings to Romance Scams. Here’s What to Know,” by Emily Schmall, Feb. 3, 2023,

** “Online Nightmare – Elderly Man Loses More than $2M in Romance Scam,” U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Mar. 9, 2023,

** “84-year-old woman loses $98K in online romance scam,” WRTV News Indianapolis, Jan. 31, 2023,


*** “Romance scammers’ favorite lies exposed,” by Emma Fletcher, FTC, Feb. 9, 2023,


**** “In letter to FTC, Dec. 5, 2023, U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, Senators request information on how the agency is tracking the role of A.I. in scams targeted at older American”,


***** “EXCLUSIVE – How to tell if your ‘online romance’ is really an artificial intelligence SCAMMER: Expert reveals the seven signs your love interest is a chatbot designed to steal your money,” Christian Oliver, Mar. 26, 2023,



Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357 or online at

For questions about Medicare fraud / abuse, contact Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP*) at 1-855-613-7080.

U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470.



SSSAP Annual Toy Drive for Spark Of Love, LAFD, 2023

Be Empowered. Find Your Voice. Speak Out About Fraud!

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 For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at To all readers of this column: If you have questions or wish to share your scam stories anonymously with the writer, please write to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or Thank you!

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