As Valentine’s Day approaches, people of all ages will begin to show much they love and care for their significant others. Flowers, chocolates, and romantic dinner dates are part of what Valentine’s Day is all about. Sadly, the occasion can be difficult for those lacking in desired companionship, and seniors are often among the most impacted. Aging adults suffer a higher incidence of loneliness and social isolation than other groups, partly because family members, friends and spouses have moved on or passed away.
To make matters worse, scammers and criminals use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to take advantage of “lonely heart” seniors and exploit them financially. In fact, financial scams targeting seniors have become so prevalent that law enforcement sometimes calls it “the crime of the 21st century.”
Did you know there are ways adult children can protect their aging parents from “Lonely Heart” scams? There is no question exploiting seniors is appalling. It is also illegal, and adult children can help vulnerable parents by getting involved early. Let us share a few tips with you on our blog.
First, teach an aging parent how to spot an online relationship scam. Let them know the following:
- If someone seems too perfect, they probably are.
- Scammers tend to move quickly from expressing emotions to asking for money.
- After meeting in a shared forum, like Facebook, scammers will often try to get seniors to communicate in a private online setting, like email, messenger apps, or phone. Instead, tell an aging parent to break off communication.
- Warn elder parents about emotional manipulation. It is a serious red-flag, for example, if someone professes deep-seated love online and then starts pushing for personal information or money.
Second, help them understand the Lonely Heart do’s and don’ts such as:
- Never send money or credit card information online to someone you have never met in person.
- Never send personal information that can be used for identity theft.
- If you are going to buy something, stick to reputable and secure websites.
- Cut off contact as soon as someone online starts asking for credit card, bank, or government ID numbers.
- Do your online research. Scammers like to steal photos to use in their profiles and use false information when grooming senior victims.
- If you feel your senior parent has been targeted, shut down all communication with the suspicious person and contact the police and the oversight function for the online forum.
These are just a few of the ways children can help protect their aging parents from “Lonely Heart” scams. If you believe a parent has been the victim of an online financial scam, do not wait to contact law enforcement and an experienced attorney to learn more about your rights, as well as, appropriate courses of action. We know you may have questions about this, and many other, elder care issues. Do not wait to schedule a meeting in our law office to have your questions answered.