Help for Lonely Seniors: Avoid the “Sweetheart Scam”

It’s been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic started; a year of fear, isolation, and loneliness for a great many older adults. Physical distancing has eliminated the ability to offer the warmth and comfort of a hug and even an in-person smile in many cases. Yet humans are social creatures, and this decrease in socialization has numerous seniors turning their attention online for connection – such as dating websites.

Even though this may appear harmless or perhaps beneficial, there can be hidden dangers for older adults specifically, known as sweetheart scammers. To provide help for lonely seniors and keep them safe, here’s what to watch for:

  • Flattery that turns financial. Financial gain is typically the sweetheart scammer’s main objective. The scammer will employ a variety of techniques to accomplish this end goal, including focusing on weak spots like loneliness. Praising, flattering, and proclaiming undying love and affection for an older adult the scammer hasn’t ever met often moves into a request for funds.
  • Overwhelming attention. The scammer will focus in on a senior’s loneliness and vulnerability, lavishing relentless attention. Take note of your loved one to gauge how much time is being spent on texts and conversations with the individual. You’ll also want to note if the individual is expressing his/her love for the senior, especially early in the relationship. Scammers move fast to get to their end goal as soon as possible.
  • No online presence. A simple Google search for the senior’s new love interest makes it possible to assess if the individual is legitimate. In the event your search results in no information whatsoever in regards to the individual, it should instantly raise a red flag. You may want to run a background check to discover any criminal convictions, marriage/divorce certificates, or any other public information.
  • A fake photo. Google offers a reverse image search feature (Google.com/images) that enables you to assess if the individual’s profile picture is really a stock photo or stolen from somebody else.

You can also consider logging in to your loved one’s email account to monitor activity and help the senior discern between actual relationships and scammers.

Above all, speak with your senior loved one about the prevalence of online sweetheart scams. Listen to your loved one’s description of his or her new love interest and exactly how the relationship is progressing. Point out any warning signs and help your loved one be aware of the danger he or she could be facing.

Carolina Hearts Home Care, the experts in home care in Laurinburg and the surrounding communities, is here to assist with safe, trusted caregivers to provide older adults with the pleasant companionship that alleviates isolation, loneliness, and desperation. Email or call us at 1-855-277-2005 for a free in-home consultation for more information.