With more and more baby boomers creating social media profiles, Internet romance scams and crimes continue to rise.
Internet scammers are experts at profiling their victims. They especially target those who may be suffering from loneliness: single, widowed, divorced, elderly and disabled men and women, as well as those in social isolation due to full-time care giving to an elderly or disabled family member.
Their goal is to manipulate their victims into believing they are the perfect life partner for them, and using that emotional bond to get their victims to send them money.
Scammers typically operate from outside of the U.S. Since they will usually only make contact by e-mail or chat, they basically write a beautiful script and use it over and over again in their interactions with multiple victims. Sometimes they will e-mail poetry, romantic music videos and even mail small, sentimental gifts to gain a person’s affection.
A scammer will:
1. Attempt to build trust by frequent Internet contact, (e-mail, Internet chat – seldom by phone unless you are incurring the phone charge).
2. Lavishly compliment you based on every small detail they can find about you online, (a profile picture, public posts you make online, things you say to them in e-mails).
3. Talk about what honest people they are, that they go to church, that they are very shy, that they were married but now are widowed – they will say anything that will make you view them as trustworthy and vulnerable too.
When you’re suffering from loneliness and social isolation, all of the above sounds very appealing. It’s fun to have someone to care, to say nice things, to connect with. How do you truly know it’s a scam?
When a scammer:
1. Always has a story about why he or she needs money. They may say they have lots of money, but it’s tied up because of some crisis and ask you for a temporary loan. Or, they may say they want to purchase something to be closer to you -- a phone, an international phone plan, a visa or an airline ticket.
2. Asks you to cash a check for them because they travel extensively, and are out of their country.
3. Asks you to reship a package for them.
Don’t fall into their traps. As soon as they get you to do what they need, they will disappear.
The only way to stop the rise of Internet romance scams to baby boomers and others is public awareness. The financial and emotional toll they cause can be heartbreaking and irreversible to an unsuspecting victim.
It is important to end all Internet connections with these criminals. For information on how to stop receiving unwanted messages and wall postings on Facebook, read “Internet Safety Tips for Social Media Users During the Holiday Season.”