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Protect Yourself From Romance Scams

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AARP Volunteer Community Ambassador Martin Bailey assisted by Trudy Marotta, conducted a webinar on February 2 to show people how they can protect themselves and their money from romance scams.   Lots of people meet friends and potential love interests online through dating sites, social media, or mobile apps.  It can be a great way to meet people, but Bailey warned that we should recognize that not everyone is who they say they are online.  Without care, one can easily become victim to a scam.

Key to protecting oneself is understanding that all scams are based on emotions.  If the scammer can get you involved emotionally, you'll have what called as “being put under the ether”.  Bailey advises that it is necessary to control your emotions.  He further warned that the only two weapons you have against a scammer are your due diligence and vigilance.

Today, we're finding that about 60% of adults consider  online platforms  a good way to meet people.  Whereas in 2005, you only had about 40% of people say this is a good way for meeting people.  One reason for this increase is the pandemic.  Today, we have many more people meeting online, because they just don't have the ability to go out and meet people socially in other ways.

People over 50 years old are the fastest growing group in our population, and unfortunately, this group suffers the most financial loss from romance scams.  It is estimated that people over 50 lost over $200 million dollars last year from romance scams which is 40% more than the year before.  The average loss was over $10,000.  People have reported more losses to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) due to romance scams than any other scam.

The scams usually begin when you post your profile online.  Within an hour you can expect responses.  The scammers will try to build a close relationship of trust in weeks, that would normally take months to achieve.  Once they have your trust, there will be a request for money that can be imaginative.  This is a red flag that the relationship is a scam.  Bailey advises that there are other red flags to watch out for, including the scammer’s desire to move from a public social media site to a private site, professing love too quickly, claiming to be from the United States but is currently traveling or working overseas, and refusing to do a video meeting.  Bailey recommends that one should simply refuse any request for money.

With these problems, it is best to take the relationship slowly and ask a lot of questions.  Bailey recommends using tools, like Google’s “search by image,” to determine the identity of the individual you are communicating with.  Also be very careful about giving out personal information as this can lead to compromising situations.

If you believe that you are involved in a scam, report it to the FTC at the web site reportfraud.ftc.gov, and if it happened online, report the scam to the FBI at http://www.ic3.gov/.  Also report the scam to the social media site where the scam occurred, as this will help them in their efforts to identify scammers.

Another useful resource is the AARP Fraudwatch Network that has the latest information and news on numerous scams. AARP also has a Helpline at 1-817-908-3360. Here you can talk to an AARP Fraud Watch representative who will work with you on your response to the scam.

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