Did you know that Valentine’s Day provides a heightened opportunity for online criminals to take advantage of vulnerable Wisconsin seniors? Are you familiar with the romance scams, sometimes called “lonely heart” scams, that often occur when scammers attempt to financially exploit vulnerable people? By going online the scammer can earn the trust of the vulnerable person through romantic scheming and emotional deceit. Unfortunately, because seniors are usually more lonely and socially isolated they tend to be targets of many kinds of sweetheart scams, especially lonely heart frauds.

With all this information about scams targeting the elderly, we need to let our aging loved ones know how to be aware of being taken advantage of sweetheart scams  and how to take care of themselves. We want to be proactive and share a few tips on how older adults can protect themselves.

First, remember, do not believe everything a stranger says. Typically, romance scammers will post fake images of themselves and pretend to be someone they are not in reality. After only meeting you once or twice online, they will often profess a strong attraction or deep seated love in an attempt to exploit you and the situation. These criminals are watching for vulnerable Wisconsin seniors. Do not fall for it!

When scammers feel they have moved past a person’s emotional defenses, they will often move quickly to convince their victims to communicate in private forums. They will encourage their victims to use email, messenger apps, or cell phones. These private forums make it easier to isolate their victims from others.

Criminals will invite their victims to romantic vacations or a passionate future together, if they could only afford it. The goal of this plea is to tug at the hearts of vulnerable Wisconsin seniors. They might even say they have never felt this way about someone before. Remember, common sense tells us that most real life relationships do not work this way, so beware.

Be careful of giving into unusual requests. Little by little these requests can lead you into providing personal and financial information that normally you would never give out to anyone other than family or close friends.

If you suspect something may be wrong, start looking for signs that tell you something is off. It could very well be a scam If someone says they know you from your hometown and they are wrong about things they should know. Remember, scammers are crafty, they could look at your Facebook friends and develop a fraudulent online identity to get past your defenses. A huge red-flag is if a seemingly familiar person refuses to meet in real life.

Other common internet sweetheart scam techniques are hard luck stories from a previously unknown love interest, they may ask for money or hint at financial troubles. This is something all seniors, not simply vulnerable Wisconsin seniors, need to be on the lookout for. Another scam is the “grandparent” scam. In this scam a person pretends to be a grandchild who is in trouble, all seniors should always be on guard against this one.

For all of us, if you are unsure about someone online, cut off all communication. You do not have to do anything they say or take action. Finally, if you or someone you know has been the victim of an online financial crime, do not wait to contact the authorities for help. Further, you can contact an experienced attorney to learn more about your rights and appropriate courses of action. Remember, elder law attorneys have special training to help you navigate this and any potential elder care issues you may face.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. We want to help you protect beloved seniors in your life avoid sweetheart scams with these helpful tips this February. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with attorney Alan Hougum today.