Being human comes with a desire to connect with others. Unfortunately, some fraudsters use this to their advantage to scam people out of money or personal information. This tactic is known as a “sweetheart scam.”
Sweetheart scams and other types of fraud were rampant during the COVID-19 pandemic, and seniors felt the most impact, losing a median of $350 to fraud.1 Familiarizing yourself with criminals’ tactics will help you avoid elder financial abuse and, most importantly, protect your heart!
3 red flags of a sweetheart scam
1. Things are moving fast
Did someone profess their love to you after only a few days of chatting online or in person? Love at first sight can happen, but it’s important to remain hypervigilant and pay attention to what the person does or asks for following this declaration.
If they’re asking for money days or weeks later, this is a sign they may have ulterior motives and don’t have your best interests in mind.
2. They are inconsistent
The scammer may say something then offer conflicting information in a later conversation. Take note of these inconsistencies and if they develop into a pattern. We all forget things from time to time, but if their story never seems to match up, you’ll know to leave the relationship behind.
3. They ask you for money
The Department of Justice in West Virginia issued a press release for an indictment against nine individuals who used romance scams to solicit money from vulnerable people. It’s noted that as the relationships advanced, the criminals would ask for larger sums of money.
Be observant and trust your gut. If $5 here and there turns into $50 or $100 and so on, pump the breaks and reevaluate if this is a relationship of mutual trust and benefit.
Never give your personal information, like your checking account or social security number, to new friends or dating partners. These individuals would have no use for this information unless they were trying to gain access to your money or potentially steal your identity.
Many seniors are looking for ways to connect with others, but it’s important to do so safely. Remember these red flags so you can enjoy meeting new people and avoid falling victim to a sweetheart scam. At General Electric Credit Union (GECU) we have your back. If you ever feel your accounts are at risk for fraud, we’re just a click or call away.