Ideas and Ways to Ensure Tampa Seniors are Safe from Sweetheart Scams

Are you a widowed senior who alway viewed Valentine’s Day as a wonderful opportunity to express love and affection to your spouse and family? Do you miss your spouse and family, especially on Valentine’s Day, because many have passed away or you are isolated? Unfortunately, in this day and age, online scammers use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to take advantage of emotional vulnerabilities that they can see as senior adults share their feelings on the internet. Did you know Florida seniors are prime targets for cyber criminals because they are more apt to have access to money, are less tech-savvy than younger adults, and suffer higher incidence of loneliness and social isolation?

These so-called romance scams, or “lonely heart” scams, are cause for alarm. Whether you are one of the Florida seniors who are prime targets for cyber criminals or you have a senior loved one in your family, we want to share a few A, B, C tips about how seniors can protect themselves this Valentine’s Day.

1. Always be leery of an online romance, it is probably a scam. Cyber criminals often present themselves as interested in genuine love and companionship possibilities. Once they have convinced you of their love for you they will then pivot to what they are really after once an emotional connection has been made. They will lure their senior victims into buying gifts, sharing personal information that can be exploited by identity thieves, and sending money through credit cards or financial institutions. Also, as a major precaution, make sure to talk to friends, family, and caregivers about any new online relationship and listen to their advice if they are concerned.

2. Be aware that you should never send money to a romantic interest you have not met in person. If a new social media or message board love interest asks you to send money, personal information, or data to access your bank account, do not fall for it. No matter how tempting, it is important to break off all communication immediately. This is just one of the ways Florida seniors are prime targets for cyber criminals. Do not offer to accept money either, as it may be another way of gaining access to your financial accounts, or an illegal money laundering trap.

3. Cards, flower ads or online gifts, to name a few, could be fake websites with bad intentions. Be extremely cautious if you see a nice floral arrangement pop-up ad, get a thoughtful e-card from an odd acquaintance or stranger, or any other online gift. Really look for telltale signs of fraud before clicking on any buttons. There are many fake websites and advertising scams out there that look real to the untrained eye, but are in fact fraudulent. Further:

• Be wary of websites and offers that do not accept common payment providers like Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal.

• If you are going to buy something, stick to reputable websites that you already know.

• Avoid online greeting cards from unknown sources as they could be infected with malware.

• Google a curious website or ad’s name + “scam” or “complaint” and see what pops up.

Remember, Florida seniors are prime targets for cyber criminals so be on guard at all times. If you or someone you know has been the victim of an online romance scam, do not wait to contact law enforcement.

Further, make sure you have picked an advocate who has the legal authority to act for you in a crisis. Your agent under your Florida durable power of attorney will be able to monitor your identity and accounts when you cannot to ensure that you do not fall victim to a scam like this. We encourage you not to wait to ask us your elder law questions on this or any important issue facing Florida seniors today. The experienced team of attorneys here at Hemness Faller, The Law Office formerly known as Emma Hemness, P.A., are here for you and your family and we want to be YOUR estate planning and elder law attorneys. After all, we are ordinary people, providing extraordinary guidance backed by years of experience and advocacy for the vulnerable citizens in our community. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with us.