People who seek out romance have to dodge dating fraudsters at every age, but seniors are at particular risk for a few types of costly dating scams. The over-60 crowd makes up the majority of so-called “sweetheart scam” victims, and these senior dating schemes cost Americans more than $190 million in 2015. If you or your parents are dating online, here’s what you need to know to “swipe right” without getting your savings swiped by a con artist.
If he or she seems too good to be true…
The classic sweetheart scammer targets recently widowed or divorced adults in their 50s and older, tries to quickly win their trust and affection by seeming like an ideal match, and then starts asking for money. To be sure, there are plenty of legitimate date-seekers online, but dating scams are a problem worldwide.
The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Identity lists several red flags for dating scams. Beware if the person you’re talking with online:
- Is interested in everything you say you’re interested in.
- Claims to have strong feelings for you after just a few email conversations.
- Wants to come visit you, but there’s an emergency that requires you to wire funds so they can make the trip.
- Has only professional photos, no everyday snapshots with friends.
- Won’t use a video chat service like Skype or FaceTime to talk with you.
Other red flags for senior dating scams include:
- Asking for money online for any reason.
- Always having an excuse not to meet in person.
- Asking to move the conversation from the dating site to your phone, to get around dating site rules.
- A large age gap between you and your online suitor. How likely is it that a twenty-something young adult is falling in love with a 60-something? It’s possible, but not likely.
- Staged-looking profile photos that include lots of “money” props like designer handbags, sports cars, or scenery at expensive resorts.
In-person dating safety for seniors
If you do find someone you click with online who doesn’t raise scam flags and who is willing and able to meet with you in person, experts recommend keeping your guard up. These in-person dating safety rules apply to people of all ages:
- Do some research before you meet your date. At the very least, search their name on Google to see if they’ve been in the news for crimes or scams.
- Meet in a public place.
- Don’t give out too many personal details too early in the relationship, such as your home address and phone number. (Some savvy daters keep a separate phone number just for dating.)
- Make sure a friend knows where you’re going and who you’re meeting. Have them call you to check in during the date (which can also give you an excuse to leave if things aren’t going well).
- Watch your drink, and go easy on alcohol consumption.
- Have your own ride home.
If all of this seems like a lot of work, remember that online dating can work for seniors. And more seniors are going online for dates. By 2016, the number of 55-and-up dating site users had doubled from just three years before. According to Pew Research, 12% of these seniors were using online and mobile dating tools last year.