Saturday, May 7, 2022

Romance and Dating Scams - How to Stay Safe and Have a Legitimate Online Romance

The Tender Swindler, Simon Leviev, cheated many women.
You may have heard of the "Tender Swindler," Simon Leviev, an Israeli man who has "borrowed" hundreds of thousands of dollars from a number of women around the world.  He spends weeks romancing women through the dating site, Tender, often meeting them and taking them on incredibly romantic, luxurious dates.  Gradually, he wins their confidence, "borrows" money from them, and disappears, frequently leaving the women broke. He has been interviewed on TV, and insists he feels absolutely no guilt about what he has done.  In fact, he is currently working on a book and movie about his escapades, which means he has found another way to profit off it! Technically, what he is done has not landed him in jail, because the women willingly "gave" him the money, and none of them asked him to sign anything saying he would pay them back. 

While you might not be the next victim of the infamous Tender Swindler, you could still fall for someone on a dating website who makes you feel special and important, only to gradually find yourself sending them money to help them with a little cash shortfall or financial reversal.  Sometimes these people spend months "reeling you in" like a fish.  They might meet you in person, or only be someone you know online. Either way, it is wise to be smart and cautious anytime you meet someone new.

You may also want to read some true books which have been written by victims of romance scams.  These books are fascinating to read, and can help open your eyes about how these scammers work.  A couple of good choices are:  "Unhappily Ever After: A Romance Scam" and "Broken."  (Ad) Both books cost just a few dollars, and are much cheaper than what you might lose to a clever scam. After you read these books, you will realize how even smart people can become a victim of these types of scams.  You might also give one of these books to someone who loves to read, and who you believe might be vulnerable to this type of scam.

With education, we may be able to reduce the number of future victims of romance scams. AARP has also come up with some tips which could help everyone, especially older adults, learn how to identify someone who may try to scam them out of money through a social media or dating site.  While these tips are directed at senior citizens, they actually apply to people of all ages who are looking for romance.

How to Spot a Romance Scam

It can start on any online site.  While we often think of dating sites as the source of these scams, about one-third of the people who lost money in 2021 in a dating scam reported that the initial connection started through social media such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.  Many of those good looking people who send you a direct message or try to contact you privately through social media may be trying to trick you into falling for their scams.

The scammers usually do not try to meet in person, although there are exceptions.  Often they explain that they live in another part of the country or they are overseas, but "something about your profile made them want to get to know you better."  Of course, this is not always true. The Tender Swindler met the women he scammed in person and, shockingly, he is still doing it! 

They often move slowly, but contact you regularly.  The scammers want the connection and feeling of trust to build, before they try to get you to send them money, so they may not try to rush you.  Of course, you need to realize that most of them are also messaging several other potential victims at the same time, so there is no reason for them to rush you.  Sooner or later, though, they will sense that you are ready to "help them out of a bad situation."  They look for people who seem kind-hearted and who are always trying to help them.  The nicer you are, the more likely they will choose you as their next victim.

They tell you how much they want to meet you in person, but some emergency always comes up.  This can be the beginning of the money drain. They tell you about their problems, and explain that they need money quickly to solve them.  It could be money to cover a medical bill or a business issue.  They may also suggest that they have plenty of money, but it is tied up in an investment or because of a banking problem.  In those cases, they will assure you that they will pay you back. Whatever problems they describe, the bottom line is that they want you to send them money in a hurry.  

They ask that the money be sent to them in a form that is hard-to-trace. They might ask you to buy gift cards or debit cards and text them the codes on the back of the cards or read them aloud over the phone.  They might also ask for cryptocurrency, or for a bank or wire transfer.  Once they have the numbers off the back of the gift cards, they can use them and the funds are untraceable.  It is virtually impossible to get your money refunded.

They promise to pay you back, but never manage to do it.  After you send them some money to help them out, they come up with reasons for you to send more and more.  Many of them have practiced this for years and have plenty of reasons why they need the money, and even more excuses for why they have not paid you back.

Romance scams can sometimes turn into something even more sinister, such as money laundering or investment in fraudulent cryptocurrency investments.  You may be blindly following the instructions they give you, and have no idea you have crossed the line into even more serious illegal activities.

How to Avoid Putting Yourself in Danger

Do not think you are safe because you made the first contact.  Dating websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other sites are full of fake profiles of people who are just waiting for someone to "bite."  I have often seen Twitter profiles that say something like, "Honest, Christian man looking for friendship."  It may sound nice, but you do not know if any of what it says is true!

Do not reveal too much about yourself when you connect with someone online.  The more they know about you, the easier it is for them to manipulate you or try to steal your identity.  Do not tell them details about yourself including your birthdate, where you went to school, your last name, or the names of family members.  Even the name of your pet should be avoided, especially if you have used it in a password or as an identity question.

Do not give them intimate photos.  They could use the photos to blackmail you, which is sometimes called sextortion.  They could also simply sell the photos on the internet and make money that way.  You may not even know that they are profiting off the photos or personal items you have sent them.

Do not send anyone you do not know personally any cash, cryptocurrency, gift cards or reloadable debit cards.  You will never get the money back.  If you want to send money legitimately, for example to a friend or family member, write them a check or use a legitimate money service such as PayPal.  At least if a check gets stolen, you have the opportunity to cancel it. 

Romance Frauds Can Be Financially Devastating

The older you are, the more money you are likely to lose in a romance scam.  While young adults lose an average of about $2,400, someone over the age of 70 loses an average of $9,000.

In the extreme, some people have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars because of romance scams.  Three of the women who fell for the Tender Swindler, Simon Leviev, were among those who have lost that much.  They are intelligent, attractive, successful women who never dreamed they could fall for a scam, but they did.  You can learn more about what he did by watching the Netflix video called "The Tender Swindler."  It is horrifying! 

Warning Signs of Romance Scams

They send you a "too-good-to-be-true" photo which makes them look like a model or a movie star.  Often, these are photos they found of someone else online, and it isn't even them!

The person wants to chat with you privately, off the dating or social media site.  They suggest text messages, emails or phone calls right away.  

They "love bomb" you, or  sweep you away with lots of attention.   They act as if they are obsessed with you, which can feel very flattering, especially if you are lonely.

They tell you about their financial problems until you offer to "loan" them money, OR they suggest "guaranteed investments" which you are supposed to keep secret.  This is how they get you to send them money without telling your family members what you are doing. 

They keep suggesting you meet in person, but find reasons to cancel.  On the other hand, they behave like an obsessed fan and actually do show up at your home.  This can be even more scary and dangerous.   The "Tender Swindler" met women in person, "love bombed" them, told them he was the son of a billionaire, borrowed money he promised to pay back, and then disappeared.

How to Recover from a Romance Scam

Many people are so humiliated by what happened to them, they are afraid to admit it or tell anyone. Elderly men and women have been known to keep it secret from their adult children, because they do not want to be told they are no longer able to handle their own finances.  Young adults are afraid to tell their parents, for fear they will be told they were idiots to fall for the scammer.


Whatever your age, you can recover from a romance scam.  A good place to start is by reading the book, "Love on the Line: How to Recover from Romance Scams Gracefully and Without Victimization Extended."  (Ad) It will help guide you in recovering mentally and emotionally from what happened and, hopefully, prevent it from ever happening again. 

How to Find a Legitimate Romance Online

Of course, many people really do find love and legitimate connections on dating websites, including two of my daughters.  Not everyone you meet online is trying to cheat you.  So, how do you make sure you are only connecting with the right kind of people?

Only communicate through the dating site as long as possible.  

Take things slowly, and ask a lot of questions to make sure they are a good match for you.  Pay attention to their answers and notice any inconsistencies.  They may not be a scammer, but you also want to make sure they are not married or lying to you in other ways.

Discuss the prospective dating matches with your friends and family and see if they notice any problems.  Pay attention to their concerns.

Check out the other person's profile photo using Google's image search.  If you find the same photo with a different name, it is a red flag that the person is not who they say they are.

Do a Google search of phrases from overly flirtatious, romantic emails they send.  Make sure they have not copied their love letters from other websites. This is a good way to spot a romance scam.  They often use the same or similar emails and messages over and over again.

If everything else seems OK and you decide to meet, do NOT tell them where you live.  Meet at a neutral public location, such as a coffee shop or restaurant, that is not in your neighborhood.  Take a friend along, even if they sit at another table to watch out and make sure everything goes OK. 

Let friends and/or family members know where you are going and when you expect to return.  This is true even if you are in your 60s or 70s. You are never too old to practice being cautious!  

Watch your beverages so no one can slip a drug into your drink. Older adults did not worry about being drugged in a public place when we were young, so we may not be accustomed to keeping an eye on our drinks.  However, today it is a serious concern.

Suggest that your first few dates are "group" dates, with both of you bringing friends and/or family along.  This will help you both feel more comfortable before you begin to date one-on-one.  If the other person refuses a group gathering, where you can get to know their friends, that is a huge red flag. 

If everything continues to go well, you may have found a successful match through the dating site.  

If something goes wrong and you believe the person is lying or putting you at risk, notify the dating site about what happened.  This could help protect others from going through the same bad experience.

You can also report a scam to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center and the FTC.

Have fun and enjoy meeting new people.  Just maintain a healthy degree of caution for a long time. 



Buy this at: etsy.com/shop/DeborahDianGifts

Have you found a legitimate new love in your life?  You can find this heart engraved with "Love" in my Etsy Store, DeborahDianGifts.  There are many other gifts to choose from, too.  Check it out here:  
  

http://www.etsy.com/shop/DeborahDianGifts



Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post.
 
If you are interested in learning more about retirement, Medicare, Social Security, common medical issues as we age, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission to support this blog, at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit: Google Images - LAMag

7cf9a81f04980d0d319ac01dfd44f7b94449a6cf 

1 comment:

  1. Also beware of legitimate senior men grooming senior women to feel comfortable sexting with them. I am a very saavy person and almost fell for this with a man who I actually had great phone conversations with. I am a researcher, so I confirmed his identity. Texting quickly turned to sexting that was very hot. He was quickly requesting photos in sexy lingerie, until finally requesting nude photos, whichvI adamantly refused to do. I realized during playful exchanges that this was a type of grooming and requested to stop. It was fun, but, when I realized how quickly I was allowing it to progress, it totally dawned on me about grooming.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for leaving a comment. Your thoughts and insights about retirement are always appreciated. However, comments that include links to other sites will usually not be published.