Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Mandatory Evacuations - What to Take With You


With wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods expected to increase in frequency and intensity in the coming decades, millions of people in the U.S. and around the world are likely to face a mandatory evacuation at least once in their lifetimes. In the best case scenario, you might have plenty of time to prepare, such as when a hurricane is predicted to hit your area in a few days.  On the other hand, a mandatory evacuation could happen without warning and you may have only a few minutes to get out.  The warning could even come with a phone call in the middle of the night, when you are groggy and not thinking clearly.  

Whether you have plenty of time to prepare, or you need to leave in a hurry, everyone should have a plan and a list of everything they need to have with them during an evacuation.  One thing you could do is print this article and post it in a prominent place in your home, where you can quickly review it and use it as a checklist when you need to leave in hurry.  Just add your own notes in the margin about where to find things.

If You Have 15 Minutes or Less to Evacuate

Obviously, if a wildfire is roaring up the hillside towards your home in the middle of the night, you may have to rush out the door in your pajamas, jump in your car, and take off, leaving everything behind. Your life is more important than anything in your home.  

However, in most cases, people have at least a a few minutes of warning that they need to evacuate.  In that situation, below are the most important things you need to make sure you have with you.  Clip out this list and put it in several convenient places in your home, such as in the drawer of your nightstand, on the door of your refrigerator, or some other safe place where it will be easy to find. In an emergency, it is easy to get rattled and forget something obvious, such as your wallet or cell phone.  Having a list will help you stay focused on the most important things you need to do. 

Your family - Try to be sure that everyone is accounted for and in the car with you before you worry about anything else.  

Your pets
- If possible, put your pets in a small, portable pet kennel (Ad). They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. It will make it easier to control your animals, especially if they become afraid or excited about what is happening.  Put your pets in the car as soon as you can, so they do not panic and disappear.  However, do not delay your evacuation by spending a lot of time looking for them.  If they hide and cannot be found, you may have to leave them behind.  In the event of a fire, let the firefighters know about any missing pets and they will try their best to rescue them.

Your purse and wallet - If you have your wallet and/or purse with you, it means you will probably have your driver's license, some cash, your bank debit card, and credit cards.  This will enable you to rent a hotel room, or purchase food and other items you may need while you are evacuated. 

Your medications - If you are taking any life saving medications, grab a bag and just sweep them into it.  Do not take the time to sort through them.  Just take everything you think you might need.  Once you get to an evacuation center, they can help you replace any medications which you may have missed.

Important documents
- Ideally, everyone should have a small portable lockbox or fireproof home safe (Ad) that contains your important documents, all in one place.  These documents should include your passports, birth certificates, social security cards and copies of insurance policies, including policies on your home and automobiles. If you store all these papers in one convenient lockbox or safe, it will be easy to grab all the documents you would otherwise not have time to locate.  Later, it will save you time if you do not have to replace your important documents.   You may also want to keep copies of your important documents in a notebook, which you can grab as you rush out the door, even if you have very little time. My husband and I have a notebook which contains copies of our wills, trust, Advanced Directives, I.D.'s, insurance policies, marriage certificates, birth certificates, and other important information we might need in an emergency.

Small electronics - Because most of us have a great deal of important information stored on our phones, tablets, and laptop computers, you want to try to grab these things, along with their chargers, before you take off.  It will make it easier for you to find contact phone numbers of your friends and family, and enable you to let others know you are OK. 

If the items above are the only things you have time to grab, at least you will be leaving with your most essential items.  Hopefully, however, you will have enough evacuation time to toss a few more items in your car.  

IMPORTANT:  If you are fleeing a wildfire, do not spend more than 5 minutes gathering as much as you can before you leave.  Fires can move quickly and you may have less time to get to safety than you think you do.

If You Have an Hour or More to Evacuate

If you have a little extra time to evacuate, you still need to hurry.  This would include situations such as when a fire is in your general area, but has not reached your neighborhood; or when a hurricane has taken an unexpected turn towards you, but is still a few hours away; or when you live in a flood prone area with a major storm headed your way.  In these situations, you might have an extra 30 to 60 minutes to evacuate, or even a little more time, but you still should not linger too long. If you are fortunate enough to have this extra time, what additional items should you take with you?

Make sure you have everything listed above - Do not let yourself get distracted by things you want to take, until you are sure you have loaded everything you need to take. First, double-check that you have everyone in your family, and, if possible, your pets, wallets, medications, small electronics and important documents.  

Secure Your Preschoolers in the car - Strap your youngest children into their car seats, and pack up a few things for them.  Make sure they have a favorite stuffed animal they can cling to.  Things could be very crazy for the next few days, and having their favorite toy will bring them some comfort when they do not understand what is happening.  Make sure you also have diapers, formula, or any other essentials which could be hard to find for a few days.

Let Your School Age Children Grab What they Want -  Give children who are old enough a suitcase or even a couple of trash bags.  Tell them to put some clothing and their toothbrushes in one bag, and a few of their favorite toys in the other.  This could reduce their stress in two ways.  First, you are giving them a task which will distract them from what is happening.  Second, if your home is destroyed, at least your children will have been able to bring a few of their favorite things with them.  Most other things can eventually be replaced. 

Fill a suitcase or a couple of shopping bags with your valuables - Since you have a little extra time, put your jewelry box, small family heirlooms, photo albums, artwork, sterling silver, and similar items in a few shopping bags and put them deep in interior of your car's trunk. These are things you will not need to get out when you stop at a hotel or an evacuation center.  However, it will give you peace of mind to know that they are safely locked in your car.

Fill a suitcase with an armload of clothing - Ideally, you should have a change of clothing, underwear, toiletries and similar items for everyone in your family.  However, this is not the time to pack carefully.  Just grab a few things and stuff them in a suitcase.  You just need enough clothing to last a few days.  If your home is totally lost, local charities or your private insurance will help you replace some of your clothing.

Do a Last Minute Walk-Thru of Your Home - If you have the time, grab a trash bag and your cell phone camera.  Use your cellphone to make a video and quickly document everything you are leaving behind.  It will help with your insurance claims. Meanwhile, fill the trash bag with any last minute things which you would like to bring with you. Suggestions include favorite framed photos, the family Bible, mementos of trips, or a favorite painting still hanging on your wall. Grab anything you can quickly stuff into the bag.  You will cherish these things if you eventually have to replace your home.

Take All Your Cars With You - Although it may seem more convenient to have your whole family in one car, if there is more than one driver in the family, have them each drive one of the cars out of the evacuation area.  You do not want to lose one of your cars, if you can avoid it.  In addition, the extra car will give you more space to take things with you.  If your home is destroyed and you need to stay in temporary housing for a while, it will also be more convenient if everyone has their car with them. 

Below is a list from FEMA which you may also want to print out. It includes some of the additional items you may want to bring with you when you evacuate, if you have time.  It includes items you may want to have if you are uncertain about the conditions where you will be staying after an evacuation.  Below it you will find more emergency evacuation information.

How to "Prepare" to Evacuate

About 20 years ago, there were a number of fires burning in our part of California.   Although our home was not in immediate danger, we were told to "Prepare to Evacuate."  This gave us plenty of time to fill our cars with all the things mentioned in the lists above, as well as do a better job packing a suitcase to take with us.  Fortunately, in that case, the fires did not come close enough to our home to necessitate an evacuation, although many other Southern California homes were destroyed.  By feeling prepared to evacuate, however, I was more comfortable knowing that everything portable that I valued was safely locked in my car, and we could have dropped everything and evacuated with a moment's notice.  

How to Pre-Plan for an Evacuation

Do you live in an area where evacuations are common?  Perhaps you live in an area which gets hit by a hurricane every few years, or occasionally floods.  You might live near a national forest that is prone to wildfires.  If this describes your situation, you may want to pre-plan for a potential evacuation. Here are some of the steps you can take long before you get an evacuation notice:

Fill a back-pack or "get away bag" for each member of the family
- This get-away bag (Ad) should contain a couple of changes of clothes, underwear, a jacket, an old pair of tennis shoes, and basic toiletries such as toothpaste and a toothbrush. Be sure to include a small supply of essential medications. If you have growing children, you should repack the bags at least once a year.

Pack an extra bag with copies of important documents - Make copies of your birth certificates, social security cards, driver's licenses, insurance papers, and other important documents.  Put them in your bag, along with a list of important phone numbers you may need to know in an emergency. You may want to include a small amount of cash, in case local ATM machines are out-of-order during an evacuation.  Keep your original documents in a small fireproof home safe (Ad), and keep an extra set of the safe keys in your get-away bag.  In case you have to evacuate in a hurry, and you have time, you can add your safe, lockbox and small electronics to this backpack and take off quickly.  If you are unable to take the safe with you, there is a good chance it will survive some types of disasters and you can find it after the emergency has passed.

Having get-away bags will also be convenient if you and your family leave your home each morning for school and work.  In an emergency you would not be able to return home to get important belongings. In that event, you can keep the get-away bags in your car.   If there is an emergency evacuation in your neighborhood, you can simply pick up your family members at their jobs or school and go to the evacuation center or a hotel. In a crisis, you would know that you have some basic necessities for each member of the family, as well as copies of important documents. It is likely that if you were away from home during the day, you would also have your cell phones and, possibly, other small electronics with you. It would not be an ideal situation, but it would be better than being caught by surprise without anything you might need.   

After An Evacuation - What Happens?

Fortunately, most of the time you will all be able to return home safely after the emergency is over, and everything will be exactly as you left it.  You can return your belongings to their rightful places, stow away your get-away bags, and relax. You might even decide to update your get-away bags before stowing them away in the trunk of your car. 

However, if your home is no longer habitable after a disaster, you will be glad you were so well-prepared for evacuation.  You will be able to start over and still have at least some of your favorite belongings with you.  If you have either homeowner's insurance or renter's insurance, many of your lost items will be replaced. 

After most major emergencies, FEMA, state agencies, the Red Cross, and local charities will help you fill out the paperwork to file claims, apply for loans, and get other types of assistance.  These organizations may also be able to help you obtain temporary housing and a few items of furniture and clothing.  Despite this generous assistance, you and your family will feel much better if you also have been able to bring some of your own belongings with you. 

While not everything you own can be replaced, it is important to remember is that you were able to save your family. Anything else you save beyond that will just make it easier for you to recover from a disaster.  The most important thing is that you are able to move on with the people you love and cherish.

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Friday, May 27, 2022

The Elderly Homeless Crisis in America

My husband and I have volunteered in a local homeless shelter for about five or six years, and one of the things which has stunned us is how many of the homeless are elderly and/or disabled.  We have seen people with missing limbs who have been picked up in their wheelchairs by younger homeless men, and carried into the shelter.  We have seen people who use walkers struggle up to the food line to get their dinner.  We have been deeply moved when we watch the able-bodied homeless people reach out to help their elderly companions, by filling or carrying their plates for them.  There can be amazing kindness and humanity in a homeless shelter.

Why Does Senior Homelessness Happen in America?

While there are many issues which cause people to fall into homelessness, one of the most common reasons is simply because their income is inadequate to pay rent, and there are not enough affordable apartments available for low income people.

Typically, this happens when an older American loses a job, goes through a divorce, or becomes widowed, and they are suddenly expected to survive on their inadequate retirement or disability income.  When someone loses a spouse, the change from having two incomes to only one income can be devastating for many senior citizens, because they may no longer to able to handle their fixed expenses like rent and utilities.

The decline in their financial situation may happen slowly.  They use up their savings and gradually fall behind in their rent and other bills.  They may try living temporarily with a relative, if they have one who is willing and able to take them in.  If that does not work out, they may decide that they will live "temporarily" in their car, while they try to save enough to rent an apartment.  Meanwhile, rents continue to rise, affordable housing is scarce, Section 8 vouchers require long waits, and homeless continue to live in their cars or, when they can no longer keep their cars running, they end up on the street.  It is more common than you think.

The Number of Homeless Seniors is Expected to Increase

Older Americans make up around one-third of the homeless. According to a caseworker in one of Arizona's largest shelters, "These are not necessarily people who have mental illness or substance abuse problems.  They are people being pushed into the streets by rising rents."

As of 2017, the Annual Homeless Assessment from HUD revealed that the percentage of homeless people over the age of 50 who are in emergency shelters or transitional housing rose from 22.9% in 2007 to 33.8% in 2017.  More recent numbers are not available because HUD now lumps all adults over age 25 together.  This may conceal the problem, but does nothing to solve it.  Personally, I have seen far too many senior citizens struggling to survive in shelters.

Researchers believe that the number of seniors who are homeless will TRIPLE from about 40,000 to 106,000 by 2030, when the last of the Baby Boomers reach age 65.  This will continue to be a growing crisis unless the problem is addressed with a dramatic increase in affordable senior housing.  

Low Income Baby Boomers are Hit the Hardest

Many Baby-Boomers who are in their late 50s or 60s, even those who may still be working, do not have pensions or 401(k) accounts.  About half of men and women between ages 55 and 66 do not have any retirement savings at all.  

Many of those who end up homeless also have very small Social Security checks, because they had jobs which were low paying or "off the books" during most of their working years.  In other cases, they are not old quite old enough for Social Security, but they lost their last job during the pandemic or for other reasons and, because of their age or health, they have not been able to find another one that pays well.  For a while they can receive unemployment benefits but, eventually, those run out.

Some who have very low Social Security benefits may qualify for Supplemental Security Income, which was about $841 a month in 2022.  That may help them with a few expenses, but in most parts of the country it is not enough for them to afford to rent an apartment.

Life is Especially Difficult for Disabled Seniors

Homeless senior citizens create new issues for social workers.  It is more complicated to house people who are older, sicker and may be developing dementia or serious chronic illnesses.  Homeless shelters have to make sure they are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. (The homeless shelter where I volunteer installed a ramp to the entrance during the pandemic. Prior to that, the disabled residents had to be carried into the shelter by other homeless people.)

You can learn a little about what they go through by reading the book, "Homeless: A Day in the Life - A Homeless Veteran's Tale."  It could give you a deeper understanding of the homeless crisis.

For many disabled seniors, just getting to and from the shelters can be a challenge, since they are often in less desirable parts of cities.  The disabled seniors frequently have to navigate rough neighborhoods using wheelchairs, walkers and canes over cracked sidewalks.  Sometimes they end up becoming the victims of violence because they do not have a safe place to live.

Because many shelters require the occupants to leave during the day, the elderly must move around the streets of their city, looking for protection from bad weather on buses, trains or in libraries. They are often vulnerable to thieves or, even worse, violent attacks.  As the number of elderly homeless people grow, this problem will become increasingly more serious. 

The Solution to the Elderly Homeless Crisis

Housing.  Our country needs more affordable, supportive housing for low-income seniors, as well as for other homeless people with special needs such as the mentally ill or the addiicted.

The ONLY way to solve a homeless crisis is to provide people with supportive housing. That means the elderly will have access to the essential assistance they need ... social workers, help applying for housing, food, and utilities, plus access to transportation, medical care, and similar essentials.  

The provided housing for the elderly does not need to be fancy.  It does not need to be spacious.  However, it needs to be safe and provide some security.  It also does not need to be entirely free.  It is not unreasonable to expect the homeless to pay approximately 30% of their income for rent, whether that income is from Social Security, SSI, disability, or a low paying job.  For someone on SSI who is living on around $900 a month, this means they could pay rent of approximately $270 a month.  This would defray the cost of maintaining the housing, while allowing the homeless person enough money to buy food and pay for their bus fare.

Although younger homeless adults may need different solutions, such as job training, drug rehab, or better mental health treatment, there is only one solution for a senior citizen, especially those in poor health with limited options.  That solution is safe, affordable housing for the most vulnerable people in our society.  

In addition to supportive housing, there are some cases in which they may need to be housed in a nursing home or memory care facility, which may require that someone, such as a Social Worker, can help them complete the necessary paperwork to show that they qualify for VA care, Medicaid and/or Medicare. 

Whatever Americans decide to do to house the poorest of our elderly, it is time to start building the necessary housing and facilities, before it is too late, and tens of thousands more end up on the streets of our cities.

Do you know someone who is recovering from alcoholism or drug addiction? You can find sobriety gifts, and gifts for retirees and others at my Etsy Store, DeborahDianGifts.  Check them out here: 


To learn more about common medical problems as we age, Medicare, Social Security, 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.

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

Photo credit: Pixabay and Amazon book cover

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Pre-Diabetes can be Reversed - Learn How

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 88 million American adults (or about one-third) have pre-diabetes. The CDC estimates that approximately 84 percent of them do not even know they have it!. Pre-diabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.  It is a dangerous condition because, in about 70 percent of cases, it develops into Type 2 diabetes, which can damage your blood vessels and lead to other health issues, including heart disease.

Fortunately, pre-diabetes can be thought of as a warning, letting you know that there is danger ahead, so it is time to take precautions.  It is not too late to turn things around.  

How to Reverse Pre-Diabetes

Lose Weight - Losing as little as 7 percent of your current weight (or 14 pounds for a 200 pound person), may be enough to reverse your pre-diabetes and lower your risk of it turning into Type 2 diabetes.  Of course, the best ways to lose weight are to increase your exercise routine and eat healthy, low calorie foods.

Eat Healthy - This is such a general statement that most of us need specific help in learning how to eat in a way that could reverse our prediabetes. For example, a healthy dinner would be one in which no more than one-quarter of your plate consists of starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn and peas.  Half should be made up of non-starchy vegetables such as a salad, broccoli, carrots, and similar items.  The remaining quarter of the plate should be filled with lean protein, including chicken, fish and beans.  However, if you would like to learn some simple, delicious recipes to get you started, try "The 30-Minute Prediabetes Cookbook: 100 Easy Recipes to Improve and Manage Your Health through Diet." (Ad) It will set you on the right path to avoiding Type 2 diabetes, and you will learn how to do it with meals you will actually enjoy eating.

Get Exercise - Simply getting 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day can make it easier to lose weight and get healthy.  Good choices are walking, swimming, and dancing.  In addition, include some stretching, such as yoga, and strength training a couple of times a week  The more you move, the easier it will be to prevent your prediabetes from becoming diabetes.

Get Adequate Sleep - Ideally, you should sleep between 7 and 8 hours a night.  Less than 5 hours of sleep should concern you.  If you are having trouble sleeping, try to avoid using alcohol, caffeine, and electronics in the evening.  If that doesn't work, consult a doctor.  You may have sleep apnea, which can also cause other health problems. In addition, you do not want to sleep too much. That can be a sign of poor health and make it harder to get the exercise you need.

Do Not Smoke - Smokers are 30 to 40 percent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. If you continue to smoke after developing diabetes, your symptoms could be worse than that of non-smokers, and they may be harder to control.

Take Prescribed Medications - If you have been prescribed drugs to treat high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure, make sure you are consistent about taking them. These medications can improve your overall health and could even help you live longer. 

If you are serious about avoiding diabetes, you may also be interesting in reading "Prediabetes: A Complete Guide 2021: Prevent or Reverse Insulin resistance and Prediabetes - Ways to Detox to Reverse Prediabetes."  (Ad) It is available as both a Kindle book and Audiobook. It is a comprehensive guide that explains the nine symptoms of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, causes and treatment of insulin resistance, information about drugs used to treat diabetes, ways to lower the glycemic index of the foods you eat and more. 

If you take these actions, and lose weight, it is very possible that you will be able to reverse your pre-diabetes and prevent it from turning into Type 2 diabetes.  This is life-saving information.

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Do you know someone in Overeater's Anonymous or another 12 Step Recovery Program?  You can find gifts, like keychains engraved with "One Day at a Time" for people who are following a 12 Step recovery program, including both retirees and others at my Etsy Store, DeborahDianGifts.  Check it out here: 


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If you are interested in learning more about saving money, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, common medical issues as you age, travel 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 at no extra cost to you.

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

Photo credits:  Google images - CDC and Amazon book covers

Buy this at:  etsy.com/shop/DeborahDianGifts

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:  


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