by Barbara Parrott McGinity, LMSW
Finding that perfect match online is something we hear about commercial after commercial. Young people are often very successful in meeting Mr. or Ms. Right, but older adults are frequently targeted by swindlers who steal thousands of dollars from them while breaking their heart.
There was a recent article in the New York Times describing one woman’s experience with an online dating service. Her email conversations with someone who said they were a German business man were warm, caring and engaging. He wanted someone just like her in his life to travel with and see the world. A confident woman with whom he could share his life. She was hooked.
And once a swindler knows their target has swallowed the bait, the request for money begins. Maybe they have a sick mother and just need a little help. They have cancer and their funds are running short. They are always in a foreign country, so maybe they need to get home to “die” in their arms, so please send money. This one woman, over a period of several years, sent over $300,000 to her online soul mate.
Online dating services are not the only way these swindlers find their target. Social media is another area where you have to exercise caution interacting with strangers and even people you think are your friends.
Social media websites like Facebook are a great way to connect with long ago friends. Your class reunion or high school Facebook page connects you with pass friends and this can include past loves. All of a sudden that long lost love, the one that got away, is back in your life. Making you smile, you feel like you are 16 again experiencing that first kiss. But, they are not that old flame, they are a con artist preying on your vulnerabilities to steal your money.
Be very careful how you connect with people over the Internet when you are unable to meet them in person. Do not respond to strangers who seem to know you but you cannot remember them. And most importantly, the minute anyone asks you for money…cut off all contact. There is absolutely NO reason you should ever wire money overseas to anyone, no matter how well you think you know them.
Watch out for your friends and family. If there is someone in your life who is talking about this wonderful person they met online, talk to them about the dangers of online dating. They may not believe you because THEIR special person is the exception and would never harm them. Ask them if they have ever sent money and what would they do if they were asked. They may not listen or want to listen, but it is always worth a try if you can save them the heartache of losing not only their money but their confidence.