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Beware online dating scams (particularly if you are a single older woman)

We work hard to accumulate our nest eggs and for many people retirement is the opportunity to enjoy financial freedom and choice.  Having a nest egg (whether small or large) can provide us with the ability to have that freedom, to make decisions, to have a coffee or lunch out, or to travel.

Holding onto that money is important so that you can use it to enjoy your twilight years.

However, there are many ways that you can lose that money.  As financial advisers we work hard to assist you with protecting that money from bad investments.

 

There are two ways that you can lose your funds that your adviser cannot really assist you with:

1. Elder abuse (where your family or friends lay guilt trips on you or coerce you to use your funds to assist them).  We will write more about this topic in the future.

2. Swindlers and scammers.  As a financial adviser, we can spot most scams quickly and help you to avoid them. Scammers have existed for years, but with the introduction of online dating services, scammers have found a new way to convince you to part with your money.

This New York Times article by Elizabeth Olsen: Swindlers Target Older Women on Dating Sites raises the issue. (If you are having problems accessing this article, email me here) The article outlines that older women often have ample savings, own their own homes and may be lonely and be susceptible to being deceived.

However, these scams don't apply to only older women.

In December 2014, the NZ Herald noted that five women had fallen victim to a scam in NZ. Online dating scam warning issued by police

The Department of Internal Affairs provides information here on how these scams work:

Online dating scams

The set-up

You meet someone online who seems really interested in getting to know you.

The hook

They say all of the right things. So when they say that they have a financial problem, you want to help them.

The sting

You're left heartbroken when your new love disappears with your money.

How online dating scams work

You’re looking for friendship or love. Aren’t we all? Someone starts connecting with you through a dating service. You like chatting with them and become interested.

You get to know the person, perhaps over weeks or months. You start to feel a really strong bond. All of a sudden they need some money – a personal crisis… just a short-term loan.

You trust them so you want to help. They’ll probably have a convincing story. You send them money. Before long they ask for more – then more, and more, and more.

Soon you’ve handed over all of your savings. Or worse still, you borrow money to bail them out. Once they’ve taken all they can, your new love will disappear and your money will be gone.

No one wants to think that they could be taken advantage by an internet dating scam, and yet hundreds of people are every single year.

Tell-tale signs of online dating scams

Poor or vague communication

Have you ever swapped emails with someone on an internet dating site and wondered if it’s the same person who is replying to your messages each time? Or perhaps you've thought that the person on the other end really needs to use spell-check.

Of course, many people aren't very good with spelling and grammar, and they may be writing English as a second language. But most scammers are from overseas. They copy and paste responses from a pre-determined outline or script and send them to multiple dating profiles. If you’re getting emails that are vague, repetitive or difficult to understand, be wary.

Details that don’t add up

Online-dating scammers often have very detailed and convincing background stories. But somewhere down the track you may start to feel things don’t quite add up. Times and places may not tally, or they may retell a story in a slightly different way.

Stereotypes

False dating profiles usually fit certain stereotypes. Red flags are:
Women who are:

  • Very attractive
  • Mixed ethnicity
  • Around 31 years
  • Christian
  • Looking for a 58-year old male

Men who are

  • Professional
  • Around 46 years
  • Looking for females aged 38-58 years

Taking you off the site

Be wary if someone you’re chatting to asks to start emailing you directly, rather than through the site. They may be trying to avoid being detected by the security checks that some dating websites have in place to identify scammers using their sites. It’s always safer to chat through the site.

Asking for money

Once they’ve gained your trust scammers will start asking for money. They may claim to be in a crisis that can only be solved by borrowing money. They may even claim to be wealthy and ask for help transferring a large amount of money out of their country.

If someone asks you for money it is a scam – especially if they ask you to send it via a money transfer system like Western Union. Don’t be taken in, no matter what the reason, or how plausible or sad it sounds. As well as losing money, you may even face legal action for money laundering.

Support

If you’ve been targeted by an online dating scam  Victim Support can offer practical and emotional support.

Protect yourself from online dating scams

When chatting to potential dates online, be very wary if:

  • You get an immediate response (within 15 minutes) every time you send a message, with no discussion beforehand as to when you'll be online.
  •  Their messages are vague, poorly written, repetitive and do not say much about you personally.
  • Email messages change in tone, language, style or grammar over the course of the communication. This could evolve over time, or it could be apparent in just one email.
  • Their messages start professing feelings very early on in the relationship, before they really get to know you.
  • The person shares a sob story early on that quickly becomes an emergency - and only you can help.
  • They’re a 31-year-old, attractive, Christian female, of mixed ethnicity looking for an older male or a 58-year-old professional male looking for a younger companion.
  • They start talking about financial issues in their messages – perhaps putting you off your guard by claiming to be wealthy but then talking about a particular financial crisis.
  • They ask you to send money overseas.

Help protect others from online dating scams

If you’ve been affected by an online dating scam, please help us to warn others by reporting your story to Scamwatch. Your personal details will be treated in the strictest confidence.

SUMMARY:

Be aware, look after your money and be cautious.  If someone you have just met starts asking you for financial assistance, no matter how charming they may seem, step back and ask someone that you trust what they think.  And listen to them.....

If you have any thoughts or opinions that you would like to share, visit us at our Twitter, Facebook or Linked In pages, and comment.



 

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