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Looking For Companionship Not A Criminal: the Heartbreaking Reality of Romance Scams Targeting Older Adults

Elderly woman looking at computer

Is Love Blind… or Deceptive?

They say love knows no age, but unfortunately, scammers do: romance scams have become a pervasive threat, preying on the vulnerable hearts of older adults. This cruel deception not only leaves victims emotionally shattered but can also lead to devastating financial consequences for generations to come. It’s time to shine a light on the manipulative tactics being used on older adults in the dark and disturbing world of romance scams.

Are You A Target?

Romance scams typically begin innocently enough, often through online dating platforms or familiar social media pages – or at least that’s how it seems. Scammers, skilled in the art of manipulation, create fake profiles to establish fake mutual connections and emotional connections with their targets. They court their victims by frequent messaging and weave elaborate tales of love and loss to form an emotional connection. Often claiming to be facing dire situations that require financial assistance taking advantage of a person’s empathy. With multiple scammers comes multiple tactics to be aware of.

Pig Butchering Technique:

One particularly insidious tactic employed by romance scammers is known as “pig butchering.” Victims are likened to hogs fattening up for financial slaughter. Scammers who are typically run by organized crime groups based in Southeast Asia use gradual and methodical extraction of money from victims over an extended period of time. The scammer builds trust with the victim, making them believe they are in a genuine and committed relationship. As the bond deepens, requests for financial assistance increase, often framed as urgent and critical.

The Alarming Statistics:

Data on romance scams reveals a distressing trend. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported a significant increase in financial losses due to romance scams among individuals aged 60 and above. The FBI has reported that in 2023 there were 3.5 Billion dollars in reported losses and around 40,000 victims of Romance Scams in the United States. NBC News shares one man’s story to help others. The emotional and financial devastation caused by these scams highlights the urgent need for awareness and prevention.

The Emotional Toll

Romance scams take a heavy emotional toll on older adults who may be seeking companionship or a second chance at love. The morally bankrupt perpetrators exploit this vulnerability, leaving victims emotionally devastated when they discover the truth. The betrayal amplifies the pain, as victims are forced to grapple with heartbreak and financial ruin. Feeling so embarrassed and ashamed victims often do not report their experience to authorities which only strengthens the scammers’ abilities. Reporting to the Federal Trade Commission will help fight fraud.

Knowledge Is Power

We’ve all heard of the saying, you don’t know what you don’t know. We all have to navigate the ever-evolving digital landscape, it’s crucial to educate and empower older adults to recognize and avoid romance scams. Encouraging open conversations about online safety, providing resources on the latest scams and where to report suspicious activity. and promoting skepticism towards requests for money from online acquaintances can go a long way in safeguarding vulnerable individuals.

All of this information can leave you wondering, are there any good people left in the world? The answer is yes, there is a diverse and dedicated collective, committed to drastically reducing the number of people who fall victim to scammers. The DART Collective, is made up of researchers, security experts, game designers, and community-based organizations who have come together to combine their expertise and passion to develop the Deception Awareness and Resilience Training (DART) platform. A platform uniquely designed to educate and empower older adults to recognize and protect themselves from online scams.

Education Can Be Fun

DART has many strategies to empower people against scammers. DART has designed and developed a mobile game called DeepCover, where players focus on solving a series of puzzles to advance to the next level of gameplay. With each level, players are exposed to a variety of real-life deceptive tactics, including realistic social media scenarios. Players become familiar with the language scammers use and are made aware of these deceptive scenarios.

Let’s Learn More Together

By understanding the manipulative tactics employed by scammers, we can work together towards creating a safer online environment for older adults seeking companionship and connection. Through awareness, education, and support, we can empower our older generation to navigate the digital dating world with caution and resilience. There is always strength in numbers and every action matters in this fight to protect each other from scammers.

Whether you are looking to educate yourself or would like to learn about opportunities to volunteer or partner in DART’s mission contact us.