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From Sweet Talk to Red Flags: Helping Seniors Navigate the Rise of
Romance Scams


By Hannah Walters

Online romances are just a swipe away. Deciding to venture into online dating is exciting. But, with
seniors being a lot more tech-savvy, it’s also become a hunting ground for a particular type of
increasing fraud known as ‘The Romance Scam’. Fraudsters prey on those looking for
companionship, increasingly targeting our elderly population.
The consequences of falling for these types of scams can be devastating. There’s not only a risk to
finances, but it can also affect self-esteem and trust. This deep betrayal can be hard to overcome.


What are romance scams?

It’s a form of online fraud. Criminals target victims by expressing what looks to be genuine romantic
intentions, to gain affection and then access their money. They’re tactfully persuasive and
manipulative, using emotional triggers to form ‘relationships’ with victims. The online space is their
playground, con artists can cast their nets wide. Seniors, particularly those who may be lonely or
less fraud savvy, are frequently being targeted.


  1. The approach

Scammers usually use social media or dating websites to target their victims. They’ll have a ‘too
good to be true’ style profile. They’ll craft messages carefully to appeal to the emotional needs of
the person they’re targeting, making them feel desired and valued.


2. The build-up

The fraudster’s goal is financial gain. Slowly but surely, they’ll build up a story for needing money
e.g. travel expenses to finally meet in person. It’s at this point that many people, caught up in the
illusion of romance, overlook any warning signs or dismiss their gut instincts.


3. The vanishing act

Once the funds are transferred, the scammer will often disappear or ‘ghost’ the victim, without a
trace. Contact stops and the person they targeted is left without the love they thought they’d
found, but also potentially vast sums of money.


Digital awareness for seniors


How can seniors (and the senior’s loved ones) be protected against such elaborate fraud? The key is
building a mix of awareness and technical know-how

Awareness – Understanding more about the romance scam tactics is your first step to safeguarding. Be savvy about the digital world, and approach online relationships sceptically.

Technical tools – Apply spam filters to emails and double-check the validity of any websites and


The red flags of romance scams

Look out for certain signals and behaviours that could signal something isn’t quite right:

A sense of mystery

Do they ever really speak about themselves? Their past, their career, or their current situation? If they don’t, this could be your first signal, especially if they’re providing reasons they can’t meet you in person.

Things move quickly

Do they seem eager to develop and move the relationship along? If they’re admitting their feelings towards you after just a short time and before you’ve met face to face, something isn’t right.

Requesting money

Scammers will engineer situations that require the urgent transfer of money. No matter what the story is, make sure to ask why they can’t solve this problem themselves.

They’re inconsistent

If things aren’t adding up, they probably aren’t true. Be wary of changing details or stories that don’t align. Scammers will often be doing this to multiple people, meaning they don’t always have their
stories straight.

Dig deeper

If something feels off, despite the person having polished social media profiles and convincing
emails, dig deeper. If you’re unsure yourself, then ask a family member to help, and look for any telltale signs of ‘phishing’ – A cyber scam in disguise.

Education around romance scams

People need to work together to increase awareness. Hosting or attending community workshops
can help educate the risks and realities of these growing online scams and their senior target.
Having experts present can also be a great help in protecting seniors from financial exploitation. It
can also provide support for anyone who may have already fallen victim.

Closing remarks

The rise of romance scams is proof of how technology can be used negatively. By promoting
awareness and providing practical advice we can help seniors stay safe. If you suspect that someone you know is a victim of a romance scam, do not hesitate to reach out to the necessary authorities.
Let’s build a safer and more vigilant online environment where the pursuit of companionship isn’t an avenue for criminal exploitation.


*Courtesy of writer Hannah Walters from contentncoffee