Protecting older adults from sweetheart scammers


Adults can become more vulnerable as they age, especially as their loved ones and close friends begin to pass away. These circumstances can often make them feel lonely, defenseless and sad during this tough transition. Unfortunately, this could subject them to what some call the “sweetheart scam,” where older adults can be tricked out of money through the ruse of an online stranger’s love and attention.

What is a sweetheart scammer?

Sweetheart scammers are people who develop an online relationship with someone over an extended period. They may come off as smooth and charming while talking to their victim, often posing as a U.S. citizen who works outside of the country. Once they feel comfortable, they may start asking their victims to send money for a variety of expenses, including medical bills, car repairs or even schooling.

How to get a loved one out of it

If you believe your loved one is losing money to a scammer, here is what you can do:

  • Tell them to cut off communication with the person immediately.
  • Do a reverse image search of the scammer to see if their profile is associated with another name.
  • Report the case to the Federal Trade Commission.

You can fight back

Elder financial abuse comes in many forms, but sweetheart scams can end up costing victims thousands, even millions of dollars over time. If you suspect an elder loved one is the victim of a sweetheart scam, working with an attorney and local law enforcement can help them cut off contact with the scammer and get their financial situation back in order.