$300,000 can buy a nice home in most areas of the United States and take a lifetime for most average people to save. Yet, the New York Times recently reported that multiple older women across the country have lost sums of this size by being tricked into sending money to supposed online love interests that they had never met in person.
The article reports that women in their 50s and 60s, retired and living at home are most vulnerable to the type of common romance scam that proliferates on online dating sites. Intimacy is built up through phone calls, emails and online chats, with one victim describing her feeling of being “swept off her feet” despite never having met her romantic interest in person.
In retrospect and as we have surveyed multiple times, the script is obvious. A swindler builds up intimacy via every possible channel except meeting in-person. This process can take months or even years until the vulnerable victim truly perceives she loves the con artist. Then requests for money as a result of variouys “troubles” flood in: a hospital stay, a business venture gone bad or an issue with international customs.
If these were only minor cons the situation would be merely repulsive. But as The New York Times reports the average victim in this particular scam loses on average between $40,000 to $100,000 with one victim in Vermont losing $213,000. These losses are potentially devastating to retired women with no income beyond retirement accounts coming in. And unfortunately, the New York Times article referenced in this post quotes losses from multiple women of $300,000.
Despite the clear and continuous warnings of blogs like ours, watchdogs for seniors like the AARP and multiple government agencies, romance scams like these continue to find success among those who can least afford it. According to the New York Times article, the AARP has begun pressing sites like Match.com for added protections such as identifying fake profiles or suspicious language within profiles.
What do you think? Should online dating sites do more to protect older women from online romance scams?