Have you ever tried online dating? Do you know someone who has? With over 15% of the U.S. population utilizing online dating websites, chances are you answered “yes” to at least one of those questions. While many people have found love in the digital world, when we only know someone through a digital medium, it’s hard to know if the person on the other end of the virtual conversation is who they say they are, and scammers are becoming more adept at pretending to be someone they are not.
Phil* was new to online dating. At 69 years of age and recently widowed, Phil was lonely and looking for a real connection. Unsure of how to meet other people, he signed up for an online dating site. Phil poured his heart out in his profile and soon had the interest of fellow website users. One woman in particular piqued his interest: 57 years old, living overseas, and about to retire from a lengthy military career. They started exchanging messages, and Phil felt a real connection with her. He bared his soul and shared personal information, including how much money he had. The woman told Phil she really wanted to visit him so they could get to know one another in person, and Phil eagerly agreed. After all, they had so much in common and felt like they already knew each other.
“She got the hook in him and started playing with his emotions”, said Phil’s family member, a SimpliFi client. “Then came the requests for money as the gal was getting ready to leave the military and move back to the US, and she said she had moving expenses she couldn’t cover.” With additional funds needed for other expenditures, she even convinced Phil to take out a loan for her. Before he knew it, Phil was out $47,000 for a woman he never even met.
You may be thinking, “This kind of thing could never happen to me”, yet it’s impossible to say how we might respond in a situation like this. Online predators such as the woman Phil encountered prey on people during their lowest times and exploit their need for connection.
As stated in a recent AARP Magazine article, “Once people are invested in these (online relationships), it’s extremely difficult to convince them they are not dealing with a real person,” says Steven Baker, director of the FTC’s Midwest Region and a leading expert on fraud. “People want to believe so bad.”
Don’t let what happened to Phil and countless others happen to you. While we can’t always protect our hearts, we can protect our financial assets. If you meet someone online, don’t be afraid to put your Google skills to work. Research them and see if there is corroborating evidence of what they’ve told you. If they ask for money, even if it seems legitimate, run it by someone you trust before giving up funds. Most importantly, share your experiences with others. When we aren’t able to think objectively, others can provide great counsel and help us avoid acting impulsively.
Phil shared the entirety of his experience with others, but not before it was too late for him. His family member wants other SimpliFi clients to know what happened, because “If this can help save somebody, then it’s worth sharing the story.”
*Not the person’s real name
This is the linked article: https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2015/online-dating-scam.html
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