We are lawyers, not matchmakers. That said, as elder law and estate planning attorneys we often meet older people who are looking for companionship. With so many people of all ages using online dating sites, we are taking this Valentine’s Day to offer some tips for staying safe online.
Now a multi-billion dollar industry, dating sites and apps have allowed many people to find true friendship, romance, and even marriage. But inevitably, the industry has also attracted its fair share of cyber-criminals. Older people who may be less tech-savvy than younger generations may be particularly susceptible to online predation. And while both men and women can become victims, the FBI says that women over age 40 who are widowed, divorced or disabled are targeted most often. Here are some fundamental rules for staying safe:
- Amy Nofziger of the AARP’s fraud unit emphasizes being alert to bad grammar. Why? Offshore scammers often use translation software that produces less than intelligible messages.
- Be cautious if your online friend seems in a hurry to communicate with you by text, phone or email. He/she may want to get around the dating site’s privacy controls.
- Does your online contact profess love and loyalty too early in your communication? Don’t allow yourself to be duped into a premature sense of trust.
- It is common for fraudsters to find reasons they cannot meet you in person. Your contact may claim to be traveling on business, hospitalized, etc.
- Once a fraudster has your trust, he/she will put the squeeze on you. You may be asked to wire money for a medical emergency, financial crisis, etc. If you had future plans to meet personally, you may be told that your contact needs money to travel to see you.
- Nofziger also recommends that you do your own cyber-sleuthing. You can google names, emails, phone numbers to see if the person has a legitimate web presence. You can even do a reverse image search: Drag the person’s photo into google and you can find out where the image has appeared. If it’s a stock image and/or or you find multiple profiles using that image, you know the person is not on the up and up.
- Do not hesitate to contact the dating website if you suspect attempted foul play.
- If you arrange an in-person meeting, select a public place, preferably during daylight hours. And let someone know where you are going.
There are numerous dating sites that cater to mature people. Some are free, some not. Each site has its own policies and fees, so research carefully. Happy Valentine’s Day!