Preying for Senior Love Online

Preying for Senior Love OnlineDoes Hell have a special place for scammers who bilk widows out of their savings by offering online romance? Normally I am pleased to get a new senior client, but last week a senior widow who could hardly talk through her emotions called to engage my services to help her file a complaint. Her story was difficult to piece together. She had been communicating with a man she met online. After she became romantically involved (i.e. after the hook was planted), he told her he had been robbed and beaten. He asked for money. In summary, he took her for $30,000. She is certainly not alone. Other women have fallen prey to similar scams.

I have no idea what fraction of her net worth that constitutes. She lives in a modest condo and drives a modest car. Her only computer is an old Toshiba laptop. She is not wealthy. That was money needed for retirement.

She wanted me to help sort through their online conversations (which she had saved simply because she did not know how to delete them!) to find the places where he asked for money and she agreed to lend it to him, and he agreed to pay it back. Again, she was not clear about the status of her official complaint, but it seems that he had responded by claiming she had given him money with no strings attached. She cried when telling me this, and said she was only crying because she was so embarrassed. Then she took a deep breath and said, “Let’s do it.”

So we set to work making .rtf files of the conversations by downloading and pasting them into WordPad. Her five-year-old laptop had the unactivated trial version of Microsoft Office that came with it and no other word processing software. (By the way, I asked what anti-virus software she had. She said whatever came with it, but it had expired.) This busy work allowed us to fall into a working relationship, and she caught on quickly. As we progressed, she slowly got over her embarrassment and essentially treated me like a physician with whom she could discuss private affairs. It became obvious she was an intelligent, caring, person who was lonely and would like a man in her life. She was an ideal candidate for scamming.

At one point in our initial session, she showed me a photo he had sent her of his passport to help verify his story. She had been impressed by this gesture until after the scam. She showed it to an investigator. He told her it is fraudulent.

After we memorialized about six days of communications, I suggested that this might be more than the authorities wanted or could use. She got emotional again: “They don’t want anything. I don’t know what I will do with these files, but I need to do something. My money is gone. I will never see it again, but I want to stop him from hurting other people.”

“But you said you had reported it to the FBI.”

“They said that they would not investigate it because the amount is so small.” That surprised me, but maybe there is more to it. The FBI has a site devoted to senior fraud. It lists eight areas of concern such as investment schemes or telemarketing fraud, but does not mention romance fraud. One thing the FBI site does say is that seniors who have been scammed are often too embarrassed to report it. They would rather eat the loss of money than the loss of face. That report made me more proud of my new client. She was fighting back.

By the way, I do not mean to assume that only senior women are scammed like this. Men get scammed, too. Sometimes it is crass, like a man seeking a younger, attractive woman from a third-world country to be a sex toy comforting his old age. But other times it can be a man honestly searching for a soul mate to share mature years. Men get just as embarrassed as women.

When we finished that first session, my new client had taken many notes and said she would try to do some herself, but we did schedule another session. Before leaving, I installed Malwarebytes and did a quick scan.

At our second session, I switched to tutor mode and said this time she would operate the computer with me monitoring and giving hints, but not touching it. She rose to the challenge and soon we were making progress on building her paper trail of the rip off. Just doing the work put her in a better mood. She said that not only the FBI, but the sheriff had given her a run-around. She did not know who to turn to. I told her that my role was to help with the computer, but perhaps she would be well advised to seek legal aid. There are several places where she could get advice cheaply or even free, given her circumstances. She was quiet at that, and I did not probe.

After our second session, she was beaming. “I have learned a lot. I want to learn more.” So we scheduled a purely tutorial session at which I promised to download and install LibreOffice for her so she could have something more powerful than WordPad.

Next week, with her permission, I will present the steps that led to her being scammed and what she is doing to help stop the creep from doing further damage to other vulnerable women. If you know of anyone who has been scammed like this, please share. Maybe we can help stop some of the scum.

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  • Guest

    Wow you go grandparents

    I think everyone should be online

    • sdeforest

      Thank you. We should all have access and be literate, but that is an ideal and we are a long way from it.

  • Anakin Mignone

    Online old people Huh

    • sdeforest

      Huh? I am an online old person. So are a lot of my friends.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000919793012 Charlie Parker

    Awww it’s good if older people can Find love online

    • sdeforest

      Yeah, and a lot of them do. We do not always hear about them. Like any useful tool, the Internet can do good or harm.

  • Joshua Weatherill

    Online scammers will do anything if they can. Even if it means ruining peoples retirements that they’ve spent their whole life trying to achieve only to get it taken away from them. Disgusting

    • sdeforest

      Disgusting yes, but preventable also. Education helps. Willingness to speak out like my client in spite of the embarrassment is extremely important.

  • Weion

    It is sad that people would resort to scamming an elderly individual, I think that their should be more services available so the elderly or computer-illiterate can go and learn about situations like this and how to combat it.

    Advertising this problem would help to get it noticed.

    • sdeforest

      Well, I am both advertising it here and doing my best to tutor seniors in computer literacy, but the problem is big and frustrating.

  • Ozzzzysh

    It’s saddening to see how there is so much “bad” on the internet. People use it as a tool to manipulate and harm. It’s hard to stay safe sometimes.

    • sdeforest

      Staying safe and enjoying the fruits of the Internet is not very difficult. One has to keep one’s wits about oneself. Naivete does not work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/danielmulkey7 Daniel Mulkey

    online dating.. not a big fan

    • sdeforest

      Me neither, but neither you nor I will be able to stop it.

  • http://www.cyberfanatic.com/ CyberFanatic

    That is crazy. Thirty grand is a lot of money. Not only is this a crime but this is wrong that man should be punished by a lot but not punished that much. Yes he did commit a crime. However it is totally not his fault that he fooled her for that much money. Don’t get me wrong he deserves to rot in jail but come on cyber world is full of criminals like this man. You have to be more careful out there. Let this be a lesson to all.

    • sdeforest

      I think you are saying that the victim needs to be more aware, but that does not excuse the crime. The crime is the crime. The naivete of the victim is a separate issue. If that is what you are saying, then we agree.

      • http://www.cyberfanatic.com/ CyberFanatic

        Yes actually you put my thoughts best in words. This is what I tried to type out

  • steve362

    I think victims of this crime do need to be aware of this and i do think that 30 grand is to much to just give away to someone.

    • sdeforest

      Frankly, I would never do it–even for my kids! But then I am not the target of this scam. You are right. Awareness is the best defense.

  • HerezMikey

    $30,000 is a lot of money. My heart goes out to the widow. I find it difficult to find love on the internet. I totally think that seniors and anyone should be award of these crimes going on. This nice old lady who I know is just starting to use the internet so I’ll warn her.

    • sdeforest

      Yes, warn her, but carefully. Good things do happen and she might meet a true sou mate online. One just has to be careful. We do not stop driving because a friend was in an automobile accident.

  • http://twitter.com/ferilers Fereli

    I don’t really know of any seniors that use the internet all that often. It’s still scares me that these things happen. We always have to be careful online.

    • sdeforest

      Seniors are less likely to use the Internet which is why they can get in trouble when the do. That is also why I tutor them in computer literacy. A senior tutoring seniors works better than a twenty-something trying to tutor.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003595445085 Bram Derksen

    My grandad uses the internet very much for YouTube and Facebook, but he has met his girlfriend on the internet, and they are very happy together.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003595445085 Bram Derksen

    My grandad uses the internet very much for YouTube and Facebook, but he has met his girlfriend on the internet, and they are very happy together.

    • sdeforest

      Wonderful! When we hear of bad things happening, we tend to forget the good things that can happen. My wife and I met through a newspaper ad I posted back in the days before Internet dating. We have been together a long time.

  • http://bkgcom.blogspot.in/ Bharat Kumar Gupta

    sad to hear about her, all i can say is may she get justice, these sad cases are very high in countries like mine and its troubling to see victims get caught in such frauds, and normally here people are less tech savvy so it becomes very difficult too for police to catch those culprits, plus our police isn’t that tech savvy too so that makes things more difficult, these articles really serve a good purpose in my opinion educating innocent people who might fall into such traps, thanks guys, every bit of good info helps.

    • sdeforest

      Evil knows no nationality.

      • http://bkgcom.blogspot.in/ Bharat Kumar Gupta

        very true, again i would like to inform you that today itself i saw one tv news report on the same subject where the culrpit ransomed victim’s family, its so sad to see people misusing such a wonder social media, i love social media, i think its the best thing happened today.

  • thomashoups

    i would be worried if i was internet dating due to trolls
    they could be some mass murderer :L

    • http://www.facebook.com/sherman.deforest Sherman DeForest

      And there are drunk drivers on the road, but I still drive. You just have to keep your wits about you.

  • EatPrayLove

    And here I thought this was going to be a piece on christiansingles dot com because (to quote their tv ad) “Sometimes we wait for God to make the first move, when God is saying It’s your time to act; the next move is yours”.

    Personally I’d be kinda creeped out if I thought a god were taking an interest in my sex life, but perhaps that’s just the atheist in me. Regardless of your beliefs, however, I suspect it *would* make it rather hard to perform with a voice in your head saying “go ahead and do her, my son”. Yikes what a disturbing thought. Maybe even more disturbing would be that voice from the partner’s perspective.

    Geez, I gotta go lie down and try to forget this whole thing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sherman.deforest Sherman DeForest

      No, not shristiansingles. Although she would have been well advised to go with a recognized service rather than take pot luck. As to the other part of your comment, I think it was Steve White who asked, “Whose name do atheists call out during orgasm?”

  • http://www.facebook.com/beshoy.lovesjesus Beshoy Shafek Malk

    Poor senior, they dont deserve all of this. Like a famous pic online, i feel sad when i see an old person sitting alone

    • http://www.facebook.com/sherman.deforest Sherman DeForest

      Yes, and that is the case often. Seniors, particularly those with Mid-Western backgrounds are expected to simply take what fate offers while they plug away at whatever they do. I try to get my clients to open up to the world, but do it in a safe way.

  • http://mumbleandtumble.tumblr.com/ klandwehr

    This is a sad story but unfortunately not an uncommon one. Scammers prey on seniors because they tend to be lonely. A lot of seniors also grew up in an era where a man’s or woman’s word was something you could trust. If someone told you they would do something, you knew they would do it. The scammers of today are no different then the snake sells men of yesterday, the only difference is they can hide their really identity behind the computer.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sherman.deforest Sherman DeForest

      “Sitting along” “lonely” these are recipes for scammers to exploit. To some extent, we all share in the responsibility to help. At least, I feel that way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lucas.follbring Lucas Follbring

    Just as some older internet users are letting their guards down and beginning to trust the ‘interweb’ and ‘facepage’ they still running the risk of falling victims of these sort of things. Education is key – it is not the internet they have to be cautious of it is the users on it. They need to understand the analogy at play. They are not scared of their front door that leads out to the rest of the world, but the might be suspicious of people knocking on it – yet the ‘internet’ is often toted as the scary thing and ‘users’ are sold as the ‘humanising factor.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sherman.deforest Sherman DeForest

      Well put. I agree. That is why I tutor seniors.

  • anthonym

    i think its good that old folks are trying to find love at their age!!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/sherman.deforest Sherman DeForest

      Many old folks have already found true love. The really good thing is when they can find a new love after losing someone dear. A friend of ours lost her husband to cancer and is now dating a man who similarly lost his wife. After mourning, they both decided to go on with life. We are happy for them.