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The “Sweetheart Scam” Bilks Seniors Out of Millions

It will happen virtually every day somewhere across the country. Most of the time, no one will ever actually find out about it. It’s called the “Sweetheart Scam,” and it is responsible for untold millions of dollars being lost by elderly community members at the hands of scam artists.

How it Works
This trick is very straightforward, and yet it continues to lead to significant financial loss, confusion, embarrassment, and depression. It involves a younger individual, usually an attractive woman, trying to develop a relationship with a senior–usually an older man who lives alone. This often does not involve romantic contact but occasionally it might. Once the senior is smitten with the younger scam artist, requests for money will be made. The requests often involves claims that the younger person is in some sort of trouble or had some streak of bad luck that leaves them in dire straights. Seeking to help one that he has grown attached to, the senior often opens his bank account.

Still Used Every Day
While this might be one of the oldest cons in the book, it is still alive and well throughout the country. For example, the Examiner reported last week on one woman who was actually caught on her ruse (a rarity). According to the report, the 30-year old woman allegedly made romantic overtures to an elderly man over a period of months. Their first interaction was a cold call which involved a lot of flirting.

Eventually the relationship grew, and the woman convinced the senior to invest $200,000 in her fledgling company on top of giving her many gifts. Those gifts included his ex-wife’s diamond earrings and a $73,000 Lexus. On another occasion the woman convinced the senior to give her a $50,000 cash gift which she then used to help her actual boyfriend pay off the victims of a crime he had committed.

Near the end, only a few months after they first met, the senior had maxed out all of this credit cards and was no longer able to keep his home. To add insult to injury, the woman arranged for the sale of the house and pocketed a $7,000 “referral fee” for doing so.

Once the senior’s money was gone, the woman cut off all contact from him. He was left alone and penniless. He was forced to file for bankruptcy. It was only a few years later that the woman was caught. She had allegedly scammed many others in the same manner. In fact, her dealings were so profitable that on top of everything else she gambled away millions of dollars at a local casino. She now faces several felony charges and up to six years in prison.

It is critical for friends and family of vulnerable seniors–particularly those who live alone–to be vigilant about these risks. Checking up on a senior’s finances and asking questions about suspicions activity or relationships can make all the difference and prevent elder financial abuse.

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