Scams target seniors during COVID-19

 On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter – March 27, 2020 

by Columnist Thomas P Blake

Scams target seniors during the COVID-19 crisis

As always happens during challenging times when the public is concerned and confused, and therefore vulnerable–as we are now amidst this COVID-19 crisis–scammers come out of the woodwork to try to steal our money. Be aware. Trust your instincts.

One example: a text comes into your phone or a message into your email saying something like, “Your $1,200 assistance check is ready!” Don’t click on the link. They want your information and will attempt to steal your assets.

Another message example: “Some people you’ve been in contact with have tested positive for the COVID-19. We are not at liberty to give you their names. You need to take antibiotics immediately and the good news is they are free. You only must pay shipping and handling. Click on the link, fill in your payment information and we will ship your protection today.”

It’s bogus, antibiotics won’t stop the virus, at least that hasn’t been proven yet.

A third example: a message claiming to be from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) or WHO (the World Health Organization), saying you must prepay to receive a virus test in the mail. Again, don’t fall for it.

Or, they may offer free face masks, if you just pay shipping and handling.

If you must contact the CDC, or any other entity, go directly to their website. Again, do not click on links.

And with so many people sheltering at home, they have more time to be online and to online date. Which leads to more romance scams. I want to share with you briefly one romance scam that has been brought to my attention.

Remember, widows can be especially vulnerable and are the ones usually targeted.

                                Anatomy of a Senior Romance Scam

One of our Florida Champs shared a story this week on how a widow friend of hers in Florida, in her 70s, has fallen hook, line and sinker for a romance scam that’s preposterous. I will share a few of the details and point out some red flags.

The scammer reached her through an online dating site. First red flag, he’s working overseas, but he’ll be back in the states soon.

They’ve never met in person, never talked on the phone and have never skyped. So, she’s dealing with someone who could be anybody–a man, a woman, a child.

He has slowly gained her confidence. He said he had gifts for her; she gave him her snail mail address. Yes, some refrigerator magnets, one with a heart and an arrow through it, that said “I love you” at the bottom. But, now he knows exactly where she lives..

He is working her for as long as it takes. Our Champ is trying to bring sense to her widow friend, but, the widow is lonely and this scammer is playing that to the hilt. He is likely working multiple potential victims at the same time, knowing if he can fool just a few, he’ll be rich or at least make lots of money.

Here is an abbreviated copy of an email the scammer sent (her name changed). The scammer may have got his identity from someone he found on Wikipedia. I did not edit his grammar mistakes:

“Dear Sally, …You asked who I really am. I’m Admiral James Jones, a retired Navy Admiral and I was born November 11, 1954. I was a Captain of an aircraft carrier before I retired. I’m on a secret mission in the Middel East, which I can’t discuss it. I will be returning to the United States within the next few months and want to visit you in Florida.

Sally, I think I told you that my wife and I are divorced. We have two children, James Jr. and  Felina. Both are married. They live near Boston.”

Red flag: He says he thinks he told her that he is divorced.” He’s likely dealing with so many potential victims at the same time he can’t even remember what he told her.

“Sally, I’m happy that you now know who I really am. I didn’t want to tell you the truth before because I didn’t want to be bragging that I am a high ranking military official. I’m sorry if I lied to you. Also, the Navy doesn’t want revealed details of the secret mission I’m on. (hint: it’s repositioning oil tankers)

I know we both want love for each other. I’m so relieved now I don’t have to pretend I’m someone else. I hope you understand. When we are together, I can give you more details.

When I step off that airplane when I return to the states, I will propose to you right then. OK?  Ha Ha!

I love you so much.



Tom’s comments:
Here’s what the scammer might actually look like.

Caregivers need to have big hearts
This could be the Admiral

And why did the Fake sign his name as “Jose,” not James? Probably because when they first met online he used the name Jose.

And the scammer’s grammar is atrocious. Senior romance scammers are usually from foreign countries.

Plus, the scammer admits he lied to Sally early on.

People who say they’re working overseas in the military or on oil rigs, or for big companies—huge red flags.

Our Champ hopes to change her friend’s mind.

I don’t want any of our Champs to ever be scammed. Also, be skeptical of any COVID-19 related communication that requires paying money or submitting one’s personal information.

A reminder, the Meet and Greet for March in Dana Point has been cancelled. Probably April also.