Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida News

Online Romance Scammers Steal Millions
Seniors at Particular Risk

TALLAHASSEE, FL - Scammers who use Internet dating sites to prey on victims in Florida and across the nation are stealing millions of dollars each year.

Cynthia Fagyas with AARP says the Internet Crime Complaint Center has reported receiving more than 6,000 romance-related scam complaints in a recent year, with losses totaling $81 million.

According to Fagyas, an AARP member victimized out of hundreds of thousands of dollars has helped put the issue in the spotlight.

"That's kind of what prompted AARP to take notice of this new type of scamming and talk to the Federal Trade Commission and law enforcement," she says. "We want to find out what's going on, and the steps that online dating companies can take to better protect their users."

AARP's Fraud Watch Network is asking online dating companies to use algorithms to detect suspicious language patterns used by scammers, search for fake profiles and alert any member who has been in contact with someone using a fraudulent profile.

Fagyas says people of all ages are being victimized, but older Americans may be at greater risk. AARP is inviting members and the general public to become involved by signing an online petition through AARP.

"When you take a look at older folks in their sixties and seventies, they tend to be more trusting, and may be easier to be taken advantage of because they are trusting," she says.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network has posted tips on how to avoid online scams. The best way to protect yourself when pursuing online dating - regardless of age - is to use a well-known website, avoid posting personal information in your dating profile and report any dates to the website if they ask for money.

Photos/graphics; links: added/updated by the Observer

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Read The AARP article and watch the video: How Dwayne stole Amy's heart and $300K