Cybercrime Story Part II: Looking for Love (in All the Wrong Places)

Wealth Planning

In Part II of our series on cyberfraud, we explore fraud directed toward the lonely and vulnerable—which can happen regardless of age, education, or circumstances. Fraudsters take on different shapes to take advantage of others.

This true story comes by way of Schwab and involves a romance scam.

Mary met someone through the online game Words With Friends. They engaged in conversation and, as the relationship evolved, Mary began to share personal details about her life. Eventually, the person on the other side of the conversation asked Mary for cash—under the guise that he wanted to visit her. He “loved” her.

Mary proceeded to send the cash. Then, there were more requests, so many that she was risking her life savings. Months later, she found herself a victim of a scam, her funds nearly depleted, and her heart broken.

While you may think it far-fetched that a loved one could wind up in a similar position—whether due to romantic notions or otherwise—it happens much more frequently than you may imagine.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones

Below are a few tips to help navigate and prevent a situation like Mary’s.

Be alert to sudden changes in a loved one’s behavior, specifically:

  • Requesting cash with no apparent reason
  • Unusual spending habits, unexplained withdrawals, and wires
  • Secretive, fearful demeanor
  • A new, close friend or love interest who is suddenly active in your family member’s financial life

Establish a Trusted Contact with Schwab

  • Provide Schwab with someone to contact in the event there’s a need to discuss the status of the account holder’s mental or physical wellbeing, including activities that might indicate possible financial exploitation
  • In the event of suspected exploitation of seniors or vulnerable investors, Schwab can move quickly
  • You can complete the Trusted Contact form on Schwab Alliance: Click the Service tab > Trusted Contact > Add Trusted Contact
    Or let our team know if you want us to prepare a form for your signature.

Request a Sharing of Information Disclosure Form from JLFranklin Wealth Planning

A Sharing of Information Disclosure form will be relevant if we were to perceive a change in your requests. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recommends that our clients sign this form.

If there has been an event, take the following actions:

  • Change credentials across sites—email, financial, and otherwise
  • Most scam victims will have provided personal information; check if credit cards and accounts have been opened in their name
  • Consider credit monitoring
  • Alert financial institutions
  • Run a full virus scan on the person’s computer
  • Report what happened to the local Police Department and IC3.Gov

In Conclusion

Anyone can become a victim under the right circumstances, regardless of age. Protection starts with open communication.

It may be clear to you that something is wrong, but your loved one may see things differently. They may not want to hear what you have to say. Victims who learn that they have been scammed need a support system. Even after the event, chances are high that the victim will not disengage from the fraudster. Be patient and tactful, as victims often experience shame and sadness when confronted with the reality.

Read Part I of our series, True Tales of Fraudsters Preying on Homebuyers.