Roses are red, violets are blue, the sweetheart scammer is after you!

There’s nothing new about sweetheart scams. It is still the cruel, heartless and greedy preying on the feelings and vulnerability of a person by convincing them they are deeply in love before cleaning out their bank accounts and often fleecing them of valuable assets.

Older people who are lonely and isolated are particularly at risk, but loneliness can put anyone of any age at a greater risk of being a victim of financial crime. Loneliness impacts on a person’s emotional wellbeing and poor mental health is linked to being isolated, which dramatically increases our financial vulnerability.

But these tips could at least keep our money safe, if not our hearts.

1.     Don’t give away details about your financial life. It’s unwise to reveal that you have been saving for that once-in-a-lifetime luxury cruise or just how much money you have banked for your retirement.

2.     Remember you can use the internet to find out more about someone you’ve just met. A quick search on Google can reveal information that might make you think twice about getting too involved too quickly with a charming stranger.

3.     Treat someone declaring their undying love on just your second date with caution. It might be genuine but there’s plenty of time to take things slow and find out for sure.

4.     Never give a new romantic interest your bank card or account details. Keep these documents and information out of sight until you really know them better.

5.     Alarm bells should ring if a new love asks you for money or offers help with your financial affairs. Resist the temptation to put your trust and money in their hands too quickly.

6.     Red flags should wave frantically if a near stranger, however persuasive, asks you to wire or transfer money online. They might tell you the saddest tale you’ve heard, but it could be fake and the money you send will not end up helping someone in desperate need and it will probably be lost for good.

7.     If someone you’ve met and fallen for suddenly threatens to ‘out’ you as LGBT to friends and family if you don’t hand over money, go to the police. This is tantamount to blackmail and it’s a crime.

Thankfully, Kalgera is not the only one looking out for older and vulnerable people. There are a growing number of organisations actively reaching out to older LGBT people, creating safe environments in which they can improve their mental wellbeing by making friends and alleviating their isolation.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service came third in Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers 2019 for its work in reaching out and engaging LGBT people in community safety. This particular group has been found to be more at risk of fire because they are more likely to live alone and have mental health issues.

The Big Issue published a piece on the social enterprise Friends of Dorothy which is fighting isolation in the elderly LGBTQ community in Leeds. Older people who identify as LGBT are much more likely to be living alone and estranged from their families, especially as the number of safe spaces such as gay bars has declined in the age of digital and app dating. Studies also show older LGBT people living in care homes feel unable to share their life stories, reinforcing their loneliness and isolation.

Partnered by Age UK, Sage also offers activities for older LGBT people in Leeds while raising awareness of the issues faced by individuals who might not have been able to come out in their youth due to fear of discrimination, exclusion and prosecution.

February and Valentine’s Day is a time for love for everyone. Please share and be aware before you give your heart as well as your money away.

Read Paula’s story, a heartbreaking tale of how her recently widowed Mum was ‘befriended’ by online scammers who preyed on her grief and loneliness.