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Online Dating: Keeping Older Adults Safe (CA)

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Whether it’s looking for a companion or a new life partner, an increasing number of older adults are turning to the internet to find a match. In fact, senior dating is the fastest growing subsection of online dating.

While the vast majority of people using dating sites are sincere and honest, there are exceptions.

According to the Better Business Bureau, romance scams typically happen online, and the targets are most often recently widowed or divorced individuals over the age of 50.

“The Romeo Scam is a real danger that seniors need to be aware of when dating online,” says Mark Matz, Director of Policy and Issues Management with the National Cyber Security Directorate at Public Safety Canada.

“What happens is they’re approached by someone through an online dating website or sometimes a social networking site who seems like a great person, with similar interests, but they’re only interested in defrauding them,” Matz noted. “Playing with the feelings of older people who are looking for companionship is more common than you think.”

Here are some tips from Public Safety Canada on how you can help keep your senior loved one safe while searching for relationships online:

  1. Not all dating sites are created equal; some attract more cyber-criminals than others. The first line of defense in protecting your senior loved one is decreasing the possibility of fraudulent encounters. Some older adults might not be as familiar with the most popular dating sites or comfortable doing online research. Help keep them safe and show your support by getting involved in the research process to find the safest and best option for their needs.
  2. When creating their online profile, your senior loved one might be more concerned about attracting the person of their dreams, which could end in them attracting their worst nightmare. Remind them to not provide too much personal information on their profile, such as where they work or their favourite restaurants. It’s also a good practice to set all online profiles to private, so that their personal information can’t be easily accessed.
  3. Seniors may not realize just how easy it is for someone to create a false identity online. To help tell the difference between someone looking to win your heart and someone looking to harm it, pay attention to the following red flags:
    • Expressing a lot of emotion and affection right away.
    • Asking to move conversations to personal e-mail or instant messaging.
    • An inability to meet in person, because of a misfortune or business travel.
    • Asking for financial help with bills, airplane tickets, or other personal situations.

    4. Scammers are savvy, and many of them will try to take advantage of a sympathetic individual. Remind older adults that someone truly looking for companionship would not steer the conversation towards finances right away. If at any point they’re asked for a money transfer, the senior should report the user to the site immediately and block them. There’s never a reason to communicate any financial information such as your social insurance, bank account and credit card numbers.

    Following these precautions can help ensure that your senior loved one has a safe and enjoyable online dating experience. And if they do decide to meet someone in person, suggest that they select a public place to meet, as well as let a friend or family member know where they’ll be.

    The internet also has become a popular source for entertainment. Learn more about how to help older adults stay safe in the online gaming world.

    Last revised: February 8, 2017

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