Finding true love can be a tricky task in today's digital age. Technology has made the ability to connect with people across the world amazingly easy. From a simple swipe on a phone or a few clicks on the computer, you can talk to anyone who shares a similar interest or simply has the desire to talk.
The connections can sustain long distances because of the numerous means of communication. While this may be a boon for singles, it makes it easy for scammers to identify potential targets.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) states romance scammers target older adults, often widows or widowers, looking for a relationship or, in some cases, who are feeling isolated and longing for a new connection.
Our story involves an 80-year-old single woman we shall call "Susie." She had recently become acquainted via the internet with a gentleman who supposedly lived in Dubai. Over time, their long-distance relationship grew and Susie fell in love. The gentleman, now Susie's "boyfriend," said he would be retiring. They planned to move together to New Mexico and get married.
Susie enlisted the help of a real estate agent to sell her Las Vegas home. She planned to use the proceeds to start a new life. An offer was accepted on her home and escrow was opened at Fidelity National Title with Senior Escrow Officer Jennifer Hubbard.
At closing, Susie adamantly instructed Jennifer to cut a check and not wire the proceeds from the sale, as her bank account had been frozen. Susie explained she had been sending money to her "boyfriend" in Dubai and this had triggered the bank's unusual activity alert. She did not have any immediate family and was rather alone, apart from this new beau.
Susie praised her new boyfriend, as well as their plans. Once Susie cashed out her equity, she would be off to an extended stay hotel in Las Vegas to wait for her future husband to arrive in the states.
To Jennifer, Susie seemed completely aware of the situation despite the red flags of a romance scam. Jennifer was concerned about this situation and discussed it with management and the National Escrow Administration (NEA). The Company decided to withdraw from the transaction. NEA also reached out to the Nevada Aging and Disability Services Division (ADSD), a state agency that investigates reports of potential exploitation of persons 60 years and older.
Jennifer and her management resigned from the transaction. The red flag warnings were present of a romance scam being perpetrated on an isolated, elderly individual. For Jennifer's efforts, she will be awarded $1,500 for upholding the Company's values in protecting a potential victim.
For more information on romance scams and the warning signs, see the CFPB's article: www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/guard-your-wallet-well-your-heart-romance-scams/
Article provided by contributing author:
Scott Cummins, Advisory Director
Fidelity National Title Group
National Escrow Administration