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The Moneyist: My recently widowed father, 68, met a woman on Facebook — and sent her Bitcoin so they could meet

September 20
18:52 2021

Dear Quentin,

My father is 68 years old, and recently a widower. His wife, my stepmother, had a tight reins on their finances and, as such, he was unable to spend as much or do as much as he wanted. She passed in December. Recently, he has “connected” with someone on Facebook FB, -2.24% — someone that he didn’t know, and a woman that wasn’t a friend with anyone on his friends list.  

I found out about this when he called my brother for help because he had tried to share his Netflix NFLX, +0.49% account information with her and it wasn’t working. My brother and I both told him that it was very dangerous to share account information and passwords as scammers can use that information to access other accounts or credit card information.  

‘My brother and I both told him that it was very dangerous to share account information and passwords as scammers can use that information to access other accounts or credit card information.’

We asked him to stop talking to her, and to never ever give out account information. Yesterday, I learned that he has still been in communication with this person, and from a friend I also learned that he had tried to send money to her but it wasn’t working so he converted it to Bitcoin to send to her so she could “come visit him.”

This is not the first time he has been scammed like this. Before he married my stepmother, he was in communication with another person overseas whom he sent at least $ 10,000 over the course of several months for “plane tickets” to “pay bills” etc., all in the hopes that she would come see him.  

It caused a great strain in our relationship as he would not listen to me that it was a scam, not when I gave him proof that it was a scam. How do I navigate these waters now and what can I do to protect his finances? I am not in a place financially to bail him out or care for him if he loses it all from a scam. 

Annoyed with Scammers

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear Annoyed,

Your father feels isolated and lonely, and it’s hard to break this fantastical dream that he has or may find love again. It’s doubly difficult when the person on the other end of the line is telling him that they understand him and that they see him. An intervention also risks your father feeling like he is being controlled or infantilized. Of course, that’s not your intention and, even if he were to believe that, it does not make it true. 

Report the profile in question to Facebook as fake, talk to your father and ask him how he is, tell him that you understand he is lonely and he has been through a lot, but that sending money to strangers on the internet is almost without exception a scam, and that investing more time and emotion and, yes, money into this promise of a relationship won’t make it real — nor will it change the outcome. That said, you will have to go around him if he does not take action himself.

An intervention also risks your father feeling like he is being controlled or infantilized. Of course, that’s not your intention and, even if he were to believe that, it does not make it true. 

The American Bankers Association also has the following advice regarding elder financial abuse: “Talk to a trusted family member who has your best interests at heart, or to your clergy. Talk to your attorney, doctor or an officer at your bank. Contact Adult Protective Services in your state or your local police for help. Report all instances of elder financial abuse to your local police — if fraud is involved, they should investigate.”

He’s not alone. People who are alone are particularly vulnerable to scammers. “Seniors are increasingly becoming targets for financial abuse,” the ABA adds. “As people over 50 years old control over 70% of the nation’s wealth, fraudsters are using new tactics to take advantage of retiring baby boomers and the growing number of older Americans. Senior financial abuse is estimated to have cost victims at least $ 2.9 billion last year alone.”

But how do you find the words? Some suggestions: “I love you. I’m worried about you. I don’t want to see you taken advantage of, and I don’t want you to get hurt. This happens to millions of people every year, millions of intelligent, sensitive people just like you and me. No one is immune from the threat from scams.” I hope you find a way to help him out, but it will take a team of family members and professionals — this does not sound like something you can do alone.

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Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.More from Quentin Fottrell:

• ‘I just don’t trust my sister’: How do I gift money to my nieces without their mother having access to it?
• We’re getting married and have a baby on the way. My wife has offered to pay off my $ 10,000 student debt and $ 7,500 car loan
• I have three children. I quitclaimed my house to my most responsible son. Now he has blocked my calls
• My brother-in-law died, leaving his house in a mess. His landlord wants me to repaint and replace the carpet. What should we do?

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