I copied and pasted the scammer’s message into the white block for reporting fake profiles. This was the eighth this week. The copy is almost always identical too, and goes like this:

[Some guy] has found the love of his life and is about to cancel his membership to this online dating site. But wait! He’s got a really handsome widower friend (poor man, his wife died of leukemia – it’s always cancer) who just happened to see….YOU while [some guy] was browsing the listings.

What is it about you? He’s been bugging [some guy] ever since (why said man can’t buy his own membership is a forever mystery). Love is found in the oddest places, you should give him a chance, here is his email.

In all the years I’ve played the online dating game, this email has turned up so often that I could easily rewrite it from heart. The problem is that it apparently works for both sexes. The Mumbai-based (usually) scammers that run this scheme have raked in millions while banking on our loneliness.

They’re Getting Better

Gone now are the misspellings and grammatical errors that once gave them away. Elder scams are getting much more sophisticated and cost us folks over 60 nearly $3b a year.

The dating piece is particularly annoying to me. This one gets us where we are most vulnerable. I’ve spoken to plenty of men, who have lost their savings, and women like my high school friend Carole, who nearly lost her life.

She is very religious, and she chose to date a man who claimed he was a preacher. She nearly paid with her life. The pitfalls are terrifying. She is fortunate – and so are her kids and grandchildren – that she made it.

However, she lost her Arabian horse farm paying the medical bills after this so-called preacher nearly bashed her head in on a first date.

Scammers know just how to exploit our loneliness.

Loneliness Kills

In this article by New Republic, the author points out what you and I already know intuitively:

Psychobiologists can now show that loneliness sends misleading hormonal signals, rejiggers the molecules on genes that govern behavior, and wrenches a slew of other systems out of whack. They have proved that long-lasting loneliness not only makes you sick; it can kill you. Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking. A partial list of the physical diseases thought to be caused or exacerbated by loneliness would include Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer – tumors can metastasize faster in lonely people.

More so than diet and exercise, love, the company of friends, a community of pals and partners keeps us emotionally healthy.

As someone who took a big hit when a long time boyfriend hit the road this past January, I am intimately familiar with the feeling. I love my alone time, but like anyone else, I need a hug. I want love. Don’t we all.

My close friend Lisa told me recently that all her closest female friends, all over 60, are living alone. They all would prefer to have what she has: a stable, many-decades-long love.

But Not at This Cost

It’s one thing to “give it all up for love.” It’s quite another to lose it all to a scammer. That said, for those of us who really would like love in our lives, here are some thoughts:

Build Your Community

First and foremost, love wears many different faces, so one strategy is to worry less about repopulating our bed and breakfast table with a man or a partner and concentrate on building our community.

This New York Times article shows that there are plenty of ways to beat the loneliness bubble by creating our own group of like friends. We can’t expect them to find us, so let’s find them! Being happily engaged with girlfriends is one of life’s superb joys.

Many of us have moved late in life (and I am planning a move myself), so being prepared to start all over again is half the battle. As many can attest, adopting an animal also fills a huge emotional need.

Stay Busy, Happy, and Engaged

Being involved with life makes you a magnet for happy people. If you wish to have intimate companionship, radiating joy tends to draw folks to you. I see far too many profiles on Zoosk and other dating platforms that wail about how lonely they are.

Publishing our loneliness, or worse, taking public pot shots at our last partner on our profile is probably not going to make anyone eager to be the next ex that you vilify online. They were all princes or princesses at one point, or we’d not have loved them.

Be Clear About Your Boundaries

Know what you will and will not do (and that includes educating yourself about scams that affect both you and your elder relations). This morning I said no to an attractive man who lives in the high country an hour from Denver, and that’s in good weather.

While being in the mountains sounds romantic, it’s hugely impractical. I need immediate access to a big airport, to the local VA hospital, and to a lot more amenities than this tiny town has to offer. I also have Reynaud’s which means that for nearly half the year I’d be hiding inside to escape the bitter cold.

In addition, I spent three years living in a small mountain town and while I loved the surroundings, the only available male was an elk. I moved back to Denver in 2003. Now, 16 years later, I am planning another move. This time I know better.

Knowing what you need (friends, animals, a loving community, family) helps you make good decisions about what the next love needs to look like as well. It starts with taking care of ourselves first.

Have you been touched by a dating scam? How do you protect yourself? What are some of the best ways you’ve found to manage loneliness? What are your best tips for finding happiness and joy whether or not a partner is involved? Please share with our community!

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