OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Scams are nothing new, but Oklahoma City Police say they’re seeing an uptick in elderly people losing money to people on dating sites.

“Will you send me money? I need money.”

That’s how Gary Knight with the Oklahoma City Police Department (OKCPD) said scams always start out.

OKCPD said what’s different about this new wave in scams, though, is people on Facebook Dating are targeting the elderly for money.

“There’s so many scammers out there that will get online and many of them tell very believable stories and they will meet people on these dating sites in hopes that they’re lonely and they will do just about anything to keep a connection with someone, including send them cash and you really fall right into their hands,” stated Knight.

Knight said OKCPD recently had a case in which a woman lost $56,000 to someone on the internet.

The woman sent money through cashier’s checks, gift cards and even cash through the mail to an out-of-state address, according to Knight.

Knight said the person she was sending money to was someone she had never met.

“Obviously very upsetting situation for her and her family,” added Knight.

He said this crime is year-round, but there are ways to protect yourself.

OKCPD suggests:

  • Be careful what you post and make public online. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
  • Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name, or details have been used elsewhere.
  • Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.
  • Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
  • Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
  • Never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.

Local social media expert, Patrick Allmond emphasizes trying to meet the person in a public setting or video chatting.

“You really have no idea if that is your neighbor across the street or if that is somebody in another country. From the moment that you start this kind of communication mechanism, you should be skeptical that this person is not who they say they are, so that’s rule number one to me is just know that the Internet allows for some anonymity,” said Allmond.

Allmond said romance scams in general aren’t as common, but financial scams can take on the form of just about anything from car advertisements to investment inquiries.

Allmond said being apprehensive is one of the best forms of protection, but also not allowing yourself to be emotionally tied down to someone online.

If you do fall victim to an online scam, Allmond said you’re not alone.

He told KFOR his mom was recently the victim of a financial online scam where someone posed as PayPal and stole money from her.

“Fortunately, my mom was able to contact the bank and block all the transactions, but it can happen to all of us and even me sometimes. I listen to something that like, well, what if that’s true? And then I back away because my defense mechanism kicks in. It’s people who have hopes and wishes of things and hoping people are good. You know, we always hope that in our heart that people are nice and good and they wouldn’t scam us online and that sometimes makes us blind to the skeptical part of our brain,” explained Allmond.

If you suspect a scam, Oklahoma City Police urge you to call Crime Stoppers at 405-235-7300 or you can submit a tip online.