February 14, 2022, Rethinking 65 — Financial advisors have seen their fair share of money mishaps. But sweetheart scams take it to the next level. Clients come face-to-face with financial exploitation instead of a budding romance and companionship.
It can happen to anyone. I know because my mom was a victim of a sweetheart scam.
In 2015, two months after my dad passed away, I bought my mom an iPhone to help her connect with friends and family. She had already been somewhat active online and wanted to meet more people.
I was encouraged to connect with others at bereavement groups and social events. I also told her she should meet new friends during the day in public places. We had discussions about the dangers of sharing personal information.
Unfortunately, she met someone online who tricked her. This contact reported that he was having financial trouble, and my caring, trusting mom wanted to help him out. It cost her several thousand dollars, but it could have been far worse.
The experience made me realize that no one is safe — my mother wasn’t immune, even though my sister is a compliance officer, and I serve on the Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation Prevention Committee in our nation’s capital.
As financial professionals, there’s much we can do. Here’s how to help clients detect and escape a sweetheart scam.
How Sweetheart Scams Work
Sweetheart scams are a type of romance scam that targets lonely people looking for love. Unfortunately, this includes many retired and elderly folks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports nearly one in four adults aged 65 and older are socially isolated. According to the Pew Research Center, 27% of those in the 60 and older group live alone.
Living alone and social isolation make older adults a prime target, and recently divorced and widowed people are particularly at risk. Scammers typically create fake profiles on dating websites and social media and then strike up conversations with their targets. However, the schemes can also happen in person.
Whether in person or online, they pretend to have feelings for the victim. The fraudster can quickly advance the relationship or develop it more slowly, building the victim’s trust over months. The scammer may pretend they need financial help with something or are in an emergency.
Once they have established a relationship with their victim, they will ask for money in the guise of sending gifts or showing appreciation for the person’s affection. The scammer disappears without ever talking to them again when they get it.
Signs of Sweetheart Scams
Romance scams are financially and emotionally devastating for victims. Scammers leave a trail of broken hearts and empty wallets. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported a 50% increase in romance scams from 2019 to 2020.
As a financial advisor, you can play a pivotal role in protecting your client’s assets. For example, suppose a client requests an oddly specific cash transfer from a managed account to their checking account. The request is for more than $40,000, raising red flags in your mind.
In this instance, you’re able to recognize the transaction as a potential scam. But what about more subtle signs? As you review clients’ financial statements, look for unusual activity:
Large transactions that are not typical for the client.
Transfers to international locations.
Large ATM withdrawals.
Large purchases at locations that provide funds transfers.
Using lines of credit or pulling from investments.
A new name is added to a financial account.
Educate Older Adults About the Dangers
The most important step against sweetheart scams is to stop them before starting. Whether working with a client or communicating with friends or loved ones, develop an open and trusting relationship to show you care for and respect them. A compassionate approach to all communication can help people open up to you and ask questions when facing a questionable financial situation or request.
Contrary to the familiar adage, silence is not golden. Find opportunities to talk to older adults about the signs and dangers of financial scams:
For clients, an annual review can be more than an opportunity to reassess their investment and financial situation. It’s also an excellent time to educate your clients on financial warning signs, including romance scams.
For family and friends, ask what’s going on in their lives and be an advocate. If they’ve met someone new, use your detective skills to look up the person online and encourage them to meet people in safe, public places.
You can also educate older adults about the specific dangers of a sweetheart scam, such as someone professing their love quickly, asking for money, luring them off the dating site or app where they met, and claiming to need help paying for an emergency, a hospital bill or travel costs to visit them.
Help Your Client Report a Sweetheart Scam
If someone opens up to you about financial fraud, be patient while sharing their experience. The victim may already know they’ve been taken advantage of, but you may be the first person to talk with them about the fraud.
Ask open-ended questions to help you understand the scam — but remember, you are not the fraud investigator. Instead, direct the victim to the appropriate agencies and individuals to find support for their recovery. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation and the National Center for Victims of Crime recommends:
Local law enforcement officials and state prosecuting attorneys.
Because financial fraud can take a toll on a victim’s mental and emotional health, you might suggest they contact a trusted mental health counseling center. Agencies can offer low-cost counseling options if the victim needs financial assistance to get the help they need.
Sweetheart Scams Are Anything but Sweet
Sweetheart scams can be devastating for the victim and their friends and families. Even though I coached my mother about strangers, knowing my mom met someone online who tricked her was a heart-wrenching experience for everyone involved.
Victims can be embarrassed to come forward. In my mom’s case, a social worker noticed the fraud in time to stop a wire transfer large enough to potentially jeopardize her financial stability in retirement.
While I encourage clients, friends, and family to meet people and stay connected as they age, I don’t shy away from talking about the dangers. Con artists can try to lure clients and loved ones into a web of lies as they pretend to be something they’re not. Monitor your customers’ activity for unusual transactions, learn the signs and become an advocate to protect the vulnerable from predators posing as companions.
In my case, I spent the next 6 months determined to help my mom cover the $15,000 less the wire fees. Somehow, contacting the bank once a month didn’t seem adequate, yet every week seemed too frequent. I designated 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. every other Friday to follow up. It definitely took patience, persistence & perseverance to recover my mom’s funds. Now, I am on a mission to help educate advisors on how to detect and prevent elder financial abuse and financial exploitation among their clients and loved ones.
Marguerita (Rita) Cheng, CFP, is the chief executive officer of Blue Ocean Global Wealth. She is passionate about helping clients navigate some of life’s most difficult issues — divorce, death, career changes, caring for aging relatives — so they can feel confident and in control of their finances. Rita is a regular columnist for Kiplinger and MarketWatch, and a past spokesperson for the AARP Financial Freedom Campaign. Rita volunteers her time as a SoleMate, or charity runner for Girls on the Run, raising money to win scholarships for girls.
Retrain Your Brain: In addition to introducing you to some truly amazing therapists and authors, I want to share a 7-week plan for managing anxiety and depression by using cognitive behavioral therapy by Dr. Seth Gillihan, a licensed psychologist specializing in CBT. He was a full-time faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania from 2008 to 2012 and taught in the Psychology Department at Haverford College from 2012 to 2015. He has been in private practice since 2012. Seth completed a doctorate in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. (more…)
January-February 2022: A Note from Hope Katz Gibbs, publisher, BeInkandescent Health & Wellness magazine — I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I love the Good News Network. In an era when all the news coming from my trusted sources — NPR, The Washington Post, New York Times, among others — sets my sympathetic nervous system afire, I find a daily reprieve by logging onto this positive channel for insight into what people around the world are doing to make it a better place. The stories are well reported, and always bring a smile to my face, making me know that there is most definitely good news happening all around us.
She spent her entire senior year studying online, and the article below shares her thoughts on what it means to be a QuarenTeen. We think it’s as fabulous as she is, and look forward to reading from this talented young woman!
Another is my new friend and fellow Martha Beck certified coach Jenn Oglesbee, who is also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who helps overwhelmed, exhausted women reclaim the joy and zest in their lives. “I am on a mission to harness the power of coaching to help women connect deeply with their desires, create guilt-free space for themselves, and live by their own rules,” says Jenn. When she’s not coaching, Jenn can be found having impromptu dance parties with her husband and two kids, taking walks around her town of Media, PA, or cozying up with a latte and a book. (more…)
Flashback: July 8, 2021 — To celebrate my 57th birthday, I took my son Dylan on an adventure to Santa Fe, NM. I’d been living for the past year in Las Cruces, the southern part of the state, huddled up through the pandemic. At last, the world was opening up — and so was I.
We drove up to Taos for my big day, and while enjoying lunch outdoors at the spectacular steakhouse Martyrs, a thought popped into my head: I will go to massage school in Santa Fe.
Crazy, right? I already had a certificate in massage therapy from 1992 — years before I Dylan, now 22, and his sister Anna, 26, were born. I specialized in pregnancy massage and reflexology at the time. Then my life raising kids in Northern Virginia proved too busy to pursue this passion. Still, I never let go of the idea that someday I’d rejoin the world of holistic healing.
I spent the following three decades working as a journalist and building Inkandescent™ Inc., a PR, and publishing company that helps women grow their businesses. It was lucrative and rewarding, but deep down, I needed to touch people more profoundly.
It wasn’t until I separated from the kids’ dad in 2014 that I started ticking off the items on my bucket list: Become a Reiki Master (2015), get certified as a yoga teacher (200+ hours of Kundalini yoga training at Kripalu in 2016), become a Pranic Healer (2018), become a Yin yoga teacher (100+ hours, 2019). And then, I accomplished another longtime goal to become a Martha Beck-trained Life Coach (2020).
What did I want to do with all this training and acquire this depth of knowledge about how the body works?
The answer is as simple and clear: I plan to open the Inkandescent Health & Wellness Retreat Center here in New Mexico where women from around the world can come together to heal, celebrate, and connect.
Fortunately, Dylan is an architect (he graduated with honors in May from the University of Virginia and this month heads to Harvard where he’s studying for his master’s degree). He’s the lead designer on the project that includes our partners — two of his Harvard professors, Alex Yuen and Weijia Song, who own the architecture firm Collective Operations in San Francisco.
To launch the project in 2021, we featured them in my health and wellness magazine: https://beinkandescent.com/issues/january-2021/. And on my birthday, I knew the next step was to become a licensed massage therapist so I would have the education and expertise to open and run the spa at our center.
The question: Where should I go to school?
When I typed my query into Google, Bodymechanics came up first, and I was impressed with what I read. While still at the lunch table, I called the school and immediately spoke with Akasha, the coordinator, who couldn’t have been nicer or more professional. She immediately made an appointment for the next day for me to visit the facility with director Deanna.
One step inside the door, and knew I’d found my school. The large, clean space drew me in, and after learning more about the program, I knew it was exactly what I was looking for. Within the week, I applied and was accepted — slated to start school on Aug. 3. Now I needed to figure out how I was going to move to Santa Fe!
I knew I was taking the right step because within days, I ended my contract for the house I was renting in Las Cruces, and found a room and storage unit in town to rent. My neighbors gave me the gift of volunteering to drive a U-Haul up north for me to make the transition seamlessly.
The day classes started, and I met my fellow students and teachers, and of course, our fearless leader Shari, the thought and feeling that permeated my body was as clear as the voice I heard in my head a month earlier: I was home.
As I sit at a local Starbucks typing the first essay of what will become my monthly column in the Bodymechanics newsletter, I have officially finished the first two weeks of class.
What are my observations so far?
Just as I felt back in 1992 when I studied for my massage certification at Alive & Well Massage School in Marin County, CA, I remembered clearly that nothing makes so much sense to me as learning how the body works. While I was privileged to attend academic institutions like the University of Pennsylvania (BA communications, 1986), The George Washington University (MA educational leadership, 1991), and Claremont Graduate University (MA candidate Positive Psychology, 2019) — those programs paled in comparison to how essential and valuable this information I’ve learned in just these first few weeks.
The teachers I’ve had the honor to meet so far at Bodymechanics are all full of heart and have deep knowledge that they are eager to share. Oliver, our Massage Theory and Practice teacher, is wise. He has guided us through the history and modalities of the practice, equipment, hygiene, and draping — and led powerful and important conversations about boundaries, grounding, and sites of caution.
He set the stage for our kinesiology teacher Pascal, who on day one invited us to memorize a slew of terms, planes/axes, and anatomical positions — that left my head spinning. Fortunately, he jotted those 35 terms outlined in the Trail Guide to the Body onto tiny index cards so my classmates and I could play with the concepts as we placed them in the proper spots. A game! What a wonderful way to learn.
By the time graduation arrives in June, I know this information will become a part of me. Like everything I’ve accomplished in my life, I have found that the only way to succeed is to take one step at a time, one day at a time. And study like mad!
In each article I pen, I’d like to leave you with two parting thoughts:
What I learned this month: It’s fun to be a student again!Although I’m just a couple of weeks into studying the Bodymechanics curriculum, it is outlined so clearly. Our time spent in the classroom is so organized with PowerPoint presentations and study guides that I am off to a solid start! While I had my concerns about my ability, I know from experience that I will figure out a way to accomplish my goals if I set my mind to it.
What I want other students to know: Trust your gut.Although it is proven that our gut has a mind of its own, the key is to listen to that voice, explore, and then make a good choice. The fact that my landlord let me out of my lease, that my neighbors stepped up as guardian angels to drive the four hours back and forth, and that within days I found a place to live all told me I was heading in the right direction.
About today’s show: Each episode of the Voices4Change show focuses on stopping the global epidemic of intimate partner abuse. Starting with this episode, we begin shining light on the broader topic of sexism. In Le Bon Chef, we introduce you to Vivienne Martine, a French chef at the top of her game. Unfortunately, they changed the rules, and she must look at her role in a male-dominated industry and world to find her place and decide on her next steps. Click here to watch the promotion for the film!
BIG NEWS: Le Bon Chef script wins Best Script from 2021 Big Apple Film Festival Screenplay Competition! Please scroll down to learn more about the movie and its collaborators.
About the show: From winemakers and sommeliers to winery owners and master chefs, tune in to meet the truly amazing women who have long made an impact in the wine industry. This show co-hosted by long-time winery exec Jim Morris not only stimulates our taste buds — he offers insight into what’s behind every perfect sip.
May 2021: A Note from Hope Katz Gibbs, Publisher, Be Inkandescent magazine — When it was published back in 1998, Dr. John E. Sarno’s book, “The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain,” caused quite a stir in the medical community. In it, the renowned physician explained the vital connection between mental and bodily health, insisting that many painful conditions—including most neck and back pain, migraine, repetitive stress injuries, whiplash, and tendonitis—are rooted in repressed emotions.
His book, which has sold more than 500,000 copies, shows how these conditions can be successfully treated without drugs, physical measures, or surgery. Does it seem too good to be true? Consider this. (more…)
It also has the ability to make you smarter, especially if you start young. According to a study by researchers at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, “Music training not only helps children develop fine motor skills, but it also aids emotional and behavioral maturation as well.”
Since the tragic death of George Floyd at the hand of the Minnesota Police Officers, I have been struggling.
I’ve been trying to get my head wrapped around how I feel. I’ve had conversations with people who are seeking explanations as to why it happened. Others want to know how it has impacted the Black Community. Some need comfort and consolation to help them cope with watching a video depicting the loss of a man’s life. The fact is that I just haven’t taken the time to focus on out how I feel until now.
I started digging through memories, recalling situations, scenarios, and experiences that I have suppressed. I swept past the fake smiles that I’ve worn, the artificial pleasantries exchanged, and the micro-insults endured.
Soon my skin felt warm, my muscles tensed, my heart became heavy. Suddenly, my breathing seemed to come in shallow puffs instead of a rhythmic flow of air in and out. As I delved deeper into my caged conscious, one word kept flashing in my mind like a fiery neon sign, “RAGE.” The word rang loudly in my ears, the voice screaming it was mine.
It’s evident that the rage was always there, but I had managed to keep it quiet; today, however, it will no longer be ignored.(more…)
January 2021: A Note from authors Hope Katz Gibbs, Cynthia de Lorenzi, and book designer Cindy Seip — Your 2021 What’s Next Journal — If you are like us, it’s with a sigh of relief that we say Hasta La Vista, Baby to 2020! After months of living with the coronavirus pandemic, a polarizing presidential election, and homeschooling our kids, women everywhere are asking the same question, “What’s Next?” and “Where do we go from here?”
That’s where Your 2021 What’s Next Journal comes in: With our award-winning photographer and book designer Cindy Seip, we have created an aspirational, informational, educational gut check guide to help you master your world, one month at a time.
This journal is designed to inspire you to envision your future. The prompts on the pages that follow each Truly Amazing Woman of the Month encourage you to express what’s in your mind, body, spirit, soul — and especially your heart — as you make your way through 2021.
What you’ll need: Grab any and every art supply you desire that will help get your creative juices flowing — that perfect pen, paintbrushes of all sizes, markers, the 64-pack of those waxy sweet Crayolas that you loved as a kid. Then unleash your inner artist. (more…)
A Note from Hope, publisher, BeInkandescent Health & Wellness magazine — When I was a little girl, my mother’s mother, Pearl — my Mommom — always knew how to heal what ailed me. Her famous chicken soup was a recipe handed down by her mother, and her mother’s mother, and her mother’s mother, from the shtetl in Kyiv. I think all that love was poured into every pot of soup.
My sister, Kim Katz Alvarez, grew up to be an award-winning chef and shares recipes for a delicious holiday dinner in this month’s Heart column — named our daughters (Anna Paige and Emma Pearl) after this beloved woman who died when I was 10. In our kids, and with this soup recipe, her love lives on.
“Prepare this family whenever you are feeling punk — mind, body, spirit, or soul,” Kimmy says. “We believe it can also help heal a broken heart.”
Scroll down for this heart-warming recipe! And please add your own special touch to your pot of soup. Don’t like onions or celery? Don’t add them. Love matzah balls? Let me know, and I’ll send you her recipe for the kind that float vs. sink. One of Pearl’s greatest gifts was loving people as they were, and that meant letting them express themselves in life, art, and soup.
The gift that keeps on giving: We always whip up a big pot at the first sniffle of a cold — and especially on the first night of Channukah. Trick: Keep adding broth to the pot, as well as more chicken and veggies, it’ll last all eight nights! — To your health!
November 2020: A Note from Hope — Just after graduating high school in 1982, I bought a copy of Dr. Leo Buscaglia’s, Living Loving and Learning, a collection of informative and amusing lectures that he had delivered worldwide 1970-1981. It was an inspirational treasure, as I was eager to accept the challenge of life and to profit from the wonder of love.
In the years since, I have read all 14 of his books, and can’t tell you how much I appreciate the thoughtfulness and wisdom of Felice Leonardo “Leo” Buscaglia (March 31, 1924 to June 12, 1998), known as “Dr. Love.”
He died of a heart attack (of all things) in 1998 and in the years since The Leo Buscaglia Foundation has been created to build community spirit by helping people to help others.(more…)
October 2020: A Note from Hope, publisher, Inkandescent Health & Wellness magazine — When the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping the globe in March, like many of you I reached out my dearest friends including one I hadn’t spoken with for several years. He joked, “Are you connecting because it’s the end of the world as we know it?” For more than six months, that line — and the R.E.M. signature song recorded on the 1987 album Document — has been playing in my mind.
Known for its quick flying, seemingly stream of consciousness rant with a number of diverse references, It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) such as a quartet of individuals with the initials “L.B.” — including Leonard Bernstein, Leonid Brezhnev, Lenny Bruce, and Lester Bangs. In an interview with Musician magazine, the band’s lead singer Michael Stipe claimed that the “L.B.” references came from a dream he had in which he found himself at a party surrounded by famous people who all shared those initials.
Another theory: Perhaps Stripe was channeling a vision of what was to come. (more…)
September 2020: A Note from Hope — It is with an open heart that I share with you today the website for our newest book from Inkandescent™ Publishing, “Why Divorce: 5 Reasons to Leave” — www.WhyDivorce.us.
Talk about overcoming fear: As we launch the September 2020 of Inkandescent Health & Wellness magazine, featuring Navy SEAL Don Mann and his book “Facing Your Fears,” I am reminded how hard it is to be brutally honest about the intimate details of your life — much less your love life — in public. While a handful of my dearest friends have held my hand throughout the years of my divorce process, and a larger group knew of my experience divorcing my best friend, like most people I didn’t feel compelled to share any messy stuff with the world at large. That’s likely why it took me so long to birth this book. (more…)
August 2020 — It’s breathtaking to begin this month with the startling statistics of the COVID-19 pandemic. As I write this note (on Monday, July 20) I am reviewing a Washington Post update explaining that yesterday marked the 41st straight day that the seven-day average for new daily coronavirus infections in the United States trended upward. “Six months after the novel coronavirus reached America, more than 3.7 million cases have been detected, and at least 137,000 people have died,” the reporters explain. “The global death toll has surpassed 600,000, fueled in part by recent surges in states such as Texas, Florida and California.”
While it may be tough to haul a cherry to the top of this dramatic life-altering time in our lives — we are going to give it our best Inkandescent™ shot. (more…)
July 2020 — Gary Clark, Jr. is an American musician from Austin, Texas, who is best known for his fusion of blues, rock and soul music with elements of hip hop. He has long been a prolific performer, and in addition to having this fact featured in two releases: Gary Clark Jr. Live (2014) and Gary Clark Jr Live/North America (2017), he has shared the stage with other musical legends including Eric Clapton, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, B.B. King and the Rolling Stones. In 2014, Clark took home the Grammy for Best Traditional R&B performance for the song “Please Come Home.”
This year, he won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song for his powerful anti-racist anthem, “This Land.” His lyrics speak directly to the Black Lives Matter movement, which is the theme of this month’s magazine. We are proud to share the thoughts of six African Americans on the topic of BLM. Click read more for the lyrics, and to learn more about the voices in our July 2020 issue.
June 2020 — Welcome to the June issue of Inkandescent Health & Wellness magazine. Our theme this month is “My Corona” — because that fabulous song by The Knack keeps playing my head. That bit of Shakespearean humor keeps me from falling into the abyss of that global drama that seems to be getting harder, sadder, and more complicated each day.
The goal this month’s issue of Inkandescent Health & Wellness magazine, and that of our sister magazine Inkandescent Women, is to offer readers thoughtful ideas, insights and gobs of calming wisdom that will hopefully assist in your ability to gracefully get through the unprecedented change that is our new reality. (more…)
May 2020 — Confucius said: “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” As we live through another month the coronavirus pandemic, at the Inkandescent™ Group we continue to look for ways to stay inspired, and inspire others, to see the light in what sometimes like grim darkness.
In this issue of Inkandescent Health & Wellness magazine, we look to the age-old joy magnet: music. It triggers memories, calms your nerves, changes your mood, and scientists suggest that music can make you smarter. What’s more, upward of 28 million people in the United States play an instrument, according to statista.com — and odds are good that many of them have dreams of performing in front of a crowd. (more…)
He quickly counters: “Wrong! The reality is that most people would be hard-pressed to find even one example of how things are better today than they were yesterday.” What else does the author of The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People have to tell us? (more…)
March 2020 — As the drama of a global pandemic has begun to enter the U.S. this month, we take this opportunity to reflect on the beautiful things in our lives.
Case in point: The pleasure of sitting down with rock legend Roger and his wife and manager Camilla McGuinn. This remarkably down-to-earth couple graciously invited me and my business partner and husband Michael into their home in Orlando, FL to talk about his career, their lives on the road, and the reality of achieving such heights in the music business. In addition to the delicious interview, and a little music by McGuinn who picked on his guitar as we talked, we toast with Camilla’s favorite champagne, Veuve Clicquot. (more…)
February 2020 — Fear: It can take anyone down in an instant. When you think too long and too hard about the pandemic that is currently shaking the world, it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole and imagine all sorts of doomsday scenarios.
But what would you do if you weren’t afraid? That’s the question we pose to anyone who is just about ready to be brave in the face of whatever may be coming around the corner. No, this is not a level playing field. There are people around the world with few or no resources to rebound. But that is not true for everyone. In fact, many of us have untapped strength that has taken a lifetime to cultivate. And now is the time to find the strength, band together, and take the risk of being courageous — each and every day. For inspiration, we share wisdom (below) from a dozen wise women and men who dared to dream.
Sending heartfelt wishes for health and wellness: mind, body, spirit and soul. — Hope Katz Gibbs, publisher, BeInkandescent.com(more…)
Hello and welcome to the inaugural issue of Inkandescent Health & Wellness magazine — the online publication dedicated to bringing you interviews with the people, organizations, products, and services that will feed and fuel your mind, body, spirit, and soul. The point is, we’re all heart — we sometimes just need some serious support.
I’m Hope Katz Gibbs, creator of The Inkandescent™ Group — and this is the newest division of the communications firm I founded in 2008. In the decade that I ran my PR and publishing company, I utilized the tools of education and storytelling to help my clients build trust and increase their visibility and bottom lines. Not only was I consistently putting to work my years as a reporter, and my MA in educational leadership — I was figuring out how to help everyone harness the power of distance learning through my big hairy impossible dream: Inkandescent Learning.(more…)