February may be the month of hearts and flowers, but it's also prime time for financial cons, from imposter fraud to the "sweetheart scam."
The reasons for the seasonal lift in these scams are simple enough. Many people, still keeping with their New Year's resolutions, are looking for love and are especially vulnerable to scammers. Others are stuck at home during the winter months and are more likely to answer calls from financial fraudsters.
Older Americans are especially at risk. Indeed, those over 65 are 34 percent more likely to have lost money on a financial scam than people in their 40s, according to research by the Stanford Center on Longevity and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's Investor Education Foundation. And almost 1 in 20 elderly respondents in a large 2014 study of New York residents reported being financially exploited at some point in their later lifetime.
In addition, one estimate says only 1 in 44 financial fraud victims report what has happened, often out of embarrassment or fear that their children will want to take control of their finances.
"This is such an underreported crime," said Amy Nofziger of the AARP Fraud Watch Network.