The truth is, widowhood can be a pretty lonely place. From in-laws who blame us for our spouse’s death to friends who avoid us simply because they are unsure of how to handle our grief, widows can often feel isolated.

Whether you’re wanting to date post-loss or are resigned to keeping your heart tucked away, the lack of companionship may cause us to let our guard down and be trusting of the polite widower who reaches out to say hello.

Unfortunately, many potential scammers view widows are easy prey. They think we’ve been left sizable life insurance payouts and befriend us with devious intentions.

You’ll think that you’re much too smart to become a victim; however, don’t underestimate the power of these scammers. They have honed their skills on hundreds if not thousands of people over extended periods of time. They have studied human behavior and know how to appeal to our kindness and good-hearted nature.

Here are a few tips on how you can avoid becoming a victim:

Do Not Engage

You may think you’ll outsmart a potential scammer or string them along just for laughs but it’s best to shut down the conversations as soon as they begin. In addition to possibly developing feelings, you might let your guard down and unwittingly reveal personal information or your location which could make you a target. One news report found that a scammer used information provided by a potential victim to locate her home address and threaten her with bodily harm unless she wired him money.

Check Out His Social Media Footprint

Often, widows are contacted on Facebook by handsome gentlemen, claiming to be military personnel. Before starting a conversation, do your homework. Check out his social media pages. How’s his grammar? Do you have mutual friends? How many friends does he have? How long has he been on the site? Are there comments from friends and/or family on his posts? Look at his Facebook url…does it match the name on his profile? Do people on his friends’ list share his last name?

Don’t Be Fooled By The “Widowed” Status

Who pretends to be widowed, right? You’ll be surprised. Don’t be fooled into striking up a conversation simply because of a widowed relationship status. Some scammers use this as a way to attract women, to elicit sympathy and/or a connection. If you opt to engage in a conversation, make requesting an online link to an obituary one of the first things you do. Be sure to actually click on the link – don’t accept a copy and paste. Manually click on the link and read it to be sure the spouse’s name matches exactly to the name on the profile.

Research, Research, Research

The photos of him in his military uniform. The one with his child enjoying a trip to Disney. His photo next to his new car. They could all be fake, photos stolen from innocent men who have no idea their identity has been compromised. Consider doing a reverse Google search on images on his Facebook page. Or, ask for a current photo – with a twist. When I met my new guy on a dating site, I requested a photo with him holding up his right thumb in front of his license plate. It was a great way to know that he was, in fact, a real person and to pass along his tag info to a friend before our first date. Try asking the person you’re chatting to online to send a photo holding a sheet of paper with your name on it. Be sure to demand that your name be handwritten, NOT typed.

Avoid Being “Love Bombed”

You’re so beautiful.” “I’ve never been in love so quickly.” “I want to marry you, Baby.” These are all the ways many scammers profess their undying love for you, often very quickly into the “relationship”. Love bombing involves showering a potential victim with affection and promises of a future together, typically within a few conversations, all in hopes of blindsiding the person and getting her to think with her heart and not her head. A request for money, gift or loan will typically come next. He’ll send you romantic poetry and make you feel like the most beautiful person in the world. Don’t fall for it! Most times, these scammers do not even use your name when declaring their love. It’s “honey”, “baby”, “love”, etc. To find out if your “guy” is love bombing you, cut and paste his messages, especially poems and conduct an online search via a search engine. Also, take note on if he typically asks generic questions about your day vs. asking questions about things from prior conversations (i.e. you mention starting a new job and he simply asks “How are you?” the following day).

Of course, there are numerous other ways to avoid being conned by these unscrupulous individuals. It’s important to educate yourself about the latest cons and schemes so you’re able to identify warning signs, the number one of which is a request for money. Regardless of how horrific the circumstances may seem, NEVER wire money, provide banking information, or social security numbers.

We’ve already lost so much. Don’t allow a scammer to take anything else from us!


Kerry Phillips’ world was forever changed in March 2012 when just one week after her first wedding anniversary she got the call that no one wants to hear: your husband has died. Determined to not allow grief to drag her under, Kerry chose to become an advocate for the widowed community, sharing her own journey and those of other young widows. She also realized there weren't support groups for widows and widowers wanting to venture back into the world of dating and started Young, Widowed & Dating. It provides a forum for those seeking a new love story to share their dating adventures and insights into life after loss. Her weekly blog covers topics ranging from relationships with in-laws to dating while raising children and everything in between.

She is the author of “The One Thing: 100 Widows Share Lessons on Love, Loss, and Life, a resource for new widows told from the vantage point of those who have lived it, and ”Writing & Widowing: Journaling the Journey", a series of journal prompts for the widowed community. Kerry is also a contributor to the book, "Widowed But Not Wounded: The Hustle & Flow of 13 Resilient Black Widowed Women".

When she’s not blogging, Kerry is busy raising a feisty kindergartener and power-walking her way through local 5K races.