You can be a victim of an “Invisible Lovers Con,” which can result in a predator draining your finances and damaging your health. A study by the National Institute for Justice found that 12 percent of people over the age of 60, mostly men, have been exploited to more than $2.9 billion annually. That’s more than the individual budgets of 95 countries around the world.

This article will describe the characteristics of two classic “Invisible Lovers Cons” by financial predators, how they can be spotted, and steps to stop them from illegally acquiring money, affecting health and inflicting mental anguish.

There are two types of men who are potentially at risk: those with diminished mental capacities and those who recently experienced a traumatic incident, such as the loss of a loved one.

Their susceptibility has been demonstrated by psychological studies conducted by Professor Shelley Taylor, of the University of California.

Financial predators have researched the legal aspects of the law, identified loopholes and developed two schemes. The one most prevalent is run over social media, where perpetrators pose as a woman using photographs to enhance the deception; the other uses the same methodology but with the physical contact of a real woman.

The basic social media “Invisible Lovers Cons” is entanglement by words. An example is Jerry Ferguson, a 64-year-old retired city employee, who became snared in this con and lost a good part of his savings. There were two things he loved — his wife and fishing. Six months ago, his wife died.

Google’s “Hangouts” is one of social media’s way of meeting people, and this became an outlet for his loneliness and his problem. Unfortunately, a simple communication became love letters, and he was hooked. The letters changed from love to all about the need for money. The money was sent through Western Union, gone forever.

When his children realized what was happening, they found the woman’s pictures were of different people, telephone numbers were listed as scam numbers, the woman’s name and age were faked and Internet evaluations confirmed the scam. When they froze their father’s assets, the predator disappeared.

When all else fails, see if you can get the following message to the predator on the man’s behalf. It should stop them.

“My son will be in your area for a few weeks and would like to meet you. What is your address and telephone number? I would like to Skype you, so we can talk face to face. What is your Skype address? As to my sending additional money, my kids now have control of all my money, along with my property, and pay my bills. That shouldn’t be a problem, should it?”

The other “Con” is run by direct contact with a predator woman. While not invisible, it’s the most difficult one to stop but uses the same methods. The woman looks for a lonely man with some financial resources. These women are good at identifying potential victims through body language, voice inflections and facial expressions.

Typically, the women are much younger, sometimes the age of the man’s children. Once a potential victim is identified, the perpetrator provides a sympathetic understanding ear. A cup of coffee starts the process, moving on to lunches and dinners. It doesn’t take more than a few of these before the hook can be firmly set.

Frank Murphy, 92, fell into this trap soon after his wife died. A woman introduced herself at the grocery store; a cup of coffee worked its way up to the love “Con.”

After that she emptied one bank account of $10,000, lifted jewelry from his home, tried to isolate him from his family, missed medical appointments, coached him of what to say and started working on his other possessions.

Unfortunately, police don’t consider these “Cons” a critical crime area, consequently most investigative work must be done by family or friends.

As a last resort, consider a competency hearing.

Bill Kahn, of Maitland, Florida, has lectured on automation and electronic communications at hundreds of academic and other venues. He wrote this for The opinions are the writer's.