Police are warning elderly men and their families to be on the lookout for "Sweetheart Scams" that have swept the suburbs for years and, in some cases, cost men thousands of dollars.
The scams, which involve the seduction of older men by middle-aged women, target single men to gain their trust and life savings, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said in a statement.
Women involved in the scams have targeted men at the grocery store, restaurants or even at victims' homes while they do yard work, Dart said.
After an initial meeting, the women often seduce the men into a series of dates, after which the women fabricate a dire financial situation, according to police. Because of the trust the men develop, they are tricked into giving away their savings, little by little.
"That's when the kind-hearted man says not to worry about it and writes the first check to her," Sheriff Thomas J. Dart said. "Then, there's another traumatic incident where someone needs money. Then there's another. And another. These people are like vampires - they absolutely will not stop until he is drained of everything."
One man targeted in a scam gave away more than $400,000.
The Senior Citizens Academy and the police Financial Crimes and Public Corruption Unit discovered the scams and brought them to the attention of the sheriff. Many of the women have a history of financial crimes and are well-known to suburban law enforcement.
Police are warning elderly men to be wary of engaging in relationships with women who need financial help, and asking men's families to keep a lookout.
"The only way these things usually end is when families get involved," Dart said. "And by then, it's usually too late and all of his money is gone."