Watch out, ladies. Love shouldn’t cost a thing.
With “The Golden Bachelor ” winning over viewers showcasing later life romancing, senior women have been moved to embark on journeys to find their own Gerry Turners.
But as they do so, others are looking to fraudulently profit off those bids for matches.
Some women have been solicited to pay a fee to apply to go on the new hit ABC reality dating series that has seen 72-year-old Hoosier Gerry Turner sift through about two dozen women, ages 60 and older.
A fan page-mimicking Facebook group that started in July has morphed into a vehicle to lure those hoping to make a love connection and scam them out of money and personal information.
‘The Golden bachelor – Gerry Turner’ on Facebook not what it seems
Under its initial name — “The Golden bachelor – Gerry Turner” (with a lowercase b) — administrators announced an opportunity to be “a special guest” on the show or to correspond with Turner – but only if members would send direct messages to moderators claiming to be ABC media relations officers.
An administrator in a post told members that applications were being taken for upcoming seasons of all of the Bachelor Nation shows; but stressed the availability of the chance to connect with Turner, a Hudson, Indiana, resident.
“Should in case the golden bachelor “GERRY TURNER” doesn’t find a suitable match in the show, you stand a chance to correspond with him via email presently and introduce yourself formally to him to see if you could be a great match,” the August post said. The premiere season was wrapping up shooting at the time.
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But the offer smells like something besides roses.
The cost, communicated through a Gmail account in early September, was $200 – in bitcoin. It sent those interested a two-page application requesting basic information, monthly earnings, the applicant’s WhatsApp number and a passport photo.
By October, the solicitors wanted up to $3,500 upfront, group members have warned.
The private Facebook group now has 17,000 members, with a significant growth in recent weeks after the change in name to indicate it was an application portal for the senior dating show.
Most of the posters are women, many looking to appear on “The Golden Bachelor,” meet Turner or set themselves up as a lead on a spinoff.
The Facebook group administrators would not comment to IndyStar about the solicitations.
‘They’re preying on seniors’
Taping for “The Golden Bachelor” wrapped in August, and the network has not announced plans for a second season.
But the apparent imposter Facebook group posted that it was accepting applications for a follow-up.
That got the attention of Sunni Almond, 67. A retired hair stylist, Almond had joined a Facebook group focused on Texas singles over age 60. There she saw a post encouraging those interested in appearing on “The Golden Bachelor” to join the fake application group.
She signed on and messaged the administrator as instructed.
Almond is a show business veteran with experience as a mime, dancer and standup comedian. She worked with Murray Langston, who, as The Unknown Comic, frequently appeared on “The Gong Show” performing with a paper bag over his head.
She said she tapped out of the application process before being told the exact cost.
“I’ve done plenty of things and been involved in plenty of stuff and nobody legitimate asks you for money,” she told IndyStar. “I wouldn’t send them 10 cents. They’re preying on seniors.”
Being a Stage 4 cancer survivor, Pam Bosart, a 62-year-old realtor in Charleston, South Carolina, thought she’d be a good candidate for the show.
“I’m about nine years clear. I mentioned that I’m a fighter and I’m a strong woman. It would make a fabulous storyline if you’re truly looking for somebody for the show,” she said. “It shows spirit. I won. You’re not going to die just because they give you a cancer diagnosis.”
Bosart was among those who came on board after the group title was changed to indicate it accepted applications for the senior dating show.
“I do well for myself. And I’m single, and it’s impossible to meet anybody at my age,” she said.
For her, bars aren’t an option. Neither is online dating, after trying multiple platforms – including Match, Facebook and Zoosk, where Bosart said she’s only encountered “men with long beards and no teeth telling me I have to look good.”
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“There’s just not many fish left in the sea. At my age, they’re married,” Bosart said. “That’s why when I saw this, I thought it would be cool.”
But an administrator’s request for up to $3,500 upfront was a big red flag, she said.
Bosart said she was unaware of the legitimate application process before the posting, but knew not to hand over money.
She warned other Golden Bachelor cast potentials with a post in a larger public Facebook Group.
“Beware of the golden bachelor application group – and any group that ask you for money to apply,” Bosart posted. “… bachelor nation is not going to ask you for money.”
Bosart said she was blocked from the “application” group after a warning to members about turning over money in the process.
“Just don’t give anybody your money,” Bosart said.
Scams like the one targeting ‘The Golden Bachelor’ viewers on the rise
Romance scams in general are on the rise, but seniors are particularly at risk, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
The number of older adults turning to the internet for dating has doubled over recent years and 12% of those aged 55-64 reported using mobile dating apps, the agency said.
Older adults reportedly lost nearly $139 million in romance scams in 2020. About $129 million of that was from those aged 60-79.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says many of these scams originate in West Africa, with criminal organizations using legitimate dating apps and social media to defraud people who are looking for love.
The buzz around retired restaurateur and widower Gerry Turner’s search for a partner via “The Golden Bachelor” has increased the conversation around senior singles.
How to apply to be cast on ‘The Golden Bachelor.’ It’s free.
ABC has not responded to requests for information about fraudulent casting processes for “The Golden Bachelor,” but the television network actually uses the bachelornation.com website for casting its “The Bachelor” franchise shows, including “The Golden Bachelor.” There is no cost to submit an application through the portal.
The network has yet to announce a second season for the senior dating show, but the portal takes submissions year-round.
The legitimate application has nearly 90 questions, including those about Covid-19 vaccination status; primary source of income, annual salary ranges, net worth, home ownership and ages of siblings.
More delve into whether an applicant is genuinely looking for love and why; asks for criminal history, experience with restraining orders, and bankruptcy of chapter 11 filings; as well as qualities in an ideal mate; special talents; and the importance of race, ethnicity, political views and religion when looking for a romantic partner.
Contact IndyStar reporter Cheryl V. Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-444-6264. Follow her on X.com: @cherylvjackson.