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Many people over 50 who become single are a bit naive and gullible. That is understandable -- some haven't had a date with anyone other than their spouse in 30 or 40 years.

Date: 2007-05-07

Sadly, some fall into unfortunate situations that had they known about beforehand, could have been avoided. As an older single, you need to protect four things when dating again.

-- First, protect your heart. Perhaps you are lonely and desperately want companionship. You miss sharing and feel empty. You're vulnerable and can easily let your guard down.

One widow who considers herself to be intelligent, street-smart, well educated and grounded became involved with a "wonderful" man. He filled the big, empty space in her life. But a telephone call from the man's aunt revealed a dark side. He was a liar and a con artist. She found out before major damage was done, but her heart was bruised.

While loneliness is difficult, having one's heart broken at our age is worse. Be careful where you allow your heart to lead you. Trust your instincts. If something or someone is too good to be true -- well, you know the rest of that sentence.

And for sure, if you meet someone you really like, don"t smother him (or her). That's the quickest way to blow a relationship.

-- Next, protect your health. With the proliferation of male enhancement drugs like Viagra, Levitra and Cialis, some older men think they're the king stud and expect sex like dessert after dinner. The danger of getting a STD exists among the older set. And it's not just men who transmit STDs. Women can also be carriers. Both sexes need to be cautious.

Judy Fink, of the AARP in Washington D.C., says reckless sex at any age can be dangerous. There are "serious health risks from unprotected sex," she says. "HIV and AIDS are increasing in people over 50 -- heterosexual folks -- deciding to become sexually active without testing themselves and their potential partners."

Walk away from sex if you're being rushed. Don't become a statistic. For safe sex guidelines and HIV risk factors, go to the Centers for Disease Control Web site at

-- Third, protect your drink glass. "What?" you ask. "Has our beloved columnist lost his marbles?"

One woman had a couple of dates with a perfect gentleman. Then, he invited her to his house for dinner. After dining and nice conversation, she woke up nude at three in the morning in his bed. He had placed a date-rape drug in her wine glass. Not in a bar, not by stranger, but by a man she trusted and enjoyed.

When you're among strangers having a drink -- wine, soda, coffee, fruit juice -- don't let your glass or cup out of your sight from the moment the bartender pours it. This is a sad state of affairs, but be aware of the possibility of your drink being spiked.

-- Fourth, protect your assets. It always amazes (and saddens) me when I read in the paper about older people being scammed. The latest was on Feb. 23. About 130 seniors were taken for over $10 million by a 47-year-old investment counselor who gained their trust running a Ponzi scheme with promises of a 12 percent return on their money. It was one of the largest elder-abuse cases in the history of Orange County, Calif.

In 1999, a 61-year-old man was sent to prison for the third time for financially defrauding women. He'd been married eleven times and has masqueraded as a fireman, racecar driver, contractor and pilot.

Widows are particularly vulnerable. Many are lonely and their husbands may have made the financial decisions. Mr. Right comes along, gains a widow's love and trust, and offers to help with finances. If that sounds familiar, have your new beau checked out by a private investigator.

Singles using the Internet to meet mates need to be aware of the "sweetheart scams" now abounding, primarily out of Nigeria. These scammers take advantage of singles' loneliness and slowly draw them into their web. More than 2,000 people who have been scammed for over $2 million have banded together on Yahoo! groups to fight romance scammers.

Singles need to be in control of their money. One woman co-mingled her funds with her new husband "to prove her love for him." He kept his assets separate. In the divorce, he got half of her assets and kept all of his. She'll have to struggle the rest of her life.

Older singles should get out and have fun. But, they need to protect these four aspects while doing so.

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