Internet Fraudsters Steal Hearts and Cash

Online romance scams have led to millions of dollars in losses.

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There was a time when you only had to worry about a potential lover breaking your heart. Now it seems that you've got to keep your eyes on your bank account, too.

As Americans have turned in greater numbers to the Internet in search of love, scammers have found a fresh batch of potential victims and created a new field of fraudulent activity: "romance fraud: a scam designed to prey on [people's] emotions to get [their] money," CNN reports.

Romance scammers troll dating sites to find potential victims. After convincing them of their love, the scammers start hitting their targets up for cash.

I know, it sounds like regular dating to me, too. But such schemes have apparently triggered steep financial losses, trails of broken hearts, and voicemail boxes full of unreturned calls.

From CNN:

Barb Sluppick runs RomanceScams.org, a Web site dedicated to helping victims of romance fraud, like herself. She said the site has had more than 30,000 members since its start in June 2005.

The number of broken hearts aside, romance fraud costs victims millions of dollars each year. Of her 30,000 members, Sluppick said, 883 people have reported their financial losses. They add up to $8,244,800.05, she said.

So how to prevent yourself from becoming a victim?

RomanceScams.org also lists a few red flags to detect a possible scammer: If their spelling is horrible, they use emoticons heavily and they appear to be available at unusual hours for your time zone, they may be scamming you.

So there yu have it. :( Fair warneing.