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The victims reported collective losses of .4 million, which is likely only a fraction of the actual losses since many victims are too embarrassed to file a report, the FBI said.
About 70% of the victims were female; more than half were women 40 years or older.
Like many single women, the Midwestern mother of two and caretaker for her ailing father found many possibilities and opportunities when it came to meeting men online. Chat room one evening after working the night shift at her retail job, she met a man only a state away who enchanted her from the moment she first spoke with him.“He was extremely intelligent and came across as very romantic and genuinely interested in me,” Meade said.
“I thought he was too good to be true.”Chatting nightly over Yahoo!
Not everyone using online dating sites is looking for love. As if all that isn’t bad enough, romance scammers are now involving their victims in online bank fraud.
Scammers create fake online profiles using photos of other people — even stolen pictures of real military personnel. And they tug at your heartstrings with made-up stories about how they need money — for emergencies, hospital bills, or travel. Here’s how it works: The scammers set up dating profiles to meet potential victims.
After they form a “relationship,” they come up with reasons to ask their love interest to set up a new bank account.
The scammers transfer stolen money into the new account, and then tell their victims to wire the money out of the country.
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"I left my heart out there, and this guy took advantage of it," the 51-year old Best said.
In 2011, the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center received 5,600 complaints from victims of so-called "romance scammers" -- criminals who scan online dating sites, chat rooms and social networking sites for potential victims.
The man Rhonda Meade fell in love with promised to elope with her to a tropical island paradise where they could be married along white beaches as the setting sun shimmered across vast, crystal-clear waters.
But, the only thing that ran away from the 36-year-old single mother’s life of hardship would eventually be all her savings and the security she had entrusted with “Walter.”Meade, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, was one of millions of people who flock to the Internet each year in search of romance and a long term relationship.The romance scam package is designed for fraudsters who prey on lonely men via dating Web sites and small spam campaigns.