Millions of Americans visit online dating websites every year hoping to find a companion or even a soulmate.
But as Valentine’s Day gets closer, the FBI wants to warn you that criminals use these sites, too, looking to turn the lonely and vulnerable into fast money through a variety of scams..
Nancy*, a 47-year-old single mother from North Yorkshire was conned out of over £350,000 that way: “I wasn't comfortable, and then I got so far in I couldn't get myself out, and I didn't want to walk away having lost £50,000 or what-have-you, so you keep going in the hope that you're wrong and this person is genuine,” she explained to the BBC.
Nancy is now facing bankruptcy, and although her case is extreme, the average victim of online dating fraud loses £10,000 according to Action Fraud.
The victim and the scammer create an online relationship.
While the victim may become suspicious overtime, the scammer lures them in with pictures, hardships, promises, excitement, and claims of love.
A new report by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has found that last year, singles were conned out of £39 million by fraudsters they’d met on dating sites and apps.
Con artists are increasingly creating fake online profiles and tricking people on dating sites into handing over often large sums of money.
One of the most common techniques is to build up trust with the person by messaging for weeks or even months before suddenly having an emergency - the fake person being mugged but their daughter needing urgent surgery, for example - and asking for money.
But then they suddenly need money for rent too, then food, then medical fees, and it can quickly escalate.
“A lot of the online dating fraudsters we know are abroad.