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Howard Ain, Troubleshooter: Internet Dating Alert

Updated: Friday, January 30 2015, 08:51 AM EST
CINCINNATI (Howard Ain) -- Many people are finding love online these days while others are finding themselves caught in a sweetheart scheme that can cost them thousands of dollars as well as their pride.
Thousands of men and women are being lured into online dating scams.  The result can not only be embarrassment but it can cost you a lot of money.

A soldier on duty, travel photos, even pictures with family.  Photos you might see on social media sites; however, these pictures were used to lure women into a scam that cost them thousands of dollars.
Adam Latham, a US Postal Inspector, said, "Often time the fraudsters will look for photos of men in the military and they will play on the sympathies of the women they have for people in the armed forces."
Fraudsters steal photos and then, pretending to be the people in the pictures, post them on internet dating sites where they troll for women.
Latham said, "The typical victim that we've uncovered is middle aged, divorced woman in the US.  They use stolen credit cards to send flowers, teddy bears, chocolates.  They literally groom them over months at a time, they chat with them for hours a day."
After gaining their trust the scheme begins, "At some point down the line they are told there is a financial emergency, their credit cards don't work overseas or there is some kind of business emergency and they are told to send money," Lantham explains.
Many victims send that money only to learn they've been scammed.  Postal Inspectors say millions of dollars have been lost in so-called "sweetheart schemes" across the US.
"The women were typically told to send several hundred dollars at a time.  That is a convenient amount to send through Western Union or Money Gram," said Lantham.
The money is one part but the psychological damage is another, "There is a lot of trust involved with them thinking they were in love with the man, they are embarrassed by the money they lost, they don't want family members to know, they don't want their employer to know," explains Lantham.
Postal inspectors say women need to be very careful about online relationships.  Two of the women involved in the case at the beginning of the piece lost thousands of dollars and were forced to file bankruptcy.  So beware.

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