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Smalley agreed, and over the next two weeks, she cashed two 0 money orders and sent along the funds. 'My whole world had fallen apart' "The bank told me I was responsible for that money. Smalley shared her version of events with in the hopes that others might not fall for the same trickery.
The group is trying to publicize the problem to limit the damage. Now, I get one every couple of weeks or so because it's the easiest way to get somebody hooked," Ferguson said. We don't want people to be taken in." But they are, said Donna Gregory, supervisory internet crime specialist at the FBI's Internet Fraud Complaint Center. "We've even seen them take as long as a year (to seduce a mark)," Gregory said.
"How many people are out there thinking they found the love of their life and they have no clue what's happening? "The first thing most people say to me when they contact me is, 'I can't believe I was so stupid.' " Sweetheart scams appear to be on the rise, said Julie Ferguson, executive director of the Merchant Risk Council, which tracks scams for online retailers. "The stories are so-gut-wrenching sad." Some scammers seem to deliberately target groups set up for Christian singles, she said, where people may be less likely to be suspicious. Con artists will hunt for people's weaknesses, find out what they care about -- such as Grateful Dead music -- and then go in for the kill.
When Theresa Smalley received a note from Richie last January asking if she wanted to chat, she was flattered. The two began exchanging e-mails, friendly at first, but quickly swelling in intensity and passion.
By Valentine's Day, Smalley received a box of chocolate candy, a teddy bear, and a helium balloon that said "I love you." Smalley, 46, was hooked, even though she had never met him.
"When you are meeting someone else on a Christian site, you think you are safe." No dating site is immune from scams, said Jason Tarlowe, who operates Match Doctor.com, where Smalley met Richie. Sometimes, the online suitors don't even ask before sending money orders.
They just send them, then guilt their targets into forwarding on the cash, Gregory said.'Keep your money to yourself' But there is no returning money to consumers who have wired funds overseas, hoping to cement a love bond. They have the patience." Rhoda Cook has for years operated a Web site named which maintains a database of sweetheart con artists.Smalley said other would-be victims need to know about the perils of online matchmaking, and they need to listen to the little voices of hesitation and concern inside that she failed to heed. She's seen many varieties of romance scams, online and off."A little gift of flowers or candy is a good aphrodisiac," said Miskell. I can't tell you the number of women who have fallen for this." Eventually, the con artists convince their soulmates to do them a big favor — help transfer funds out of the bank.There have been so many victims that they are starting to find each other online.The goods are often purchased with stolen credit cards, but the con artists have trouble getting them delivered out of the country, because many U. Sluppick said one confused victim in her Yahoo support group currently has about ,000 in merchandise that's been sent to her home, and she doesn't know what to do with it.Tags: Adult Dating, affair dating, sex dating