Consumer Alert: Sweetheart scams have cost US victims billions

Posted: Updated:
EDISON, N.J. -

Ahead of Valentine's Day, love is in the air -- but so are romance scams.

From Match.com to OKCupid to specialized sites like Christian Mingle, online dating has become a huge industry. But as online dating has grown, so too have romance scams.

One example is Dr. Steve Jones. He's a real person, but over the years his face has been used over and over again by scammers posing as fictional personalities online.

Consumer advocate Adam Levin says romance scammers are good at playing on their victims' emotions -- and the scams often work.

A report from the Better Business Bureau finds sweetheart scams have cost victims in the U.S. more than $1 billion over the past three years. The typical victim is between 45 and 54 years old.

There are some warning signs of romance scams:
-Beware if someone seems to fall for you very quickly, especially if you just can't seem to meet with them face-to-face for some reason.
-The scammer may be quick to ask you to leave the dating site and communicate some place else.
-The big red flag to watch for: if the person suddenly has an emergency and needs money.

And it's a good idea to double-check any photos. A reverse-image search on Google can help tell if you the person pretending to be your sweetheart is really someone else.

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