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Victims—predominantly older widowed or divorced women targeted by criminal groups usually from Nigeria—are, for the most part, computer literate and educated. And con artists know exactly how to exploit that vulnerability because potential victims freely post details about their lives and personalities on dating and social media sites.

Trolling for victims online “is like throwing a fishing line,” said Special Agent Christine Beining, a veteran financial fraud investigator in the FBI’s Houston Division who has seen a substantial increase in the number of romance scam cases.

“He was saying all the right things,” she remembered. It’s called a romance scam, and this devastating Internet crime is on the rise.

The woman, in her 50s and struggling in her marriage, was happy to find someone to chat with. He was very positive, and I felt like there was a real connection there.”That connection would end up costing the woman million and an untold amount of heartache after the man she fell in love with—whom she never met in person—took her for every cent she had.

Maria deposited the check and sent the money, but was soon contacted by her bank, which told her the check was bad and she had to repay the ,500.

On top of losing her money, the fake “Andrew” disappeared, and Maria never heard from him again. The scammer may use photos from magazines and portray himself or herself as talented and successful. citizen working or serving abroad, or give a similar excuse to explain their inability to meet in person.

This leaves many victims not only embarrassed, but also in financial distress.

It is important for online users to be on the look-out for online dating and romance scams.

As the number of people looking to meet new people online grows, so does the opportunity for fraud.

Whether you're contacted by phone, mail, email, text, or in-person, the following tips provide advice on how to spot a scam.

Seniors' Guide to Fighting Fraud This guide will inform you about the common scams aimed at seniors and the steps consumers can take to thwart the swindlers.

Be wary of sending money to someone you have never met in person, especially via a wire transfer service like Western Union or Money Gram or a prepaid money card, like Green Dot.

Once a person wires money to a foreign country, the money is generally unrecoverable.

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The following are some tips on how to protect yourself from being scammed and what to do if you become a victim: Federal Trade Commission Consumer Response Center 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20580 (877) 382-4357 TTY: (866) 653-4261 Pre-Paid Debit Card Scams For years, scammers have duped people into wiring money using wire services.

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