Millions of Americans visit online dating websites every year hoping to find a companion or even a soulmate.
Her new boyfriend had a complicated backstory: He was an American soldier serving in Iraq, and he had a son living in Ghana.
But she had revealed to her new online beau how much she wanted children, and soon his 14-year-old son was emailing her.
That’s particularly true if they’ve been through difficult circumstances, such as divorce, losing a job, serious illness and other major losses, says Doug Shadel, a fraud researcher and director of AARP Washington.
It’s as if “their immune system to fraud” is weakened, Shadel said.
For thousands of people each year, the search for love online ends not just with a broken heart, but an empty bank account.
So-called romance scams — in which fraudsters smother victims with professions of love then plead for large “loans” to cover invented emergencies — appear to be on the rise, according to federal law enforcement and fraud experts.
Victim advocates say the true cost of romance scams is probably much higher than official estimates because victims, men in particular, often stay silent out of shame.
Although older adults are often targeted — more than three-quarters of complaints to federal agencies came from people 40 and older — fraud experts say people of all ages and backgrounds can fall prey to romance scams.
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.