Millions of Americans visit online dating websites every year hoping to find a companion or even a soulmate.
But as Valentine’s Day gets closer, we want to warn you that criminals use these sites, too, looking to turn the lonely and vulnerable into fast money through a variety of scams.
, users are being warned to be vigilant while online, particularly as the fraudster's tactics are becoming more elaborate.
Action Fraud UK, the country's fraud and internet crime reporting centre, says it has been alerted to new methods used by dating fraudsters.
"This includes never giving money to anyone – just as you would never give money to someone you recently met in a pub or café – and not sharing personal contact details that take conversations off the site," he said.
Back in 2010, Brenda Parke, a 60-year-old retiree, was scammed out of £60,000 after joining an online dating site and befriending a man purporting to be a successful Dutch businessman called Bradford Cole.
In another recently reported dating extortion scam, victims usually met someone on an online dating site and then were asked to move the conversation to a particular social networking site, where the talk often turned intimate.In July, the average payout was as high as £10,882.With one in four British adults using a dating website at some point in their life, according to Which?Ms Parke realised her mistake when Mr Cole failed to arrive at Birmingham airport where they had agreed to meet so that he could go to the bank with her and return her money."With great hindsight, I am fully aware of how utterly stupid I have been," said Ms Parke, "and I appreciate that there is little, if any, chance of getting my money back.We strongly recommend, however, that if you think you’ve been victimized by a dating scam or any other online scam, file a complaint with our Internet Crime Complaint Center (Before forwarding the complaints to the appropriate agencies, IC3 collates and analyzes the data—looking for common threads that could link complaints together and help identify the culprits. Here are some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of an online dating scam.In order to release it they claim they have to pay a customs release fee – which is then requested from the victim." Online dating scams are nothing new, but they are on the rise.From April 2013 to March 2014, there were 2,037 cases of dating scams reported to Action Fraud, with the 651 scams over the summer marking an acceleration.Through subtle manipulation, the fraudster encouraged Ms Parke to pay up.Though hesitant, she eventually made the transfers and went on to send a further £44,500 to Mr Cole for various travel costs, accommodation, and to help him with his business.