"Even in the last decade, so many more people meet other people online for the purpose of dating," said New York attorney Jonathan Hood, who has written extensively on internet fraud. Of course, the best way to tell if the person you are dealing with is real is to meet in person. "If they say, 'I'm not ready to meet you in person,' or 'I want to continue just chatting online,' that could be trouble," Hood said.
"It just makes it so much easier for people to connect without ever meeting in person, and sort of as a result, never really verifying that the other person is who they say they are." In the latest twist, reported on the next episode of CNBC's "American Greed," con artists are exploiting Americans' respect for the military. Moving your relationship from virtual to real is a big step. If you are not yet comfortable meeting your new friend in person, Hood says to at least try to move away from the confines of the dating site by getting their email address or connecting on Facebook. "If you start getting, 'I'm not sure that I'm comfortable with that yet,' it doesn't mean that they're a scammer, but in my mind it would raise some red flags," Hood said.
"I was really embarrassed that I could let this happen to me." Before you say to yourself, "That could never happen to me," consider the fact that the FBI recorded some 15,000 romance scams last year, a jump of 2,500 from the year before. Because it is practically impossible nowadays to date without some use of the internet, experts warn that you need to take precautions before jumping into the dating game.
The internet has revolutionized the world of dating, but it is also a new breeding ground for scams. One way to check is to do a reverse image search on Google. It will allow you to either upload the profile photo or paste it directly from the web site.
The FBI says romance scams are rampant online, with an estimated $230 million in losses last year. "If you get a million results for it, chances are it's some kind of a stock photo," Hood said.
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