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The #1 target of Internet fraud is …

The #1 target of Internet fraud is …
photo courtesy of SHUTTERSTOCK

Scammers never stop scheming to find new ways to separate people from their money. Last year, they succeeded to the tune of $800 million. But that's just the amount actually reported to the government. The FBI estimates the real figure is more like $3.5 billion. That's a lot of money.

Thieves pull this off using a wide variety of tactics, from phishing emails to phone support scams. However, there's one type of scam that's more successful and despicable than any other: the sweetheart scam.

This is when a thief finds lonely people online, pretends to be interested in them and then persuades them to send the thief money. "How could anyone fall for such an obvious scam," you may think. For many, it is a very expensive reality.  The average victim caught in a sweetheart scam loses $14,214.

If you have a single friend or relative who is looking for love online, you need to share this information with them. They need to know what to watch for so they aren't scammed.

Nearly 70% of the time, the target for this scam is a woman over 40. Men over 40 make up a smaller but still large chunk of victims. Younger men and women under 40 round out the remaining victims.

The scammers seek out lonely people on dating sites and build a connection. It might seem hard to do, but the scammers do background research using the target's social media and any other information they can find.

For example, if the scammer sees that your Facebook profile has a lot of pictures of you and your dog, they'll pretend to be a dog lover and connect that way. In fact, later on they could pretend their dog is sick and they need a little money to help with the treatment. Who would refuse to help?

If you're looking for love online, you need to be on your guard. It's hard when you're just communicating via email and text, though, because you can't actually see the person. Click here to spot when someone is lying in an email.

You should also read my detailed Tip about spotting sweetheart scams, and I can even tell you how to have more success in online dating.

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Source: NBC News
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