KSAT Defenders consumer alert: How to avoid online romance scams

Scammers targeting online daters

Author: Myra Arthur, Reporter, Anchor, marthur@ksat.com
Published On: Nov 19 2012 08:33:41 PM CST   Updated On: Nov 19 2012 09:55:00 PM CST
romance scam
SAN ANTONIO -

It's a reality of dating in 2012: people meeting and falling in love online. But "uploading" your love life comes with a risk.

Scam artists are trolling the same dating sites not looking for love, but for your money.

"Its huge, its pervasive," says Kathy, who works with www.romancescam.com, a site dedicated to outing online dating scammers.

She “baits” scammers to catch them in their online dating cons, so she asked to be identified as only Kathy for that reason.

The biggest online dating “don't?” Sending money.

"If anyone asks you for money in an online relationship without meeting face to face with that person, even if its two Americans, one to the other, that's a scam," says Kathy.

Most online dating scams originate in West Africa, according to Kathy.

The really sly scammers can get victims to send them money without ever asking for it.

“Sometimes I have women come to me and say ‘he never asked me for money, but he told me his child was sick and he needed a plane ticket and I just knew I could help,’” said Kathy.

Sometimes scammers will even offer to send you a check to deposit saying they’re out of the country and can’t deposit it themselves from their location.

They tell their victims to keep some and send them the rest.

No surprise: those checks are fake.

Kathy has collected more than $2 million in fake checks by baiting online scammers in that exact scenario.

Online scammers also tend to fall in love fast.

"He constantly flatters you, he falls in love quickly, and he wants to move you off of the site to chat one on one,” Kathy said.

Scammers steal pictures from around the web to use on their fake dating profiles, but there is a way for you to find out if the picture you see isn’t really the person you’re chatting with.

Go to www.google.com, click “images,” then click on camera icon in the search bar. There, you can upload a picture or paste a link to a picture to find out where else that photo is being used on the web.

Perhaps most troubling, some scammers pose as soldiers- sometimes, even those killed in combat in real life- to lure in women.

"Its honorable, its credible, it tugs at the heartstrings of single women,” Kathy said.

Soldier impersonation in the online dating world is so large that government task forces have been created to help stop the problem.

To see images of falsified military documents that scammers might use, click here

For more on what to watch out for when it comes to online dating scams, click here

For a list of recent stories Myra Arthur has done, click here.