(WWBT) - Millions of relationships have blossomed online, but so have scams, which can break your heart and your bank. The FBI says losses from these scams topped $230 million last year.
Dating nowadays can be a minefield of scam artists, particularly vulnerable women "of a certain age" recently widowed or divorced.
There are steps you can take to make sure the person you're talking to is telling you the truth.
Lindsey Wolfrey met Billy Stafford on a dating app in Richmond. She says he charged up to $45,000 worth of debt in her name.
"Buying Xboxes, actually bought my engagement ring with a card that he started online," said Wolfrey.
Lindsay says Billy secretly opened accounts with her information.
Multiple women have come forward with a similar story, hearts broken and finances ruined.
Stafford was arrested by Colonial Heights Police in January facing multiple charges of fraud and identity theft, but he was released on bond and disappeared. He's currently still on the run.
Many more women never actually even meet their scammer in person before falling victim.
Attorney Jonathan Hood writes about this kind of fraud for Consumer Affairs.
"Set up a time to meet, or at least speak on the phone or have a video chat. If somebody really doesn't want to do that---there could be trouble," said Hood.
Another red flag is a profile with basic spelling or grammar errors, which could mean he or she is a scammer located overseas.
Also, watch out for photos that look a little too glossy. Put the picture through a google reverse image search.
"If you get a million results for it, chances are it's some kind of a stock photo," said Hood.
No matter what, never send money. Instead, report the person to the dating site and block him or her from ever contacting you again.
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