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Originally published: 2013-02-18 11:26:43
Last modified: 2013-02-18 12:19:55

Our View: Scams - Looking for love in all the right places

The marriage of money and online romance increasingly leads to broken hearts -- and empty bank accounts, says N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper.

It doesn't have to be that way.

While there are certainly legitimate dating and social media websites, online scammers are increasingly targeting these arenas in search of people looking for companionship. Especially targeted are the elderly who may have recently posted notice of a death of a loved one. In fact, almost half of those who reported falling victim to a "sweetheart scam" in 2012 were older than retirement age.

It's easy to fall prey. Scammers are good at establishing an online relationship. A few lengthy chats intermingled with seemingly personal details to build trust and it can be difficult to know you're being had by a con artist.

It's that trust that scammers rely on -- they build enough false security into an online relationship, and soon the victim is wiring money overseas to help their new loved one get through unexpected travels or until they get paid. Last year, that trust engendered more than $2 million in scams -- money that is highly unlikely to be recovered.

Sweetheart scams exploit men and women, but three tips from Cooper's office can keep both your bank account and heart intact.

• Remember that people aren't always who they claim to be online. 

• Never wire money to a stranger. It can be impossible to recover.

• Never give out personal information, including financial information, to someone online -- no matter what the circumstances or proposed needs are.

But if, despite all this, you are victimized, don't hide the loss. Report it to Cooper's office by filing a complaint at http://www.ncdoj.gov -- that's the best way to keep a scam artist from looking for love.