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A few months after her husband’s death in 2012, Joanna — who asked her real name not be used to protect her privacy — went on looking for the soul mate she’d never had in her troubled marriage.She soon got a message from a man who said he was a widowed engineer from Colorado.Within a week the man calling himself John had captured Joanna’s heart with compliments, humor and declarations that she was the one.A few months later John had to travel to Africa for business — a common ruse that signals the start of trouble.Because once they forge a bond with you — which can happen surprisingly fast — it can be very hard to break free.Discontinuing contact may sound “obvious and simple, but it isn’t always because they’ve fallen in love with this person,” the AARP’s Shadel said.
According to the FBI, romance scams and similar confidence scams cost consumers more money than any other kind of Internet fraud.Victim advocates say the true cost of romance scams is probably much higher than official estimates because victims, men in particular, often stay silent out of shame.Although older adults are often targeted — more than three-quarters of complaints to federal agencies came from people 40 and older — fraud experts say people of all ages and backgrounds can fall prey to romance scams.But the billion dating industry could do much more, many experts say, including warning members who have been contacted by a known scammer.
AARP is collecting signatures on an online petition calling on dating sites to take stronger steps to protect customers.Often the scammer will say an emergency situation has arisen and money is needed fast to avoid dire consequences.This makes it hard for the victim to do due diligence.A car accident was followed by other emergencies that prevented him from coming home — and led to requests for more cash. He told Joanna he’d really fallen in love with her.