Looking for love? Online romance scams target women

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Looking for love online? A "buyer beware" warning for you. FBI statistics show that women ages 50 and older are the biggest victims of online romance scams.

Internet Crime Complaint Center says the victims are usually sucked in by a fake profile on dating site and talked into handing over thousands of dollars in cash and gifts.

Last week, Scott Campbell, the so-called "playboy con man," was arrested in Florida.

According to the Department of Financial Regulation, Campbell sold fictitious investments to dozens of women.

Authorities say he met most of those women online, under the guise of a romantic relationship.

After meeting women on sites like Match.com, they say Campbell would convince his victims to fork over money for his musical talent search business.

"What they create is not only a fake profile but a fake business that looks legitimate but it really isn't," said author and relationship expert Charles A. Johnson.

And according to the FBI, this kind of crime is becoming a trend.

"The profile is typically over 40, divorced, disabled, widowed, you know somebody that feels like I just want somebody back in my life," said Johnson.

He says "the Casanova scammer" is very smart and slick in the way he goes about attracting his victims.

"This happens every day all day long the FBI thinks, they know its 50 million but it could be 100 of millions of dollars because most people won't report," said Johnson.

There are ways to protect yourself from falling victim to these con artists.

First Charles says "you should never give anyone your money."

"Never give a man or a woman your money. You don't know this person there's still a stranger."

Also "when you're trying to check anybody out there's nothing wrong with running a background check."

And make sure you "go to the better business bureau and check on the person particularly if they say they have a company."

"And the other thing you can do is check social media they tell everything on social media."

Overall, losses to Internet crime went up more than eight percent in 2012, breaking the half-billion-dollar mark for the first time.

Only one other type of online scam was auto fraud which made more money last year than dating scams.

If you are a victim of fraud you should contact your local police.

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