Thousands duped by online dating scams

The Manti Te'o online dating hoax has a lot of people talking about how the college football star got duped.

Of course, Te'o is in the spotlight because he's a high-profile athlete. But thousands of men and women discover the person they've fallen in love with online is a figment of someone else's imagination.

Over the years, romance scam victims have gathered the courage to share their stories. The exhilaration of finding that special friendship. The photos. The flowers and compliments. The joy of finally finding that special man, or woman. Then, the realization that it was all a lie.

When you start an online relationship- you're focused on one thing -- romance. Someone to love. Someone who will love you back.

But scammers and con artists are focused on telling you what you want to hear, saying all the right things, because their end goal is to get your money or use you to get money from someone else.

To avoid being duped, look for the red flags:

  • An early push to leave the dating or social network site you're on and communicate on Yahoo, instant messaging or some other site.
  • A quick move to send you more photos, often with "their child", and the early request for you to send more photos of yourself.
  • A quick transition from the introduction stage- to calling you pet names such as "sweetheart," "baby" "my love", "honey" and darling.
  • An almost immediate request for your address so they can send flowers or letters.
  • Continual excuses for not being able to meet you in person.
  • Unexpected emergencies that require your financial assistance.

Ignore those signs and you risk losing more than just your heart. Victims here and across the country are getting hit for thousands of dollars they will never get back.

One of the latest twists to the scam is for the "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" to come clean when confronted and then confess that in the process of trying to scam you, they've actually fallen in love with you. It's just to further string you along.

On a darker note, some scammers are reportedly using blackmail now, threatening to post your photos and conversations online if you don't send money.

More help to avoid being duped by online dating is available here.