The Dangers of Dating Online

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The surge in online dating also holds an important warning: be weary of con-artists and certainly be cautious before any money is exchanged.

"Initially, it started out as a friendship," said Mary. "He would tell me about himself, I would tell him about myself."

Mary is talking about the on-line relationship she started with a man on a social networking site. He said he was stuck in Nigeria and asked her to help him by sending him money to fly home.

"It started out pretty small the money that he needed and it just escalated," said Mary.

But there always seemed to be an excuse as to why he never returned and always needed more money.

"Initially, it was my own money - then I had to take out loans to help him," said Mary. "And it just snowballed from there."

Since Mary was now out of money herself, her online connection had a new idea for how they could make some cash. It started with fraudulent credit cards the suspect sent to Mary.

"She would then take these credit cards and make purchases here at local retail stores, take those fraudulent items to a pawn shop and get cash for that purchase," said U.S. Postal Inspector Joshua Bergeron.

Over time, Mary wired the suspect more than $200,000. Investigators say scams like these are growing as online dating sites increase in popularity. Police warn against joining *free* dating sites or giving money to someone you barely know.

"Don't provide them the money," said LPD Officer Erin Spilker. "It's not your responsibility to take care of them, fix their car, do those kinds of things, no matter how much you might be looking for love."

Mary is now trying to rebuild. "Right now, I work two jobs to try and get myself back on my feet. It's going to take quite a while; it's going to take a long time."

Mary plead guilty for her role in this scam, and says she will think twice before starting any relationships online.