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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014

Clarkrageous moment

Beware of "romance scams" around Valentine's Day

Man swindled out of $200,000 in fake online relationship



By Clark Howard

ClarkHoward.com


With Valentine's Day approaching fast, I've got a real heartbreaker to share with you that centers around the dangers of people misrepresenting themselves on the Internet.

A couple of years ago, The Naperville Sun reported that a 48-year-old man wired $200,000 over the course of more than 2 years to an "online girlfriend" he never met or spoke to on the phone.

The man, whose name was not disclosed, apparently had established an online relationship with what he believed to be a girlfriend. The girlfriend sent a picture, reportedly a driver's license from Florida. They became, at least from his standpoint, very emotionally involved. (Of course, there's no telling if the crook behind this scheme was a girl at all, not that it matters at this point.)

During more than 2 years, the girlfriend repeatedly needed money for various reasons, and the man obliged by wiring it to a variety of places both overseas and in the United States.

So one day the man gets a frantic message from the girlfriend saying that she has been kidnapped on a trip in London. She needed money immediately to be freed from her captors. At that point, the man was so worried that he went to see the police in a Chicago suburb and they broke the news to him. The man reportedly "was in disbelief" upon learning he lost $200,000 over a bogus "relationship."

I think about how many times during the Internet era we've gotten calls about people gaining your confidence online and getting into your wallet. It's so easy to create a false presence, personality or enterprise in cyberspace. People are lonely and willing to buy into it.

No further details are available about why the man never arranged a trip to meet the girlfriend if he had this kind of money. Because then the ruse would have been up. Just know that many times, things may not be what they seem to be on the Internet.

Meanwhile, on a happier note, click here if you want advice on how to do Valentine's Day the Clark Smart way. I'll tell you about the best places to buy fresh flowers!

Finally, if you *don't* have a sweetie this time of year, I've gotten some questions asking if there are any legitimate free online dating sites. Give these free legitimate dating sites a try.

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