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Among the hundreds of messages posted to the group are photographs of alleged scammers, links to potentially fraudulent online dating ads, and copies of come-on e-mails.The group is trying to publicize the problem to limit the damage. Now, I get one every couple of weeks or so because it's the easiest way to get somebody hooked," Ferguson said. We don't want people to be taken in." But they are, said Donna Gregory, supervisory internet crime specialist at the FBI's Internet Fraud Complaint Center. "We've even seen them take as long as a year (to seduce a mark)," Gregory said."How many people are out there thinking they found the love of their life and they have no clue what's happening? "The first thing most people say to me when they contact me is, 'I can't believe I was so stupid.' " Sweetheart scams appear to be on the rise, said Julie Ferguson, executive director of the Merchant Risk Council, which tracks scams for online retailers. "The stories are so-gut-wrenching sad." Some scammers seem to deliberately target groups set up for Christian singles, she said, where people may be less likely to be suspicious. Con artists will hunt for people's weaknesses, find out what they care about -- such as Grateful Dead music -- and then go in for the kill."When you are meeting someone else on a Christian site, you think you are safe." No dating site is immune from scams, said Jason Tarlowe, who operates Match Doctor.com, where Smalley met Richie. Sometimes, the online suitors don't even ask before sending money orders.There have been so many victims that they are starting to find each other online.A new Yahoo group, "Romance Scams," was founded last month by Smalley and Barb Sluppick, who said she almost fell for a similar scam earlier this year."Loving, caring and hardworking," the online dating profile said.
Some have a perfect blend of Asian and Caucasian races. So when people say humans emanated from Africa believe them.Scam artists post ads to online dating sites and lurk in chat rooms with names like "40 and single," or "Recently dumped." Often, they reach out to a lonely soul with flowers or candy, purchased with a stolen credit card."A little gift of flowers or candy is a good aphrodisiac," said Miskell. I can't tell you the number of women who have fallen for this." Eventually, the con artists convince their soulmates to do them a big favor — help transfer funds out of the bank."When you meet someone and you really want someone you just want to believe them." Her advice to daters is the same, online or off: "Enjoy the relationship, but keep your money to yourself," she said.Facts About Africa: Black is beautiful and this is reflected in the streets of Accra, Lagos, Johannesburg and many more.The Merchant Risk Council's Ferguson said victims can always contact her agency for help returning merchandise to the retailers.'Keep your money to yourself' But there is no returning money to consumers who have wired funds overseas, hoping to cement a love bond. They have the patience." Rhoda Cook has for years operated a Web site named which maintains a database of sweetheart con artists.By Valentine's Day, Smalley received a box of chocolate candy, a teddy bear, and a helium balloon that said "I love you." Smalley, 46, was hooked, even though she had never met him.Richie said he was from Milford, Mass., but that he was out of the country on a big construction job.They just send them, then guilt their targets into forwarding on the cash, Gregory said.In other cases, the con artists aren't after money -- they are after shipping help. "They say, 'Oh, once you have them, why not just send them?