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So how can you avoid falling foul of these criminals?
There are some tell-tale signs: they avoid talking about their personal life in detail; they immediately want to start calling you 'babe' or something equally easy for them to remember; they move fast, and after investing a few weeks stringing you along, start asking for photos or money; their spelling and grammar is pretty awful; and they want to move off the site fairly quickly, preferring to get you to use instant messaging. Ask detailed questions about where they claim to live, and check out the answers.
If they take a minute or two to reply, they are looking it up, and if they are inaccurate, they are plucking an answer from thin air.
Ask for proper details of their life, and then Google them.
One common approach is the 'sick child' scam, where the online lover asks for a small sum for fundraising and if you pay, they start pushing for more and more.They may also ask for photos or for you to appear on the webcam, and then if you try to call a halt to the scam they threaten to blackmail you.Twenty years ago internet dating was just for a handful of techie types.Now it has soared in popularity, with a You Gov survey finding 49% of men and 41% of women have used internet dating sites to find love.Sadly, a market this big is bound to breed its fair share of bad deals, rip-offs and out-and-out scams.