JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Studies support online dating; 20 percent of heterosexual couples meet online; 60 percent of same-sex couples meet on the internet.
Glamour magazine reports that fraud is sweeping online dating sites. Scammers are using fake profiles with pictures of real military personnel. The target is women who are looking for love.
But these scammers are not looking for love -- they want your money.
Jonette Burns, 60, is in the middle of a divorce and turned to the online dating for a companion.
"I stay at home a lot," said Burns. "That's why I decided to try the online dating.
And now the experience has left her bitter and angry. What looked like a hopeful relationship turned out to be a scam.
"Just heartbroken and devastated that someone can do that," said Burns.
Burns said she was looking for someone compatible with strong values but what she found in were fake profiles
"I found five good finds out of hundreds," she said.
The latest is what really disappointed her.
"They're using our military resume," said Burns.
She thought she had met the man of her dreams; he claimed to be a three-star or lieutenant general.
"I took him at his word," said Burns. "His picture, resume. It never dawned on me."
She was hooked by the email conversations and it never dawned on her that it could be a ruse.
"He had a home in Albany and of course he works for the Pentagon and he's up all night over in Afghanistan," said Burns.
Burns said he asked for money. She did not send any, but decided to do more checking on her suitor, including an internet search.
Burns said that's when she discovered the person hiding behind the fake military profile was not General Dan Allyn as he claimed.
"I am outraged that somebody could do that to somebody else," said Burns. "Playing with their heart and soul and pretend to be somebody they're not and act like they love someone and just want money."
Dr. Justin D'Arienzo is an online dating coach. He said a woman's profile is looked at six times more often than a man's. Therefore, women are more susceptible to become a victim of an online dating scam.
"Middle-aged or older women are what I see being susceptible to another man who manipulates them for either money or sex," he said.
Dr. D'Arienzo said there are red flags to watch for so you don't get scammed:
-Exaggerated profiles with unrealistic expectations
-Always do a background check
-Never send money
"Those relationships online grow rapidly and people believe that they are real," said D'Arienzo, "instantly in a matter of days or weeks."
After her experience with the phony general, Burns said she is finished with online dating.
"It wasn't him at all," said Burns, "I felt foolish."
First for you, watch for:
-If the person claims to love you either immediately or within 24-48 hours
-If the person claims to be from the U.S. but they're overseas, or going overseas mainly to Nigeria
-If the person is not usually around on the weekends
-If the person asks for financial assistance
You may be involved in an online dating scam and it is time to hit the delete button.
First Coast News