"In the process of going back and forth, a scammer is going to try to figure out what makes a person tick, what their vulnerable spots are," said Jenny Shearer, an FBI spokeswoman.
"Because a victim has legitimate feelings, they might be inclined to offer financial support for this person." For Best, it all started when she signed up for a free online dating site called mingle2.
At first, Best -- who juggles two part-time jobs working with developmentally-disabled adults and people with mental illness -- resisted, telling John she simply didn't have the money. "He was trying to get me to use my credit cards, borrow from my friends and family," said Best, who earlier told her saga to The Huffington Post.
When he told her days later he couldn't afford to eat, Best gave in, wiring him two 0 payments. soldiers serving abroad, then ask for money to purchase laptops, international phones or a plane ticket home so their fake relationship can continue. Army's Criminal Investigation Command says they receive hundreds of reports every month from people fooled by phony service members.
In a typical con, the perpetrator will spend weeks or even months building up a romantic relationship with a victim through e-mails, texts or phone calls, before eventually asking for money.
And many of the scammers aren't even in the United States.
Be especially cautious with people you only know through online messages and phone calls. Many scammers use fake photos to lure their victims but video messaging is much harder to fake.
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CNNMoney's attempts to reach "John" on his international phone number provided by Best revealed that it was based out of Nigeria -- a hotbed for online scams -- and has since been disconnected. Victims are then prompted to pay to have their name removed from the site.
The victims reported collective losses of .4 million, which is likely only a fraction of the actual losses since many victims are too embarrassed to file a report, the FBI said.
About 70% of the victims were female; more than half were women 40 years or older.
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