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This makes it hard for the victim to do due diligence.

The scammer might say that an immediate family member has a medical emergency and needs money for treatment, or that he has been wrongly arrested and needs help with bail money and legal support.

(It is estimated that only 15 percent of fraud victims report their losses to law enforcement, so the real numbers are probably higher.) As one result, fear of a horrible first date is just one of the things a would-be online dater has to worry about. “Most people think the victims are middle-aged women who can't get a date, but I have worked with men and women of all ages—doctors and lawyers, CEOs of companies, people from the entertainment industry—who you’d never think in a million years would fall for these scams but do,” says Barb Sluppick, who runs romancescams.org, a watchdog site and online support group.

According to the Consumer Reports 2016 Online Dating Survey of more than 114,000 subscribers, among the respondents who were considering online dating but were hesitant, 46 percent said they were concerned about being scammed. “Typically the scammer builds trust by writing long letters over weeks or months and crafting a whole persona for their victims,” says Unit Chief David Farquhar from the Financial Crimes Section of the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) who specializes in cyber-related crimes.

Experts say online daters are always wise to be skeptical regarding what someone they've met online, and not in the flesh, tells them.

Most dating websites—even ones that cost money—don't vet the people who sign up.

According to the FBI, romance scams and similar confidence scams cost consumers more money than any other kind of Internet fraud.

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“There was one woman who got scammed for over a million dollars, her whole retirement nest egg,” says Farquhar.

The CR survey found that 35 percent of respondents who’ve tried online dating felt they had been grossly misled by someone’s online profile, and 12 percent said they’d been scammed.

Choose a friend or someone from your church or community who is less emotionally invested than you are. And remember: If the request for funds is indeed a scam, it may be difficult if not impossible to ever recover the money.

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