The Better Business Bureau (BBB) released a study warning internet dating sites of scammers, as an estimated 1 million Americans have been victims of romance fraud.

In the last three years, those who have been scammed have lost nearly $1 billion. 

The study "Online Romance Scams: A Better Business Bureau Study on How Scammers Use Impersonation, Blackmail and Trickery to Steal from Unsuspecting Daters," -says that overtime, a budding relationship can turn ugly.

First the scammers start by requesting small amounts of money, which can turn victims into unknown accomplices of money laundering.

 BBB is requesting that these online dating sites, plus social media, do their research and dig deeper in their screening processes. 

In November 2017, a woman in Alaska reported losing $5,000 to a romance fraud.  According the BBB Scam Tracker, she started a long-distance relationship with a man who claimed he lived in Malaysia and often asked for help in paying for rent, hospital bills and business ventures.  Though he did claim that he would live with her once he received his visa, he stopped communicating with the woman when she tried talking about it.

Some key findings in the report:

  • Anyone can be a victim of romance frauds.  The common theme among those affected, is that they believe they are in a loving relationship.
  • West Africa, Russia and Ukraine are top places where romance fraud takes place.
  • A company that screens dating sites said 500,000 of the 3.5 million profiles it scans monthly are fake.

Ways to protect yourself:

  • Never send money or personal information to someone you've never met in person.
  • Be aware if the conversation suddenly turns into a private one outside of the dating site.  This allows scammers to get away under the radar more easily.
  • Research their profile.  Many scammers copy and paste their information on multiple different sites.
  • Ask for specific details, like pictures, email addresses and other forms of identification.
  • Watch for bad grammar.
  • If you feel like you're been scammed, report it to the BBB's ScamTracker, the Federal Trade Commission and FBI.