PHOENIX -- Think of a romantic comedy and "You've Got Mail" might come to mind.
"In the movies it tends to work out OK," said Ken Colburn with Data Doctors. "In real life, when it starts out fraudulent, it generally doesn't end very well."
Colburn is a computer and technology expert and knows all about online romance scams. For instance, remember the Manti Te'o fake girlfriend hoax? Through the Internet, he thought she really existed and Colburn says it's not hard to find others who've had bad online dating experiences.
"They're preying on love," Colburn said. "They're basically using love or the desire to have a relationship against you."
And with Valentine's Day here, online dating scams are growing. Colburn says crooks may have been chatting with you over the Internet, luring you in and making you feel like you're actually in a relationship. That's when crooks make their move and ask for money.
“If somebody's asking you for money after you met them on an online dating service and it seems like an obvious thing not to do but we hear story after story about people getting bilked out of large sums of money," Colburn said.
He said crooks may also try to scam you in other ways like fake e-cards.
"It's really dangerous because e-cards have special technology built in to them to give you that animation, that's what that design is, well, that same tool that's used to create that animation can be used to access your computer if it's malicious," he said.
And when it comes to dating websites, Colburn says there are ways to check out that potential date, like going through public records. At the very least, try googling them to see if their identity consistently pops up on different sites.
"If they're legitimately that person you should be able to find other things, their Facebook page, Twitter accounts, something online where you can verify that that name and that image actually do match," Colburn said.
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