This leaves many victims not only embarrassed, but also in financial distress.

It is important for online users to be on the look-out for online dating and romance scams.

It can happen like this: “Maria” signed up for an online dating service and was contacted by “Andrew,” who claimed to be an American overseas on business in Australia.

Maria and Andrew seemed to hit it off and began planning a road trip for that summer when Andrew would come back to the U. Andrew sent Maria a check for $5,000 to cover the cost of their trip, but then suddenly asked her to send $4,500 back to him because he needed money for rent after being laid off from his job.

A recent study indicates that up to 10 percent of Americans use online dating websites or mobile applications.

As the number of people looking to meet new people online grows, so does the opportunity for fraud.

Nancy*, a 47-year-old single mother from North Yorkshire was conned out of over £350,000 that way: “I wasn't comfortable, and then I got so far in I couldn't get myself out, and I didn't want to walk away having lost £50,000 or what-have-you, so you keep going in the hope that you're wrong and this person is genuine,” she explained to the BBC.

Nancy is now facing bankruptcy, and although her case is extreme, the average victim of online dating fraud loses £10,000 according to Action Fraud.Some scam artists use bogus profiles to con the people they meet out of hundreds or thousands of dollars.Criminals who perpetrate online dating and romance scams use emotional appeals to quickly gain their victims’ trust and then, just as quickly, exploit it.One of the most common techniques is to build up trust with the person by messaging for weeks or even months before suddenly having an emergency - the fake person being mugged but their daughter needing urgent surgery, for example - and asking for money.But then they suddenly need money for rent too, then food, then medical fees, and it can quickly escalate.If you fall into this category, be especially wary of people that you meet through dating websites.