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One way to steer clear of these criminals altogether is to stick to online dating websites with nationally known reputations.

Finally, the FBI advises not to send money through any wire transfer service to someone you met online.

In addition to losing your money to someone who had no intention of ever visiting you, you may also have unknowingly taken part in a money laundering scheme by cashing phony checks and sending the money overseas and by shipping stolen merchandise (the forwarded package).

In another recently reported dating extortion scam, victims usually met someone on an online dating site and then were asked to move the conversation to a particular social networking site, where the talk often turned intimate.

Mr Prescott originally reported the fraud to the Federal Government's Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Authority (ACORN), but said he did not get a response until six months later."I haven't been able to get the police to do anything," he said.

Private investigator Simon Smith, who was hired by Mr Prescott, said the information he gathered would go a long way to helping Australian and international police to identify the scammers."All you need to do once you have an IP address and time is contact the relevant internet service provider in whatever country it is and, with a law authority, basically ask them, 'Who is the owner of this IP address?

The commission provided data showing ACORN received 39,487 reports last year and 22,710 reports in the first six months of this year.

'" he said."And if you are a law enforcement officer, or even through a court, you can subpoena this information, then there's going to be a trail."7.30 has spoken to another woman who hired a US-based professional hacker to track down scammers that cheated her out of almost 0,000 through an online dating service.

She said she hired the hacker after getting no response from ACORN.

He did all the same things these scammers apparently do by writing these truly mushy e-mails and calling you all these sweet names, then wanting you to text them on their cell phones, set up Yahoo IM and so on.

I was very lucky to realize he was a scam because he would never answer my questions about himself and kept postponing the date when he was supposed to be arriving back to the states.

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