With Valentine’s Day approaching and following the bizarre Manti Te’o online dating hoax, state leaders are offering some tips to avoid Internet dating scams.

Gary Cordell, Commerce and Insurance’s Consumer Affairs director,said that online scammers often follow a pattern of meeting online, sending messages, talking on the phone, trading pictures and potentially discussing marriage.

But, before long, the online lover, who claimed to be a professional in the United States, has to go to Nigeria or another country for work. And they need to have money wired there.


The first transaction is probably small. But the requests keep coming.

Maybe there is a sudden illness, or the money is needed for a plane ticket home.

It could all be an elaborate scam, officials said.

Cordell said that no matter how compelling someone’s story, it is important to exercise caution when dealing with someone you have never met in person.

“These relationship scams are often a long, drawn-out process where the con artist nurtures a relationship, then persuades the victim to send money,” Cordell said. “These scammers have been known to steal even the real names and photos of U.S. service personnel to set up a fake profile and prey on the sympathy and patriotism of victims. They also have also been known to use religious singles sites, using religion as a ploy to gain trust before asking for money. Anytime someone you’ve never met in person asks for money, it’s usually a warning sign that something isn’t right.”

Signs that you may be dealing with a scammer
-The pictures posted on the person’s profile mostly seem to be professional-quality model images instead of candid pictures from a person’s everyday life. If a picture looks too good to be true, it probably is.

-The online companion professes love way too early in your interaction with him or her.

-You are asked to send money for gifts, a sick relative or a plane ticket to the U.S.

-The person claims to be a U.S. citizen working in another country or claims to be well-off or a person of important status.

-The person makes excuses about not being able to speak by phone.

-The person’s writing includes frequent spelling or grammar mistakes.