Protecting yourself during the season of love from "romance scams"

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The Better Business Bureau wants to make sure you don't become victim to what's called a “romance scam.”

They appear online taking advantage of people looking for romantic partners on the Internet.

It's the season for love, but sometimes the price is far too high to find that love.

Take Olayinka Sunmola for example, he operated out of Nigeria, scamming 30 U.S. women out of $1.7 million.

He was sentenced in southern Illinois last year.

But his case isn't the only one. And that's exactly why authorities want you to be aware of looking for love in all the wrong places.

"The days where we used to be able to say it can't happen here, it doesn't happen in our community are over. The Internet has made our large world small," said Quincy Police Chief Rob Copley.

The numbers don't lie.

The Better Business Bureau says an estimated one million Americans have been victimized by romance scams.

Scam artists use online dating sites to find their victims.

"Unfortunately, all too often, they instead encounter crooks who exploit their love and trust in order to rob them, leaving them emotionally devastated and shattered," says Mara Clingingsmith with the Better Business Bureau.

Clingingsmith says romance scams have become professional careers for hackers.

"They typically claim a typically strong faith. They often claimed to be widowed with a minor child. They may claim to be a part of the U.S. Military or involved in a international business. These explanations provide plausible reasons to not be able to meet the victim in person,” said Clingingsmith.

Sunmola pleaded guilty to fraud in a southern Illinois courtroom in 2016. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison and ordered to repay $1.7 million to his victims. But local law enforcement say this scam is still active in our area.

"From what we've seen it could hit all different types of people from all different kinds of incomes to all different types of ages," says Adams County Sheriff Brian Vonderhaar.

Sheriff Vonderhaar believes many cases go unreported to avoid the victim embarrassment.

"Nobody wants to feel like they've been scammed, and like they should be smarter than that,” said Vonderhaar.

If you're suspicious about an online dating site or a person who's posing to gain your trust, you're encouraged to report those suspicions to local law enforcement.

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