These con artists find their targets by joining online dating sites and posting fake profiles.
One Colorado-based mother-and-daughter team alone took victims for .1 million by pretending to be soldiers in Afghanistan.
But instead of catching a great guy, Connie almost ended up on a scam artist's hook.
Connie's personal posting on a popular site yielded a quick email from a purported career soldier stationed in Afghanistan.
Robert Siciliano, personal security expert and CEO of IDTheft Security.com, says you can avoid being hooked by checking out potential love matches.
"Search names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, usernames.
Check your credit report for signs of identity theft. The term "catfishing" was coined after a group of filmmakers sought out a beautiful young woman involved in an online relationship with one of them.
The 2 exchanged photos and talked about meeting someday, and he confided that he had some financial problems arising out of his divorce.
But when she shared his messages with a friend, the friend questioned his motives and authenticity."She pointed out that he wrote English like it was a 2nd language," says Connie, who broke off the correspondence. Now, she's convinced the man's identity was not only fake, but that he was targeting her."He brought up the money thing right off the bat," she says.
The Federal Trade Commission says the online dating scam called "catfishing" -- when someone online pretends to be something or someone they're not -- costs Americans millions of dollars.
The full amount will never be known because many victims are too embarrassed to step forward.
The deeper you dig, the more bodies you will find."Catfishers often tip their hands early by bringing love, romance -- and money -- into the conversation.
Siciliano says that's a clue to their real goal, and they seal the deal by saying what the victim longs to hear.