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Scammers target those on online dating sites, FBI says

Some victims report losing thousands of dollars

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PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – As Valentine's Day approaches, federal regulators say be careful of scammers targeting lonely hearts searching for love online.

Local 10 News investigative reporter Christina Vazquez has some tips on how to spot an online dating scam and introduces you to South Florida matchmakers connecting people the old-fashioned way.

While you are searching for your soul mate using online dating websites, the FBI says scammers are looking for you. And many are flat out asking for money. 

"She told me 'I'm trying to transfer some money from Brazil to Miami and I have some kind of an issue. Maybe you can help me. Can you open an account with Citibank?'" Sefi Ben-Shoam said.

Shirley Matzan said a man tried to con her friend out of thousands, claiming his daughter needed emergency medical treatment.

"Now is the time we need your support my love.  And I hope and believe you'll help us out," Vazquez said reading from an email Matzan provided.

The FBI warns that cruel con artists targeting lonely hearts on social media and dating websites can result in some of the highest amount of financial losses when compared to other internet-facilitated crimes. In some cases people have suffered losses in the thousands of dollars.

That's why Nancy Gold and Barbara Black Goldfarb of Elegant Introductions told Local 10 that they are in the business of helping people find love the old fashioned way.

"You think it was the two of us going on the date. We are the modern day matchmaker. That's exactly what we do," Goldfarb said.

At Elegant Introductions, each applicant is screened. They conduct background checks, ask questions about goals, core values and dating history.

"Then we do our magic. We get together to see what we have and we scout as well," Gold said. 

Sharing pictures ahead of time is a no no. The pair looking for love meets for the first time in person.

"Because chemistry is something only you can experience. So you have to meet the person and you won't know if it's there until you look them in the eye," Gold said. 

Gold and Goldfarb even take care of that awkward post-date analysis.

"You don't know what is going on in the other person's head we pick up the phone," Gold said.

The matchmaking business is how Sefi Ben-Shoam, the man who nearly got conned online, met his new love Anette Uzio.

"Oh wow, is this like a dream? Sometimes we both are like, is this a dream? Or it's, it's unbelievable," Ben-Shoam said.  

When it comes to online dating sites, the FBI's Internet crime complaint center said scammers will often set up a fake profile.  Scammers may post a picture that looks like something from Glamour magazine. They also warn that a plea for financial assistance is certainly a red flag.

LINK: FBI Internet Crime Center

LINK: FBI release in Internet crimes

Whether you meet someone in person, or find someone online, Gold and Goldfarb offer some tips in what you should look for in a new relationship.

"Core values are most important. Honesty (and) someone who's kind (and) generous," Gold said. 

"Someone you can communicate with," Goldfarb added.