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03-Apr-2015 12:26

In a typical con, the perpetrator will spend weeks or even months building up a romantic relationship with a victim through e-mails, texts or phone calls, before eventually asking for money.

And many of the scammers aren't even in the United States.

"I left my heart out there, and this guy took advantage of it," the 51-year old Best said.

In 2011, the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center received 5,600 complaints from victims of so-called "romance scammers" -- criminals who scan online dating sites, chat rooms and social networking sites for potential victims.

"In the process of going back and forth, a scammer is going to try to figure out what makes a person tick, what their vulnerable spots are," said Jenny Shearer, an FBI spokeswoman.

"Because a victim has legitimate feelings, they might be inclined to offer financial support for this person." For Best, it all started when she signed up for a free online dating site called mingle2.

A man calling himself "John" messaged her and through daily phone calls and messages on Facebook, he gained her trust.

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When he told her days later he couldn't afford to eat, Best gave in, wiring him two 0 payments. soldiers serving abroad, then ask for money to purchase laptops, international phones or a plane ticket home so their fake relationship can continue. Army's Criminal Investigation Command says they receive hundreds of reports every month from people fooled by phony service members.

The victims reported collective losses of .4 million, which is likely only a fraction of the actual losses since many victims are too embarrassed to file a report, the FBI said.

About 70% of the victims were female; more than half were women 40 years or older.

But as he continued to push for money, Best realized something was off. but who says they're stuck outside of the country and in need of money is a popular ploy among scammers. Some even claim they need money for medical expenses from combat injuries. "We cannot stress enough that people need to stop sending money to persons they meet on the Internet and claim to be in the U. military," Chris Grey, the Army CID's spokesman said in a statement.

In July, "John" told her that he was traveling to the United Kingdom to buy antiques for his store.

Then one day he called saying he went to Nigeria to buy more, but he was stuck -- he asked her for ,000 cash to get his purchases back to the States.