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Local woman targeted in online "romance scam"

Posted at 9:29 PM, Feb 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-12 07:23:52-05

If you're looking for love this Valentine's Day, beware. Criminals are ready to take advantage. 

The FBI says romance scams are on the rise, where criminals pose as relationship seekers online, only to take their victim's money. 

Mary Perschke, who lives in Dodge County, says several men targeted her on dating sites. In one case, she says a man asked her for $8,000. 

"They can pull you in very easy," she said. 

She signed up for several online dating sites but says soon after starting receiving messages she wasn't comfortable with. 

"A week into it, 'I love you,'" said Perschke. "How can you love me? You don't even know me." 

One man who she chatted with for about three weeks said he was beaten and robbed overseas and needed money to fly home. 

She told him she wasn't going to send him any money. He replied, "I swear it's for my flight back home Not for me!!! You don't even care how I'm doing or feel after all I've been through." 

"I guess they can just tell by the way I talk that I'm a soft hearted person and that they can get to me," she said. 

According to the FBI, these romance scammers will try to establish relationships quickly, claim they work outside the country and then have some kind of medical or legal emergency.

And the FBI says they always promise to pay the money back.

"They will manipulate that victim and endear themselves and gain their trust and then they'll start asking for money," said FBI Special Agent Christine Beining, a financial fraud investigator. 

The FBI received 15,000 complaints of romance scams in 2016. That year, victims lost a total of $230 million. 

While Perschke says she never fell for any of the attempts, she worries about other women who may not see the red flags. 

"Hopefully it will help some of these other women," she said. "[The scammers] will do anything and everything they can think of."

Anyone who has fallen victim to the romance scam should report it online to the FBI.