Searching for romance over the Internet has become more and more popular over the years. Online dating is nearly a billion dollar industry and scammers are cashing in on the trend, taking advantage of unsuspecting men and women. Every day, scammers target hundreds of online daters, and many have fallen prey to scams that cost online daters, on average, of more than $3,000. They do it by posing as women overseas and send you a note through an online dating service. They pretend to be interested in you and provide their "email address" so that you can continue communicating offline. Scammers use email to try and build an online relationship with you and they eventually profess their love. Once you do too, the scam kicks into high gear. An "emergency" (mother hospitalized, surgery needed) suddenly arises and they ask for money. Or they say they want to meet you, but need money to apply for a VISA to come see you. Little does the victim know that he's talking to professional con artists and has likely been communicating with another man, not a woman! The scams can get quite complex, including men hiring a girl to call you and pose as your online love interest. You can avoid being a victim of online relationship scams by taking note of these warning signs: Being Asked for Money This is the most telltale sign of a scam. No matter what you think or what other people might say, it just isn't a normal behavior to ask for money if you've never met someone in person. Scammers are quite creative - they will ask you to help with airfare so they can come and visit, cash a check, help out with an emergency for you to send a money order and so on. Some will ask for money fairly quick and others will show patience while trying to build a relationship with you, getting you to fall for the imaginary person in the profile they set up. Initiating First Contact Scammers virtually always are the first to initiate contact with you. If you get an email (or wink) from someone overseas, it's best not to respond. Wanting to Communicate via Email An online scammer will want to take your communications to email as soon as possible because they know their profile may soon be deleted when an online dating service notices their pattern of emailing people. So many times in the very first or second email they will give you an email address and ask you to email them. Fake Pictures Some scammers will cut or scan photos from magazines. Trust your instincts. If you feel the photo is suspicious, chances are it's probably a fake. But that's not always the case, as many scammers will actually steal someone else's photo and post it. Photos are usually of a very beautiful woman. Don't fall for it. Unwillingness to Share Information The person you are talking to showers you with attention and he seems to be overly interested in everything about you, yet doesn't share a lot of information about themselves. If they are avoiding your questions like a seasoned politician, then run.. Messages Vary If you are exchanging emails with someone overseas, watch out for inconsistencies like a variation in the style of the email, language differences, repetitive statements, etc.. The scammer who initiated the communication with you may not always be the same one that carries it through. If something doesn't seem right about the emails you are receiving, then its not right. Besides looking out for red flags you can take other measures to further protect yourself: 1) Be the one always initiating communication via online dating services. 2) Guard your privacy. 3) Communicate with people locally, not overseas. 4) Trust your gut instinct from the start. 5) Never reply to communications from someone who sends you a note and immediately includes their email address for you to continue the communication. Many people have fallen prey to online relationship scams. In one case, two men showed up at the same airport to meet a girl from overseas that they had sent money to for her "flight". Both were left holding flowers at the airport staring at each other. They had apparently been duped by the same scammer. While it is true that there are many people who find life partners over the Internet, it is best to always be on your guard when using online dating services. Don't get scammed!