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    #9WTK: Online dating scams web chat at noon

    What questions do you have on online dating scams & protecting your identity?
    An estimated 40 million people have tried online dating. That’s a huge pool of people looking for love, but there are also sharks in the water. Scam artists often operating from overseas try to steal your heart and all your money.

    At noon we will take your questions about spotting a fake on an online dating site, how to protect your personal information while getting to know someone on the internet, and what to do if you feel that you’ve been scammed.

    Joining us on the chat: Barb Sluppick, Owner / Peer Counselor, www.romancescams.org. Christie Hartman, PhD, Psychologist and Dating Coach Alex Holden, Hold Security, Computer Forensics Expert

    Mobile users can log into the chat here: http://on9news.tv/YYZ2qs.

    #9WTK: Online Dating Scams
    #9WTK: Scammers targeting online-dating sites
    KUSA - An estimated 40 million people have tried online dating. With a huge pool of people looking for love, they have to be wary of sharks in the water. Scam artists often operating from overseas try to steal your heart and all your money.

    One victim interviewed by 9Wants to Know was so worried about embarrassment and damage to reputation, she asked us not to use her real name.

    "Allie" says the crook was using a stolen picture of a U.S. soldier in uniform, but she didn't know that when she first encountered him online in January.

    "He saw my profile, and he emailed me," Allie said. "We just started talking and getting to know each other via email."

    He said his home was in Longmont, but he was stationed in Afghanistan. He shared intimate, personal heartbreaks. He claimed his mom and sister died in a car accident and his dad died from cancer. He professed his love and said he wanted to take military leave to visit her.

    Allie describes his plan, saying "He would show up here, and we would meet and see where it would go from there, but he did say it was going to cost $3,500."

    He asked Allie to pay the money. At that point she got suspicious of the month-long online relationship. She reported the details to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which tracks romance scams.

    Allie didn't stop there. She demanded her faux boyfriend to reveal his real identity. He admitted he lived in Nigeria, but he claimed to have fallen in love with her during the course of the scam. Allie didn't believe that.

    "I'm a pretty smart woman, and if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone." Allie said. "So, I really wanted to reach out and make people aware."

    Allie also turned to 9Wants to Know to help her locate the real soldier in those pictures. She felt that he, in a way, was also a victim. We used an online image search to trace the picture, and we came up with a possible name: Brandon Barrett.

    9Wants to Know used a background search, and we were able to track down Brandon Barrett's real dad. He's alive and well in the Denver area. He led us to Brandon who was living in Oklahoma. Brandon told us the scammer must have swiped the photos from his Facebook profile.

    "Ultimately, I would never think something I would put on a private network would be used for something like that," Brandon said.

    He realizes there's little anyone can do to stop this kind of photo theft, and he hopes online daters will be skeptical romantics.

    "The more I thought about it, the easiest way to verify is if someone is real or not is to do what you and I are doing now so you can see the actual person for themselves," Brandon said.

    Thursday night on 9NEWS at 9 and 10 p.m., 9NEWS Investigative Reporter Melissa Blasius gives her first-hand account of her month-long experience communicating with a romance scam artist. See how they try to convince victims to fall in love without ever meeting, and see what lengths they will go to in order to take your every last penny.