ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - The Better Business Bureau is warning us not to fall victim to an online romance scam.
A study released by the BBB found that about a million Americans have been victimized in romance fraud scams with losses approaching one billion dollars over the last three years.
The scams often take many months to play out where the scammer, often posing as a military member, will gain the victim's trust before eventually asking for money.
The BBB says many of these scams are out of West Africa, particularly Nigeria, Russia and Ukraine.
BBB Rockford Director Dennis Horton says this is an especially vicious scam because it not only breaks bank accounts but also breaks hearts.
"We have reports of people having lost upwards of $400,000 to scammers, but more importantly we've had reports and can document people who have taken their lives because they got involved with a romance scammer," said Horton.
Horton says to avoid becoming a victim never send money or personal information to someone you've never met in person and be hesitant if the conversation moves from social media or a dating site to a more private form of messaging like e-mail's or texts.
The BBB says there could be 25,000 scammers talking to victims at any one time.