PHOENIX — Online dating puts potential mates at your fingertips, but it may also be setting you up for scammers.
"These people are master manipulators," said Suzanne Allen, a Special Agent with the FBI in Phoenix. Allen says they are seeing individuals of all ages falling victim to so-called romance scams.
"We've had people who are facing foreclosure, the loss of their houses, they have no more money anymore," said Allen.
In fact, in 2019, scammers got away with more than $5.6 million just here in Arizona.
"We had 419 victims, that averages to a rate of over one per day," said Allen.
Of course there are legitimate ways to find online mates, but Allen says watch for any red flags. For example, does this person have the exact same interests as you and have they refused to meet in person?
"You have no idea who is on the other side of that profile," said Allen. "It could be a man. It could be a woman. You don't know."
If they do agree to meet in person, Allen says you should still be cautious.
In 2017, we told you about Daylon Pierce. He's currently serving more than 15 years behind bars for scamming Valley women he met online and then in person. He made promises he never kept.
"We had victims giving him retirement accounts, inheritances, and it was under the auspices of him trying to invest these funds," said Allen. "He wasn't investing the funds at all. He was spending it."
Allen, who worked the case, says Pierce was caught because the victims decided to speak up.
"They were embarrassed about what had happened and they almost didn't want to address it even," said Allen. "But because other people had come forward first, they felt comfortable in coming forward and speaking with us as well."
So again, if the person asks for money and they won't meet, it's a scam.
Be sure to really watch parents and grandparents. Many times you don't know they lost money until it's too late.
To report a scammer or if you have fallen victim CLICK HERE.