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“You pretend to be a victim and string them along, try to get them to waste as much of their time, money, and resources as you can,” he says.

Mays would post any identifying details that scammers used online — from the email addresses they created to the back stories they recycled — to make them searchable. But for Mays, who co-hosts a scam-baiting podcast, “it’s also like improve comedy.” Most people aren’t turning to him for comic relief, though.

Almost all promise to take care of their new love interest.

In Uniontown, Ohio, Theresa Dies, 70, met a man on Facebook who she said resembled Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, online romance scams account for higher financial losses than any other internet-based crime.

She refused but still complained to law enforcement. "Be careful when someone is declaring their undying love for you and then refusing to meet in person," said Beining of the FBI. "You have to be willing to invest the time in the other person."5. To prevent this, ask a trusted family member or friend for a second opinion on your new admirer.

Her new boyfriend had a complicated backstory: He was an American soldier serving in Iraq, and he had a son living in Ghana.

But she had revealed to her new online beau how much she wanted children, and soon his 14-year-old son was emailing her.

One day, scrolling through an online forum, she met Wayne Mays (not his real name) from the UK.

Mays is a romance scam-baiter, which means he hangs out on dating sites, posing as a naive love-seeker, with the goal of unmasking — and exhausting — confidence men and women.

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