'I am heartbroken.' Online dating scams rise with popularity of sites.

    Detective says do your homework

    While many great love stories began online, a word of caution from those who have been there. A Jefferson County woman shares her online experience in hopes of warning others to be very careful about who your are letting into your life and your home.

    "I am hurt; I am heartbroken," explains Kelsey Reed of the online romance that swept her off her feet. "He was sweet, compassionate, caring."

    Then a credit card pin arrived in the mail. She called the company and says she knew by the transaction history it was her new love behind the theft.

    Reed filed a police report and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office is investigating the identity theft.

    With the stigma of online dating gone, millions are signing up through various websites. Jefferson County Detective Patricia Alexander advises you to do your own detective work before a date. "It might not even be a real person," she warns.

    She recommends checking two free sites: People Search and True People for some background information on the person. With a cellphone number you can get started seeing if what they're telling you matches up. On the first meeting be sure it's in a public place.

    If you let them in your home always secure personal information like credit card bills and mortgage papers.

    And while online Alexander recommends you not put all your information out there only the bare minimum, talk to several potential matches instead of focusing on one person, and keep the conversations online until you feel comfortable and your gut tells you to move forward.

    Reed says her informal background check turned up nothing. "It's scary to know someone will prey on somebody who's so vulnerable and naive."

    More than half of singles have an online profile with those over fifty the fastest growing segment . A Consumer Reports survey found 44% said their online experience led to serious long term relationship, but online dating sites had the lowest satisfaction rates.

    In 2016, the FBI had more than 15,000 reports for online romance scams. Those scams costing the public $210 million over three years.

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