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Never send money to someone you haven't met in person, and report it if you receive such a request, the statement said.

“Those two steps will stop almost every scam in its tracks and help protect the next potential victim.” Sometimes romance scammers zero in on people who are vulnerable due to divorce, abuse or alienation from their children, D’Antuono notes.

Older Americans can be targeted because many have a nest egg and time on their hands, he says. They’re criminals.” At the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, senior attorney Patti Poss says the admonition against sending cash to a stranger also applies to wire transfers, prepaid cards and gift cards.

“They could be lonely; they could be by themselves,” D’Antuono says. Inevitably a scammer will seek money for things like a hospital or hotel bill, airfare or visa fees, she says.

En español | If you’re looking for love online, make sure to keep your wallet — if not your heart — under lock and key.