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The victims reported collective losses of .4 million, which is likely only a fraction of the actual losses since many victims are too embarrassed to file a report, the FBI said.

About 70% of the victims were female; more than half were women 40 years or older.

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"I left my heart out there, and this guy took advantage of it," the 51-year old Best said.

In 2011, the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center received 5,600 complaints from victims of so-called "romance scammers" -- criminals who scan online dating sites, chat rooms and social networking sites for potential victims.

The proprietor also claims that his method is more than 20% effective within three replies and over 60% effective after eight.

The dating scam package advises customers to stick to a tried-and-true approach.

So, I did what I would have done for any man I was invested in like that.

I gave him the money.”After transferring ,000 to Walter’s bank account from her own savings account, Meade says her chats with the man became less frequent, and finally, stopped altogether.“I was taken for a fool,” Meade said, “and I was heartbroken.”The Nigerian Scam Moves to Messaging But, while Walter had fallen on hard times, a Nigerian man thousands of miles away was making a killing as part of an operation of scammers who target men and women into romantic relationships only to leave them high and dry.

Messenger from October 2006 through February 2007, Walter, a self-described white collar engineer and college sports enthusiast, ended up taking the spellbound Meade for the ride of her life.“We were going to get married,” she recalls, fighting back tears.

“But, then, he told me he had lost his job, was laid off, and that he was in need.

That includes dating scams — among the oldest and most common of online swindles.

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