Online Dating Scam: 'Military Guy' Steals Widow's Heart and Nearly $500,000

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Detecting Online Romance Scams

About four months ago, she asked him, "If you need all this money, how are you living?"

To which he reportedly responded, "I'm living with the money you send me."

"And I realized, 'Wow. I have been had,'" Ortiz-Rodeghero said. "Once he realized I wasn't going to send him any more money, he deleted me from his contacts and IM. His last IM was about two and a half weeks ago and even then, he was still asking me for money."

She went to Castle Rock police, who today told ABCNews.com they have completed their investigation and are handing the case over to the FBI.

"Our officers are in the process of talking to different agencies that are better equipped to handle international cases," Castle Rock police spokeswoman Kim Mutchler said. "We will be finishing up the report today and forwarding it to the FBI."

Ortiz-Rodeghero is sharing her story now, she said, in the hopes of educating others who could fall prey to a similar imposter.

"I know my money is gone and I will probably never get it back, but if I can help someone not go through this then I've done my job," she said.

Similar scams have been reported on Match.com. A '20/20' investigation that aired in June tracked down one of these fraudulent Romeos in Ghana, where he admitted to an undercover producer that he was a con man.

The fraudster had tricked Joan Romano of Lynbrook, N.Y., into sending him $25,000 during a six-month time span before she realized she had been scammed. She later found out the picture of the "soldier" she had been corresponding with had been stolen from MySpace. It belonged to a lieutenant in the U.S. Army who had no idea his photo was being used in that way.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a government organization that refers cyber crime complaints to law enforcement agencies, says people 40 and older who are divorced, widowed, or disabled are most likely to fall prey to online dating scams.

There are several warning signs that indicate your online romance may be nothing but smoke and mirrors. Often scammers will use gifts, such as poetry or flowers, to entice victims. They are abnormally quick to announce their "love" for the victim, and they also use sob stories about their own personal hardships to gain sympathy.

Oftentimes they reveal they aren't located in the United States. As the "relationship" progresses, the con artist will eventually ask for money. They may seek cash, money orders or wire transfers. Even more subtle, the crooks sometimes also ask victims to ship packages for them.

The website lookstoogoodtobetrue.com has several victim stories and provides a way for people to compare notes.

Other resources include PigBusters.net and RomanceScams.org.

If you believe you're the victim of online fraud, the FBI suggests filing a complaint with the National White Collar Crime Center by calling 1-800-251-3221.

For Ortiz-Rodeghero, after being scammed out of nearly half a million dollars, her first experience with online dating will also be her last.

"This dating website thing is not for me," she said.

Now, she added, she wants to try to meet someone the "traditional" way: in person.

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