An increase in online dating scams over the last month has Regional Police warning the community.

Four incidents of fraud where victims were duped into sending money out-of the-country to people they met on internet dating websites are being investigated.

“In those four incidents, losses range from about $5,000 in one case all the way up to just under $200,000 in another case,” Police Spokesperson Olaf Heinzel said.

The way the scam works, Heinzel said, “they’re befriending people, making promises, and then once they’ve established a relationship, they ask the victim to send them money.”

In most cases the victim is told the money is to help the fraud-artist cover their travel expenses, so they can pursue a romantic relationship together.

“The money is being wired to fraudulent addresses, and they never complete the travel plans,” Heinzel said.

Police are aware of further incidents, where a would-be-victim figured out the scam, and called the police before losing any money.

“Four (incidents) may not sound like a large number, but typically we only get about one a month,” Heinzel said. The four complaints came in over the last few weeks.

Heinzel said it’s important for people to “verify who they’re dealing with on the internet,” pointing to how easily people can lurk in anonymity.

“Be careful of who you are dealing with on the internet. Before you ever give up any personal information or ever turn over any money, make sure you know who you are dealing with.”

Mike.McCulloch@rci.rogers.com