SALEM -- Internet scammers are preying on people by pretending to be lovelorn soldiers, the Oregon attorney general's office warned.

That soldier who s been professing devotion via email may actually be a con artist looking for cash, said spokeswoman Ellen Klem. Complaints to local law enforcement about the soldier scam are increasing in frequency. In one recent case, a Hillsboro woman lost more than $750,000.

Klem said the swindlers are often from foreign countries and they use untraceable email addresses. After they've made a romantic connection, they begin asking for money to pay a variety of bills, or even to plan a wedding. They then route the money through several channels, making it hard to trace.

The AG's office advises Oregonians to always maintain a healthy skepticism, Klem said. The anonymity of the Internet means that you cannot be sure of the real name, age, marital status, nationality, or even gender of your new 'heartthrob.'

She offered some tips to help keep potential victims safe:

  • Do not wire money to someone you have not met in person.
  • Be wary of warp-speed proclamations of love, particularly if they are accompanied by pleas for cash.
  • Be suspicious if you never get to actually speak with the person on the phone or are told they will not receive letters in the mail. (Legitimate servicemen and women serving overseas will often have an APO or FPO in their mailing address.)
  • Do not send money or ship property to a third party or company, especially in an African country.

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