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Your credit and other financial interests may be at risk if you don't guard yourself from those falsely fishing for companionship.

Here's how to protect more than just your heart when seeking a mate via the Internet.

Robert Siciliano, an identity theft expert and consultant for the security company Intelius, has posted fictitious profiles on dating websites for his job and says it's never long before a potential thief is in contact and professing love. They tell me how much they miss me and think about me." Then, says Siciliano, "they are in your home, rifling through your drawers, getting your account information." Dating services efforts Of course, online dating companies strive for customer protection.

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Online dating services can be a terrific and efficient way to find love.

However, due to the anonymous nature of the process, hazards abound.

"Some questions seem innocent, like asking what your mother's name is or what your parents do for a living.

They may ask for your home or work address to send you a gift." Such tidbits are invaluable currency for identity thieves.

Most need funds fast and press you to commit before thinking, Anderson says. They'll proclaim their love for you while they are taking your money." Schemes mutate with the times, and a recent one targets online daters looking for employment or better income.

A "match" claiming to be able to help directs the person to a fictitious company website.Use the computer advantageously, says Jennifer Leuer, general manager for Protect My ID."Google their names, check them out on [social networking website] Linked In or use the Net's white pages." As you're investigating, make your own profile mysterious.While most people using online dating websites are genuine, charlatans comprise an uncomfortable proportion.According to Consumer Fraud Reporting.org, as much as 30 percent of online personalities are bogus. Because, says Donna Andersen, of Egg Harbor Township, N.Their members all go through criminal background checks, but filtering fraud is not guaranteed.

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