By Melissa Garcia

DENVER (CBS4) – The Colorado Attorney General’s Office is warning people who are looking for love online. Investigators say that swindlers are targeting dating sites in what are known as “sweetheart scams.”

Law enforcement agencies see a spike in romance scams around Valentine’s Day. The scammers don’t just break victims’ hearts; they break their banks.

“I believed everything he said,” said one victim from Highlands Ranch who did not want her identity revealed. She thought she had found love online, but her suitor ended up conning her out of more than $50,000.

“Never ever send money to somebody you haven’t met,” said Ralph Gagliardi, Agent with the Colorado Bureau of Investigations.

Gagliardi said that romance scammers often prey on older adults who may be emotionally vulnerable.

“They learn about the victim. They listen to them. They respond accordingly, trying to groom them for the next step, which is always to send money.”

In just the last six months of 2014, the FBI’s Internet crimes center reported losses totaling more than $82 million.

“In some of these scenarios, people are giving up life savings,” said Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

Coffman’s office sent out a warning to those looking for love online.

“Things that sound too good to be true usually are,” said Coffman.

According to the AG’s office, the following warning signs may expose a con-panionship:

– Scammer Grammar. Scammers often portray themselves as educated American or British businessmen, but English is usually their second language and their messages contain frequent misspellings and poor grammar.

– Zip Code 23401. Sometimes this zip code is given as part of the scammer’s home address in Nigeria, to receive wired funds. It’s actually the zip code for Keller, Virginia, but scammers provide it believing that American victims expect a zip code. Coincidentally, or not, 234 is the international telephone dialing code for Nigeria.

– Too Good To Be True. Some scammers appear to be incredibly good looking, usually because the photo on their profile was stolen from an online modeling site. Recently, scammers have been stealing more average looking photos in order to disguise themselves further.

– Mailing Address Requests. Victims are told their lover would like to send gifts or to come visit and therefore need the victim’s mailing address, but the true purpose may be to set up a reshipping scam or some other variety of con.

If you think you’ve been involved with, or are in an online romance scam, please report it at the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) ic3.gov/default.aspx. Consumers who believe they have fallen victim to a scam or who would like to report fraudulent activity may do so at stopfraudcolorado.gov/about-consumer-protection/report-fraud. For additional information, call the Colorado Attorney General’s Office at 800-222-4444.

Melissa Garcia has been reporting for CBS4 News since March 2014. Find her bio here, follow her on Twitter @MelissaGarciaTV, or send your story idea to mkgarcia@cbs.com.

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