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sending this amount of money? How did you meet this person?' " Garner says. "People get really upset. You can tell by their reaction to the questions how legitimate the transaction is."

BE AWARE: How to avoid money transfer scams

Story HighlightsMore than 11,000 detected romance scams in 2012Victims are attempting to send an average of about $3,000 to scammersScams spike in the first three months of the year

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Despite how unlikely some excuses for needing money may seem, Louis Vuitton White Loafers

Romance scams tend to increase around Valentine Day.(Photo: Thinkstock)

MoneyGram, which has more than 300,000 locations across the world, uses a fraud detection system that flags transactions as potential scams based on certain criteria. Sending a large amount of money to someone without the same last name or sending money overseas for the first time are both scenarios that prompt MoneyGram to make phone calls to customers.

"Scammers can prey on victims' loneliness following the holiday season, which grows leading up Discount Prada Shoes Uk

For the inexperienced, these feelings can mean giving away not only their heart, but also their money.

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Yarrow says phrases such as "crazy in love" and "head over heels" are common expressions, because "they describe a genuine psychological phenomenon in which the overwhelming physical and emotional sensations of new romance overshadow Louis Vuitton Boots clear thinking."

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MoneyGram has the right to refuse to send funds, but some victims still don't believe their relationship was a scam, Garner says.

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Romance scams bloom around Valentine's Day

GOING BIG: Roses get supersized for Valentine's Day

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"We'll say, 'How well do you know this person? Why are you suddenly Lv Pumps Shoes

Scammers lurk on online dating sites or grief forums, looking for the lonely, grieving, and vulnerable, Garner says, and will even sometimes search obituaries for the names of surviving family members they could target.

Instances of romance scams are the most prevalent at the beginning of a new year. Scams that occurred between January and March of 2012 accounted for nearly a third of the more than 11,000 romance scams MoneyGram detected last year.

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Romance scam victims are often very inexperienced with relationships, and, "They have less experience to pick up on cues that would send others running," says Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist.

Phone operators for MoneyGram, a money transfer company, will make more than 30 calls today to victims of romance scams. They'll refund each victim an average of nearly $3,000 that otherwise would have gone to total strangers, usually overseas, for made up emergency surgeries, supposedly sick children or non existent customs fees.

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to and just after Valentine's Day," says Kim Garner, senior vice president of global security and investigations for MoneyGram. citizens abroad, making up stories that range from working for the military overseas to slightly more obscure professions. The current one of choice is a "gemologist," Garner says. bank cut off access to their funds.

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PROTECT YOURSELF: FTC offers consumer tips for Valentine's Day

TIPS: Protect yourself from online dating scams

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Just weeks earlier, these strangers sparked online relationships with their victims, quickly expressing their love, and soon after, the need for money.

thousands of people each year are sending the funds, or at least trying.

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