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      Looking for love in the wrong place

      In a sea of online dating profiles, it may be hard to weed out which ones you can trust.

      One U.P. man now realizes he should have thought twice before traveling across the globe to meet his online lover.

      Tom Shook of Sidnaw met a woman on the online dating website Latinamericancupid.com. Two years later, he found himself heavily in debt.

      "All totalled, I lost about thirty to forty thousand dollars, all wiped out, my savings, in debt. That's bad enough, but to be betrayed by somebody that you felt loved you and that you loved to such an extent is really bad," said Shook.

      Tom had been scammed once before, so this time, he tried to be extra careful. He chatted with multiple women online, keeping a log of everything they said, on guard for anything that didn't add up.

      But with his most serious love, Mila, nothing seemed suspicious.

      "I saw her on a web cam. I sent her flowers, so I thought I did all the things to protect myself to make sure I got an honest person. She seemed very honest. I thought I covered all the bases, and I still goofed," Shook added.

      After a few months of online courting, Tom planned on visiting Mila in Colombia but first paid for her to get an HIV test and a birth control implant. Mila told him there were complications with the surgery and asked Tom for more money.

      Little did he know, all of it was fake.

      "I decided it was a good time to go down there and see what was going on. I could see the bandage on her arm; I did not stupidly ask to have her remove it to take a look, but she'd bump it against something and it'd hurt. Of course, she doesn't have any money, so I'm taking care of it. I'm running out of money," Shook said.

      Two trips to Colombia and thousands of dollars lost, Tom finally stumbled upon the website Romancescams.org. There, he realized that Mila, the love of his life, was scamming him for everything he had.

      "Scammers are really good at making a connection with the person and making the person feel that they love them as much as the victim loves the scammer, and that's what makes the scam work because it's the emotional connection that makes people open up their wallets. Love shouldn't have a price tag on it, but in scams it does," said Romancescams.org owner, Barb Sluppick.

      Tom said he can sum up in one word why he found himself caught up in the hoax.

      "Loneliness. A sense of hopelessness. I've always been more of a loner. I don't have a large friend base," Shook explained.

      Tom's no longer talking to Mila, but he still has feelings for her.