The 33-year-old was jailed for a minimum of 17-and-a-half years after he admitted murder in July last year.Liverpool Crown Court was told Hawke, of no fixed abode, moved into Sharon's house after just one date, and started controlling the 39-year-old, who suffered from depression and had learning difficulties.Mc Graw writes, "It's easy for some of the smartest people to lose all sight of common sense when they're being reeled in by a catfish: an online imposter who tries to win your sympathy -- and your love -- by creating an elaborate scheme." Flirting With Disaster If you've ever been targeted by a romance scammer, you probably know how this scam works.

She responded by reporting him to the local sheriff and the FBI. The authorities never recovered her money, and she was forced to take out loans to live. alone, romance scammers sweet-talked 5,900 victims out of more than $86.7 million in 2014.

The widow's story is a classic case of a romance scam. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, as romance scams are grossly underreported.

A common ruse is for the scammer to claim to be from the U. but is currently unavailable because he or she is temporarily outside of the country. Your match is faced with a sudden emergency, often occurring overseas, requiring your financial assistance to pay for things like travel, visas, hospital bills, a financial misfortune, and so on. If you think that you've fallen prey to a romance scam, report it to the online dating site or the website where the scammer found you.

Contact your local police department to assist you in making a paper trail.

Red Flags to Watch Out For Red flags that your so-called "match" could be a romance scammer include the following: Taking It Offline.

Your match presses you to leave the dating site and persuades you to communicate via personal email or instant messaging. Because scammers know that online dating sites are able to surveil members and oust those who display questionable behavior or attempt to commit a scam. Not getting caught is important to the scammer, as he or she will want to "troll" the site again for fresh victims when he or she is done with you. Your match gives every appearance of living high on the hog--profile pictures of mansions, luxury cars, exotic destinations, and so on, yet persuades you to loan him or her money.The scammer will exhibit strong emotions, often instantaneously, and attempt to beguile you."The whole process of becoming attached through texts and emails is fascinating.Speaking for the first time since his sister Sharon Winters was murdered by online lover Kevin Hawke, Stephen urges women to be wary of meeting men on the internet."She was a lonely heart just wanting love," Stephen said of his sister."That animal preyed on her caring nature."I still can't believe someone would want to hurt my poor, defenceless sister in such a horrific manner," he added.By stealing the identity of a wealthy person, the scammer masquerades as a man or woman of means. Poor grammar, wonky sentence structure, or odd word choices could spell a foreign scammer.