IT IS an old expression that a fool and his money are soon parted, and perhaps it is easy to feel some smug disdain for those who have fallen prey to a scam.

In yesterday's paper, we outlined the latest one: a cash prize of $175,000 for coming second place in a travel promotion.

If you operate on the basis that nothing in life comes for free, then you're usually pretty immune to obvious scams like these. But millions are lost every year through these scams, and sometimes it's not just money, but your heart that's being played as well.

Scams work because while they might be sophisticated in organisation and planning, they play to your most base desires. Basic greed, or at least a basic desire to have more money, or a desire to be flattered, loved, cared for and loved back.

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The romance scams are heartbreaking because they appear to provide this flattering concept that someone out there thinks you're wonderful.

Scam or no scam, email relationships are utterly deadly because reality gets warped. With no actual person in front of you, your imagination is free to invent and fantasise any future scenario it wants.

We've all seen romantic comedies like You've Got Mail, but that is Hollywood fiction.

The only real relationship is two people in the same room, looking and talking to each other, preferably over dinner.

An unknown person in an email, however sweet-talking they are, is still a colossal unknown, with your mind filling in the blanks.

There's another old expression: talk is cheap. It applies to romance, it applies to scams.

As a person who met his wife through internet dating, I can assure you it works, if you are prepared to be brave and put yourself out there.

Romance scams work because people are lonely. If you're lonely, do something about it.

Go online for the right reasons, ignore those who write in capital letters and weed out those who can't even spell their own job title. Take action and go on a date. Don't wait for a heartless scammer to find you.