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successful, spiritually minded, intelligent, good sense of humor, enjoys dancing and travelling. In those first weeks, she exchanged messages and a few calls with men, and even met some for coffee or lunch.

But nothing clicked—either they weren't her type or they weren't exactly who they said they were.

But as financial crimes go, the love con was a rare breed, too time- and labor-intensive to carry out in large numbers.

This seemed to be one of the problems with online dating.She resolved to be pickier, only contacting men who were closely matched—90 percent or more, as determined by the algorithm pulling the strings behind her online search. Back in college, she'd studied computer science and psychology, and she considered herself pretty tech-savvy.Web-based dating services first popped up in the mid-1990s and are now a billion industry.As of December 2013, 1 in 10 American adults had used services such as Match.com, Plenty of Fish and e Harmony.*Names have been changed to protect identities A short message sent on a Thursday evening in early December 2013, under the subject line: Match? She signed up for a six-month subscription to Match.com, the largest and one of the oldest dating services on the Web.

In the summer, when the trees leafed out, you couldn't even see the road or the neighbors. She'd grown up here, in a conservative pocket of Virginia. When it came to meeting new people, however, her choices were limited. The holidays were coming, and she didn't want to face them alone.She had a website for her business, was on Facebook, carried a smartphone.But who knew exactly how these online dating services worked?Plus, when she went back to look at darkandsugarclue's profile, it had disappeared. As I am recalling the information you shared intrigued me. Please email me with information about yourself and pictures so I can get to know you better.Duane wrote right back, a long message that sketched a peripatetic life — he described himself as a "computer systems analyst" from North Hollywood, California, who grew up in Manchester, England, and had lived in Virginia for only five months.Then she saw this guy, the one with a mysterious profile name—darkandsugarclue.