The fairytale of finding true love online turns into an emotional and financial nightmare for the victims of scammers.
Scammers spend months luring unsuspecting victims into their web of deceit, conning Australians out of $27.9 million last year.
Some even try to blackmail their victims if the money stops flowing, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Delia Rickard says.
"The really nasty sting in the tail which we're seeing more and more of is if the person shared photos/video of a personal nature, they will start blackmailing them and threatening to put it up online and ensuring all their friends and family see it."
The scammers will often stalk their victims on social media to find out their likes and dislikes before making contact, to set up a feeling of an instant connection.
Many make contact on dating sites but increasingly through social media, mainly Facebook, Ms Rickard says.
Ms Rickard says most people know someone who has a great relationship after meeting their partner online and believe it will happen to them as well.
The scammers are very good at disguising themselves, using fake pictures and often pretending to be an Australian or American businessman working overseas.
"They're very patient. They don't meet you and ask for money," Ms Rickard says.
"They spend weeks, months and we've seen cases of years really romancing you, sending you gifts, talking to you every day, building a rapport.
"They will take as long as it takes until they feel that they have got that person's complete and utter trust and love."
Then come the stories about why they desperately need cash, typically along the lines of they need a loan to visit you, there's a medical emergency or a business opportunity.
Australians lose more money to romance scams than any other type of scam, yet romance made up only three per cent of all scam reports in 2014.
It can be difficult to recognise the difference between a scammer and a genuine person, Australian Bankers' Association chief executive Steven Munchenberg says.
"If someone just contacted you out of the blue and sent you a letter saying `if you send me money wonderful things will happen' you'd be highly suspicious of it, but if they've built up a relationship with you over a series of weeks or even months they can get your defences down," he says.
"They are absolutely playing on people's emotions."
While many potential victims realise they are being scammed before handing over any money, it can be hard to convince some people that the person they have been talking to or emailing daily is conning them.
Ms Rickard says scammers tend to distance the people they're romancing from family and friends.
"They get hugely emotionally invested.
"The longer it's been going on, the more money they've got involved in it, the less they want to admit to themselves that this is a scam."
The average amount lost to romance scams is more than $27,000, with some people losing as much as half a million dollars.
Unfortunately, there's virtually no chance of getting the money back.
"As a general rule once you've paid it, particularly via a wire transfer, it's gone for good," Ms Rickard says.
"People mortgage their homes. They borrow from family and friends. People go to extraordinary lengths to find the money that the scammers are asking them for."