The government today kinda-sorta weighed in on the whole Manti Te'o hoax thing by issuing a set of State Department guidelines on how to avoid being the victim of "Internet Dating Scams."

That's all well and good, except for the fact that their "tips" would have done little to help Victim Zero: Manti Te'o himself.

For example, right off the bat, the State Department says a telltale sign of a "sweetheart scam" is when "the scammer and the victim meet online — often through Internet dating or employment sites."

But according to Te'o, he first encountered Lennay Kekua on Facebook in 2009, and hadn't become romantically involved with her until April 2012. Talk about a long con.

The State Department also warns potential victims that a scammer will ask for money "to get out of a bad situation or to provide a service."

Strike two: No money changed virtual hands between Te'o and Kekua. In fact, Kekua once sought to wire some money to Te'o.

The third guideline tells would-be marks to watch out for sweethearts with overly attractive photos that appear "to have been taken at a professional modeling agency or photographic studio."

"Attractive" is a judgement call, but the photos of Diane O'Meara — the 23-year-old marketing exec who unwittingly became the "face" of Lennay Kekua — that were used in the scam were taken from her Facebook page, thus lending a necessary sheen of plausibility to the deceit.

In its fourth bullet point, Foggy Bottom finally catches a bit of a break:

The scammer has incredibly bad luck- often getting into car crashes, arrested, mugged, beaten, or hospitalized - usually all within the course of a couple of months. They often claim that their key family members (parents and siblings) are dead. Sometimes, the scammer claims to have an accompanying child overseas who is very sick or has been in an accident.

But, again, this doesn't apply to Te'o, who was allegedly convinced by his online girlfriend that she herself was dying. And, as we found out today, when he previously learned that Kekua was in a coma following a car crash, he made up some lame excuse not to visit her in the hospital.

Finally, the State Department says a surefire way to identify a scammer is if he or she "claims to be a native-born American citizen, but uses poor grammar indicative of a non-native English speaker."

If that were an actual barometer for the likelihood of a scam, no one would ever trust anyone.

It's becoming increasingly likely that Te'o was in on the scam, at least for the last two months or so. But for that period of time that he was telling the truth — if such a period exists — as far as the government is concerned, he could very well have been dating the girl of his dreams.

[H/T: BetaBeat, photo via AP]