Thousands of people are stung in online dating scams each year, but experts are saying many of the crimes go unreported, despite some victims being conned out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
online frauds usually involves charlatans setting up fake avatars
using stolen photos of attractive people, often models or army officers.
After a relationship is established with the victim, the scammer will then ask for financial help.
The victims often remain silent about the crimes because they are too upset or embarrassed to seek help.
According to the Serious Organised Crime Agency
(Soca), romance fraud is organised crime, usually operating from
outside the UK. Their investigations have seen people defrauded of sums
ranging from £50 to £240,000.
Criminal groups make
initial contact with potential victims online, and then try to move the
"relationship" away from the monitored website before carrying out
Researchers at Leicester and Westminster universities, in the first major study into online
dating scams, discovered more than 200,000 Britons have been directly affected by online
scams, while over a million people personally know the victim of the
Professor Monica Whitty from the University of Leicester
said: "Our data suggests that the numbers of British victims of this
relatively new crime is much higher than reported incidents would
Researchers questioned 2000 people through an online YouGov survey.
Action Fraud, the reporting and advice centre run by the National Fraud Authority, identified 592 victims of the scams between 2010-11. Of these, 203 lost sums of more than £5,000.
this new study confirms suspicions that the scale of the problem is
much bigger, because victims are too ashamed to report the crime.
is our view that the trauma caused by this scam is worse than any
other, because of the 'double hit' experienced by the victims – loss of
monies and a 'romantic relationship'," Professor Whitty said.