A recent study, the first formal, academic, research of its kind in the UK shows that more than 200,000 people were victims of online dating scams; An alarming and growing trend.
The 'online romance scam' criminals set up fake identities using stolen photographs of military personnel and models; similar to the U.S. scam the Army Criminal Investigation Unit's been warning us about. Scam artists prey on people they develop 'relationships' with using online dating sites and social media networks.Many victims have been persuaded to part with large sums of money before their gut instinct has a chance to really kick in.(read more after info-graphic).
Graphic Credit: OnlineSchools.org
In fact, researchers found that 52% of people surveyed online had heard of the online romance scam when it was explained to them, and that one in every 50 online adults (2%) knew someone personally who had fallen victim to it.
It's sometimes hard-to-tell what's happening as the scam artists are quite good. If you've been talking for weeks or months with someone who's purposely trying to turn up the charm, you're more vulnerable. Then when he or she has a sudden emergency and urgent need for cash, your heart can sometimes override your brain. Most people want to help someone they care about. This is where it gets dangerous.
Sadly, the crimes often go unreported, since many times it's believed the victims feel embarrassed at having been duped.
“This is a concern not solely because people are losing large sums of money,” Professor Monica Whitty, Professor of Contemporary Media, Department of Media and Communication, at the University of Leicester and author of the study, said in a press release, “It 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’."
Whitty and Dr. Tom Buchanan, a psychologist at the University of Westminster led the study, which aimed to investigate the prevalence of victims in Great Britain and learn how widely the crime is known, as well as how people are learning about it.
Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting and advice center run by the National Fraud Authority, identified 592 victims of this crime between 2010-11. Of these victims, 203 individuals lost over £5,000 (about $8,000 U.S.)!
Anyone who has been a victim of romance fraud in the UK, or knows a victim, may report it at www.actionfraud.org.uk.