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And it’s not just particularly vulnerable people who fall victim either.
“[It’s] not the case that stupid people fall for romance scams - they can be very clever,” Professor Monica Whitty, a cyber-psychologist, explains. Scamalytics, a company which runs anti-scammer software for a number of the major dating sites, are trying to reduce online dating fraud by creating profiles of the average male and female con artist.
Nancy*, a 47-year-old single mother from North Yorkshire was conned out of over £350,000 that way: “I wasn't comfortable, and then I got so far in I couldn't get myself out, and I didn't want to walk away having lost £50,000 or what-have-you, so you keep going in the hope that you're wrong and this person is genuine,” she explained to the BBC.
Nancy is now facing bankruptcy, and although her case is extreme, the average victim of online dating fraud loses £10,000 according to Action Fraud.
She presents herself as a student, also with a degree and no interest in politics.Jane*, a middle-aged woman from Warwickshire, had a lucky escape a few years ago when she very nearly handed over a sizeable sum of money to an online scammer who did in fact claim to be an engineer.Her interest was initially piqued when he seemed to have a similar background and heritage to her and they chatted for almost two months, often exchanging messages for at least two hours an evening.If you’re suspicious, turn to Google: search their name and “dating scam” or do a Google image search to see whether they’ve taken someone else’s picture or one that’s easily available online.If you find the picture is a fake, report the profile to the dating site immediately.