The online dating and relating model
Conmen often consider older women to be ideal targets, because they are usually wealthier and more vulnerable than their younger counterparts.
For example, just a few months ago, newspapers reported the story of 61-year-old retired British teacher, Judith Stillwell, who handed her Kenyan husband £25,000 from her savings before discovering he was duping more than 40 “lovers” across the world.
On occasions, the story may be even more elaborate, with criminals conning victims into paying for educational courses or qualifications to support a visa application.
With this type of scam, victims can end up repeatedly sending money until they become suspicious.
“When someone places a lot of trust and faith in a person who they think they know, they often don’t separate their emotional feelings from rational thinking,” adds Neate.
“Criminals will play on this vulnerability.” Further figures from the NFIB show that more than half (57%) of all reported crimes relating to online dating were by women, with those aged 45 to 55 the most targeted.
Some fraudulent suitors will befriend and flirt with their victim in conversation on an online dating chatroom, and then suggest the conversation should move to a social media site.
“Many people are affected by ‘lonely hearts scams’, yet a lot are too embarrassed to speak up or seek help,” says an FOS spokesperson.Separate figures published at the end of October 2015 showed that in just 12 months, 3,543 people reported that they had been a victim of dating fraud to Action Fraud, with a total financial loss of £33,650,491. Romance scams take many different forms, but often the most heart-wrenching cases involve singletons meeting people through internet chatrooms or dating sites.In fact, NFIB findings show that 85% of dating scams in 2014 stemmed from online dating sites or forums.Conmen will also cite medical-related reasons for needing money – such as a sudden need for surgery, or a family member urgently requiring hospital treatment.Scammers may claim financial hardship due to an unfortunate run of bad luck, such as a failed business or a mugging in the street.
“When using any dating site, you need to exercise caution and take the time to get to know people,” says Neate.