London: The incidence of online romance scams is increasing by the day and has already victimized an estimated 230,000 people in Britain alone, costing them nearly $60 billion a year, a study reveals.
Online dating scammers pretend to initiate a romantic relationship through online dating services and then defraud their victims of large sums of money over a period of months or longer.
Monica Whitty and Tom Buchanan from Universities of Leicester and Westminster, respectively, document the rapid growth in these serious crimes and how cybercriminals pursue and steal from their victims.
They describe the devastating financial and emotional losses the victims suffer. Online romance scam is a relatively new form of fraud that became apparent in about 2008.
"This crime is very serious and unfortunately often overlooked. The costs to the victim are both hidden (emotional) and more visible (monetary)," said Brenda K. Wiederhold, editor-in-chief of the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, which published the study.