Research reveals the scale of romance scams in Britain
Professor Monica Whitty of our Department of Media and Communication and Dr Tom Buchanan from the University of Westminister have made the claim that over 200,000 people living in Britain may have fallen victim to online romance scams – far more than had been previously estimated.
The researchers surveyed over 2,000 people through an online YouGov survey and made a further estimate that over 1 million people personally know someone who has been scammed.
Romance scams have become increasingly reported in the media; criminals will set up fake identities using stolen photographs (often of models or army officers) and pretend to develop a romantic relationship with their victim. This is often done using online dating sites and social networking sites.
At some point during the relationship they pretend to be in urgent need of money and ask for help. Investigations by the Serious Organised Crime Agency have seen financial losses experienced by victims of online romance scams of between £50 and £240,000. Scammers’ victims also suffer what is effectively a bereavement, from the loss of a relationship they believed to be genuine. Law enforcement agencies have long believed that victims often do not report being scammed and this research adds weight to that argument.
The study is believed to be the first formal academic analysis to measure the scale of this growing problem.