Online Dating Romance Scam project

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This ESRC funded project investigates the types of people conned by the online romance scam and how such deception psychologically affects a person, as well as the types of strategies that scammers use to con their victims.


Online romance dating scam: The number of people scammed by the online dating romance scam has been on the increase in recent years. The romance scam involves organised criminals who target singles columns and dating websites, creating fake profiles and trying to establish trust with that person. They then pretend to be in urgent need of money and ask for help. Many victims have been persuaded to part with large sums before their suspicions are aroused.

Specifically, the objectives of the project are to:

1. devise a typology of the personality traits as well as other characteristics for the types of individuals who are more likely to be conned by the online romance scam.

2. examine the persuasive techniques employed to con individuals.

3. examine the psychological consequences of being taken in by such a scam.

4. inform interested parties of the results of this project to help prevent these scams from happening in the first place.

Researchers on this project:

Professor Monica Whitty (University of Leicester)

Professor Tom Buchanan (University of Westminster)


Advisory Board:

Professor Bill Dutton (Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford)

Professor Martin Gill (Perpetuity Research and Consultancy International)

Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA)




Journal articles

<!--[if !supportLists]-->1.     <!--[endif]-->Whitty, M. T. (in press). The Scammers Persuasive Techniques Model: Development of a stage model to explain the online dating romance scam. British Journal of Criminology.

Whitty, M. T. (in press). Anatomy of the online dating romance scam. Security Journal

Buchanan, T., & Whitty, M. T. (in press). The online dating romance scam: Causes and consequences of victimhood. Psychology, Crime & Law.

Whitty, M. (2012). True Romance? Executive feature. Police Professional, July 19, 2012.

Whitty, M. T., & Buchanan, T. (2012). The Online Dating Romance Scam: A Serious Crime.  CyberPsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 15(3), 181-183.



Whitty, M. T., & Buchanan, T. (2012). The Psychology of the Online Dating Romance Scam Report. University of Leicester.


Invited talks/keynotes/conference presentations

Whitty, M. T. (2011, June). Keynote address: Loved and lost: An examination of the psychological impact on victims of the romance scam. Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology, Ireland, June 13-17, 2011.

Whitty, M.T. (2011) Romance Scams: Can we help potential victims? Talk given to Fraud Women's Network, 21 New Street London, EC2M 4TP, July 28th, 2011.

Whitty, M.T. (2011). Keynote address: Computer mediated Communication: An Analysis of Online Dating. European Communication Research & Education Association: Interpersonal Communication & Social Interaction Section. Belfast, September, 7-9, 2011.

Whitty, M. T., & Ford, T. (2011). Romance Fraud. 6th Annual Fraud Conference: Faceless Crime - The Fight Back Starts Here, Wakefield, November 9, 2011.

Whitty, M. T. (2011). The Online Dating Romance Scam: Scammers' strategies and the psychological impact on the victim. Southampton Solent University, Psychology Department, Novemeber 22nd, 2011.

Buchanan, T. (2012, March). Heartbreak in cyberspace. Public Lecture at the University of Westminster, London, March 15, 2012.

Whitty, M. T., & Buchanan, T. (2012). The Online Dating Romance Scam: A Serious Crime.  CyberPsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 15(3), 181-183.



Professor Monica Whitty is interviewed about her research at The Oxford Internet Institute

In the news

Krotoski, A. (2011, April) The Online Dating Scam Untanglingtheweb

BBC Radio Ulster, Northern Ireland (2011, Sept). Online Dating. Radio talk back, September 8, 2011.

BBC Breakfast TV (28/9/11)

ITV Daybreak (28/9/11)

ITV midday news (28/9/11)

BBC radio (regional): Coventry & Warwickshire, Cumbria, Essex, Kent, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Nottingham, Scotland, Somerset, Wales (28/9/11)

BBC 4 - Today (28/9/11)

BBC Radio 5 live (28/9/11)

BBC World Service (28/9/11)

'200,000' suffer dating site fraud. Virgin Media (28/9/11)

Bogus Internet Dates 'con 200,000 victims' Sky News (28/9/11)

'Bad romance' hurts thousands of net singles BBC News Technology (28/9/11)

Online dating scams dupe 200,000 study finds. The Guardian (28/9/11)

200,000 fall victim to internet romance scams in the UK The Telegraph (28/9/11) Online romance scam dupes thousands Yahoo News (28/9/11)

Online romance scam dupe thousands IBNlive (28/9/11)

Online Romance Scam Dupes Thousands (28/9/11)

Over 200,000 Brits fall victims to online romance scams. Indian express (28/9/11)

Online romance scam dupes thousands Hamara News (28/9/11)

Canadian Press (30/9/11)

Online Romance Scams: Digital Lotharios take to the web: (19/6/2012)

 BBC Radio Gloucestershire (9/3/2013)

Useful Resources

Romance scams: Action Fraud

Bogus US Soldiers: Action Fraud


How they caught the Ghana dating scammers: Crime Watch

The Love Trap: 60 minutes, Australia

(Australia) SCAM Watch





Examples of interesting cases 

The professor, the bikini model and the suitcase full of trouble 

Met advises vigilance after romance scam convictions

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