Last year in the UK, online dating scammers conned their dates out of £33 million.
Anna Moore investigates the crooks who target smart, successful women Using a fake profile on the popular dating site (they operated as ‘Christian Anderson’, a divorced engineer), the pair managed to persuade a newly divorced mother of two to sign over a staggering £1.6 million, some of it her own, the rest borrowed from family and friends.
And with each victim, they learn and improve their psychological technique. The scammers just need to find the right button to press.’ They will tell you they’re widowed, or divorced after their partner was unfaithful.
They may have raised a child alone or lost a child.
Judith joined a dating site last year – one which matches your values, personality and lifestyle with other members and scores them accordingly. When he got my replies, he’d come up with something similar but ever so slightly different.’'He’d say he loved me and I’d reply, “You haven’t even met me!
Let’s wait and see.”’ So her scammer tried another tack: introducing Felix, a 14-year-old boy he had ‘saved’ in Liberia, who was temporarily living in Ghana.
On the basis of just these scant facts, it seems incredible that a well-educated, successful and responsible woman would even consider handing over her life-savings to an apparent stranger – and yet chilling details from the trial hint at the sophisticated brainwashing involved.
Based on the secret techniques of pick-up artists, the book contains step-by-step instructions on how to ensnare a victim, such as ‘Select a Target’, ‘Isolate the Target’, ‘Create an Emotional Connection’ and ‘Blast Last-Minute Resistance’.It could be getting you to take part in explicit exchanges or send sexual videos. If the ‘one-off deal’ you need to pay is presented as slightly illegal or shady – a mess he has got into and needs help getting out of – you will likely feel too worried to go for help.Perhaps he is on the edge of retirement or about to leave the military and build a new civilian life; perhaps he was widowed years ago and only now feels able to start again.In another case, divorcée Suzanne Hardman, then 56, was defrauded of £170,000 by ‘James Richards’, a widower living in Portsmouth.In fact, James was a gang of Nigerian fraudsters who were later convicted.They may have larger amounts of money to lose and subsequently be more prepared to act as a cautionary tale to others, but men and women, young and old, are equally likely to succumb to romantic fraud.