Most Dating sites operate strict controls in an attempt to ‘vet’ their members but as they increasingly get more ‘savvy’ these experienced thieves regularly pass the vetting procedures and begin to trawl the site in search of the unwary.
Lets not beat about the bush here, these are highly organised gangs working out of a ‘factory like’ set up usually based, but not always, in the likes of Nigeria and the Ivory Coast where they invent a variety of persona and ply their trade online.
Having gained their victim's trust, the fraudster will then conjure up a fake emergency for which they need financial assistance, such as urgent medical bills for a family member.
Another common trick is to ask the victim for money to help pay for their aeroplane ticket or visa so that they can visit the victim in person.
With recent government figures saying that some 40,000 people have been victims of online dating scams, Insight Investigations can confirm that this is now becoming a major problem as our increasing client list proves.
Using fake profiles, they build up an intimate relationship with their targets before exploiting their supposed emotional connection to extract money.Sadly on other occasions the fraudsters have been long gone along with the client’s money.Joining a Dating website is as old as the Internet and most remain a wholly useful tool to meet your future partner, but increasingly those sites are being targeted by gangs who’s only interest is to fleece the unsuspecting.Professor Monica Whitty, a specialist in online psychology, said: "It is not the case that stupid people fall for romance scams - they can be very clever."The criminal talks to them morning, noon and night.They use email to send poetry, they use instant messenger to groom them, to talk to them, to keep them awake at night.Victims are unaware that they are communicating with an entirely different person to the one in the picture on the website.In some cases, many members of a criminal gang may be alternately sending messages to a victim behind the spurious guise of a single internet dating profile.Romance fraudsters may also persuade a target to perform sexual acts in front of their webcam - this footage can then be used to blackmail them for large sums of money.Action Fraud are urging people who use dating sites not to reveal too much personal information, especially financial, when chatting to others online.Irrespective of where they are based the fraudsters have accomplices around the world to facilitate the collection of monies.Legally, this is known as an “Advance Fee Fraud” or a “419 Scam” and was first recorded in 1992.