· The online dating romance scam is a relatively new and under-reported international crime targeting users of online dating sites. It has serious financial and emotional Online dating offers new opportunities for individuals to seek a romantic partner; however, the platform has also been exploited by criminals seeking to perpetrate scams, classified as High scores on the romantic belief of Idealization were associated with likelihood of being a romance scam victim. Victims experienced significant emotional distress as well as financial The online dating romance scam: causes and consequences of victimhood Tom Buchanana* and Monica T. Whittyb aDepartment of Psychology, University of Westminster, The fifth hypothesis is that victims of the romance scam score higher on romantic beliefs compared with others using online dating sites (H5). Sensation seeking Sensation seekers ... read more
Thus, it is hypothesized that victims losing money would be likely to score higher on Loneliness H1 , Extraversion H2 , Agreeableness H3 , Romantic Beliefs H5 and Sensation Seeking H6 but lower on Neuroticism H4 than those for whom there was no financial loss.
The influence of Loneliness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Romantic Beliefs, Sensation Seeking, Neuroticism on type of victimhood no cash lost vs. cash lost was examined using standard forced entry binary logistic regression. The only significant predictor was Romantic Beliefs Table 9. none of the Romantic Beliefs subscales was a significant predictor. It appears that the overall Romantic Beliefs score including the Love at First Sight items, rather than just the Idealization subscale, is important here.
Overall, the pattern of results for Study 2, like Study 1,was consistent with only one hypothesis. People with higher levels of Romantic Beliefs were be more likely to be victims H5 , but none of the other variables differentiated victims from non-victims or financial victims from those who had not lost money.
Combined Analyses: Effects on Victims A final set of exploratory analyses investigated the outcomes of being scammed. Data from scam victims in both Studies 1 and 2 were combined. Only participants who had used an online dating site and had been tricked by scammers were included in the analyses. At least two kinds of impact may be experienced by scam victims: Financial and emotional. Of these individuals, had lost money, while had not.
Even among individuals who had not lost money, it is possible that significant distress could be caused by the experience. Both non-financial Figure 1 and financial Figure 2 victims used the whole range of the response scale, indicating that people varied in how affected they were. Of course, distress is likely to be greater among financial victims, and victims who had lost money did report significantly higher emotional impact t However, some non-financial victims also reported significant emotional effects.
Examining the frequency distribution of reported emotional impact suggests there is a wide, possibly bimodal, distribution in the emotional distress experienced by non- financial victims Figure 1 for both samples combined; Figure 3 for Sample 1 only. While the largest proportion of such victims reported no distress, substantial proportions reported much higher levels.
Comparison of Figures 1 and 2 also suggests there may be more variability in the reactions of non-financial victims. One interpretation of this pattern of findings is that there may be individual differences in the extent to which victims are affected by the experience of being scammed.
Furthermore, these individual differences may exert more powerful effects on emotional distress among those individuals who did not lose money but still considered themselves as having been victims of scammers.
Correlates of emotional distress in the non-financial victims were thus explored and are shown in Table More lonely people, more neurotic people, and those with lower scores on Openness to Experience were significantly more affected.
Men and women differed in the typical amount of money lost. Among those losing money, more neurotic people again reported more distress. To explore the source of this variance, the correlational analyses reported in Table 11 were repeated separately for men and women who had lost money. It therefore appears that the link between Neuroticism and distress in financial victims is attributable entirely to the male participants. The men in the financial victim group may thus on average be less!
emotionally stable than one would normally expect, although the previously reported regression analyses do not suggest Neuroticism is a risk factor for victimization. General Discussion Victim Characteristics There is a paucity of research on the typical psychological characteristics of fraud victims in general, and of romance scam victims in particular.
The current study addressed several variables that could potentially play a role, but which in most cases were found not to differentiate victims and non-victims. Of the hypotheses advanced, only one — that romance scam victims would have higher levels of romantic beliefs — was consistent with the data.
Clearly, absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence of an effect. However, the sample sizes here give a good level of statistical power to detect non-trivial effect sizes. If any of these variables were likely to make a difference in the real world then the current design should have had a good chance of identifying them.
Demographic characteristics. Previously, most victims known to the police in the UK at least were presumed to be heterosexual women, of middle age or older SOCA officers, personal communication, Data from Study 1 suggest that gay men and women are at risk in the same way as heterosexuals. It may thus be that the crime is especially under-reported in some demographic groups. The practical implication of these findings would be that risk cannot currently be predicted from demographic characteristics.
Psychological variables. Of the psychological variables measured, only Romantic Beliefs, and the belief of Idealization in particular, differentiated victims and non-victims. People with higher Idealization scores were more likely to be fooled by scammers. When considering the direction of causality, it seems likely that having a more romantic orientation predisposes people to victimhood rather than some process whereby encountering the scam makes people more romantic an unlikely proposition in itself.
Romantic Beliefs scores did not correlate with either emotional or financial effects of victimhood Table If Romantic Beliefs were to change as a result of being scammed, then correlations with these variables would be expected those victims affected more should experience a greater change.
Essentially, the romantic idealist puts partners potential or real on a pedestal, and is likely to have an unrealistically idealized image of them. In this instance, it seemed to be the overall romantic attitude rather than any specific construct —! although conclusions are compromised by the unreliability of the Love at First Sight subscale. While this would benefit from further exploration, it is clear that overall higher Romantic Beliefs put one at risk of being an online romance scam victim.
However, the effect size is small. The highest odds ratio found - for the risk of being fooled by scammers associated with Idealization in Study 2 - was 1. This is firmly in the domain of what Cohen described as a small effect size. Ferguson tentatively suggests the recommended minimum effect size for regarding effects found in social science data as "practically" significant would be consistent with an odds ratio of 2. Thus, Romantic Beliefs account for a statistically significant but practically very small proportion of variance in the likelihood of becoming a victim.
This means that the potential to implement crime prevention strategies based on this finding may be limited. Of the variables that were not associated with victimhood, Sensation Seeking is perhaps the one that requires most comment.
Lea, Fischer, and Evans argue that sensation seekers may be drawn to involvement in financial scams because of the excitement of the process, the arousal caused by anticipation of the 'big prize'. However, with that and similar frauds there is a strong financial motivation, and the victim essentially plays the role of a co-conspirator with the criminal.
The processes of the romance scam appear to be quite different. While some individuals may indeed be drawn into it due to a quest for excitement, in many other cases the processes may be much more complex and closely akin to traditional online relationship development.
Given the! current findings around emotional impact, this scenario seems likely and doubt is cast on our original hypothesis around Sensation Seeking. Effects on Victims With respect to the effect on victims, a key finding is that many people reported significant emotional impact. Indeed, many people who had not lost any money at all reported very high levels of distress. It was found that there was considerable variance in the distress experienced, with some people much more affected than others.
Because of their self-selected status, Study 2 respondents may be more emotionally affected than the average scam victim: after all, these are people who have chosen to use a victim support site.
However, when one considers emotional impact only among victims in Study 1 most of whom had not lost money , the full range of the scale is still used. A substantive proportion of those participants reported high levels of emotional impact see Figure 3. This suggests the potential for significant distress is real, and not an artifact of the doubly self-selected status of Study 2 respondents.
While women were typically more affected, some men also reported very high levels of distress. Among male financial victims, it appears to be those with higher Neuroticism scores who were most affected. Across men and women combined, Neuroticism did predict distress in non-financial victims.
This is unsurprising, given the well-established links between Neuroticism and the experience of stress and anxiety. emotionally stable people are more prone to emotional upset in general, so are likely to be more affected by the experience of being scammed.
Loneliness was associated with emotional distress among non-financial victims only. One interpretation of this is that for more lonely people, being betrayed and having their hopes dashed may be a more upsetting experience than for the less lonely.
The correlation vanishes among those who have lost money. This may be because financial loss can be a more serious outcome in practical terms especially for those losing very large sums that might overpower any effects of Loneliness as a determinant of distress. Among non-financial victims, those with lower Openness to Experience scores reported more emotional effects. It may be that those who prefer to think in more down- to-earth, conventional ways find it more difficult to deal with the idea that they have been drawn into an illusory relationship.
Again, any such effect may be overpowered by the more serious practical outcome of financial loss. It must be acknowledged that the index of emotional experience used here is somewhat of a blunt instrument. It addresses only a general state of distress, while the specific reactions of individual victims are likely to be considerably more nuanced.
The self-selected sample in Study 1 is unlikely to be! representative of all online daters, especially given that the sites participants were recruited from are tailored to a particular demographic constituency as are many successful dating sites. However, there is no reason to believe that the sample incorporates biases with respect to victimhood it was not publicized, for example, as a study of romance scams in particular.
The one exception to this may be age, as the sites target more mature professional individuals. Thus, the average age of scam victims in the current data may not be representative of scam victims in general.
In Study 2, the sample was most likely biased with respect to victimhood: respondents were drawn from a population of scam victims, who were motivated to seek out or share information about their experiences.
However, there is no evidence that the present conclusions are compromised by the biases that are believed to exist, but also to differ across the two studies. Importantly, the same pattern of results with respect to psychological predictors of victimhood was shown across the two studies. Practical Implications One of the main goals of this project was to develop a typology of romance scam victims, identifying traits that acted as risk factors in order to facilitate development of targeted interventions.
It seems unlikely that this is a viable option with the current variable set: a single psychological factor predicted victimization, with an effect size so! low that its real-world significance is limited. Further work to identify other potential risk factors or types of victim would be of value. However, the findings around emotional impact suggest that attention should be paid to how victims are treated by law enforcement, online dating company client support departments, and other agencies such as victim support charities.
At present, there is limited awareness of this crime and many police forces lack experience and information on how to deal with the victims. In particular, they may be unaware of the psychological consequences of falling victim to this crime SOCA officers, personal communication, Online dating companies dealing with clients who have been fooled also need to be aware of the significant psychological impact that some victims may experience.
Conclusion The work reported above provides new insights into the characteristics and experiences of people affected by the online dating romance scam.
The only psychological variable found to be associated with increased risk of victimhood is the romantic belief of Idealization. This has implications for crime prevention strategies, indicating general rather than targeted interventions. It is clear that there are emotional as well as financial consequences of victimhood, and many people!
may be seriously affected even if they do not lose money. The level of distress experienced is associated both with degree of financial loss if any , and individual differences. In particular, less emotionally stable men may be especially affected on an emotional level. Acknowledgements The work reported in this paper was supported by award RES from the UK Economic and Social Research Council.
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Table 2 Descriptive statistics for possible predictors of victimhood Study 1 Victims Non-victims Whole sample M SD M SD M SD αa Loneliness Table 3 Binary logistic regression: predictors of victimhood Variable B S. Wald df p Exp B Loneliness 0.
Table 4 Binary logistic regression: Specific Romantic Beliefs as predictors of victimhood Variable B S. Wald df p Exp B Love Finds a Way Table 6 Descriptive statistics for categories and possible predictors of victimhood Study 2 Non- Victims Victims All victims who did who not lose lost money money M N SD M N SD M N SD M N SD αa Loneliness Table 7 Binary logistic regression: Predictors of victimhood Study 2 B SE Wald df p Exp B Loneliness 0.
Table 8 Binary logistic regression: Specific Romantic Beliefs as predictors of victimhood Study 2 B S. Table 9 Binary logistic regression: Predictors of victims losing money B S. Table 10 Binary logistic regression: Specific Romantic Beliefs as predictors of victims losing money B S. Wald df p Exp B Love finds a Way 0. Table 11 Correlates of emotional and financial outcomes Emotional Distress Money Lost Non-financial Financial victims r p n r p n rs p n Loneliness 0. Figure 1 25 Percentage of respondents 20 15 10 5 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Emotional effect Figure 1.
Reported emotional effect on victims who had not lost money across both samples Not at all to Very distressed over a long period. Figure 2 45 40 Percentage of respondents 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Emotional effect Figure 2.
Reported emotional effect on victims who had lost money across both samples Not at all to Very distressed over a long period. Figure 3 30 Percentage of respondents 25 20 15 10 5 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Emotional effect Figure 3.
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Journal of Educational Technology Systems. Title The online dating romance scam: causes and consequences of victimhood Authors Buchanan, T. and Whitty, M.
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Abstract The online dating romance scam is a relatively new and under-reported international crime targeting users of online dating sites. It has serious financial and emotional consequences, affecting hundreds of thousands of people.
However, little if anything is known about psychological characteristics that may put people at risk of romance scam victimization, or influence how they react to it. High scores on the romantic belief of Idealization were associated with likelihood of being a romance scam victim. Victims experienced significant emotional distress as well as financial losses. Even respondents who reported being fooled by scammers, but who had not lost any money, reported significant distress.
Level of emotional distress was associated with high Neuroticism, and also with high Loneliness and low Openness to Experience among victims not losing money.
The findings have implications for the feasibility of crime-prevention measures based on victim characteristics, and for treatment of victims by law enforcement and other stakeholders. Keywords Internet; fraud; online dating romance scam; romantic beliefs; idealization! Fraud is a serious legal and economic problem. In the United Kingdom alone, the National Fraud Authority estimated that fraud had cost the UK economy £73 billion over the previous year.
Electronic communications have opened up the floodgates for a variety of different types of scam to be conducted via the Internet Salu, The source of the money is variously described: Examples include inheritance or funds they have access to through some claimed official role. The victim is offered a share of the spoils in return for helping with this transfer.
The help required includes the victim providing some money in advance to make the larger transaction possible e. to bribe officials or pay some fee. Of course, once the scammer has extracted this advance payment from their victim, the promised money never materializes.
A variant on this type of fraud is the online dating romance scam, which is typically conducted via online dating sites by organized international groups.
The online dating romance scam started becoming known in Britain around BBC NEWS, , and also affects numerous other countries around the globe. Between April and April , Action Fraud the UK national fraud reporting center identified victims of this crime in the UK. Of these victims individuals! lost over £5, Action Fraud considered the crime was under-reported and that there were actually many more victims.
Whitty and Buchanan a suggested on the basis of a nationally representative survey that almost , people may have fallen victim to romance fraudsters in Great Britain alone in the four or so years from the emergence of the scam until mid While they simulate developing relationships with their victims, the end goal of the scammers is to defraud them of large sums.
The fraudsters typically claim to be in love with the victim at a very early stage. Over periods of weeks, months or even years, communication between scammer and victim is very frequent and intense. If the victim accedes to these requests, larger amounts of money will then be requested. Third parties are often brought into the narrative, to make the scam appear more plausible and to demand money in new ways.
The fraud continues until the victim realizes they have been scammed e. However, given the strong relationship the victim feels they have developed with the persona adopted by the scammer, the victim often finds it very difficult to accept the truth and instead believes there is still some reality to the relationship. Already, a number of online dating sites use personality profiles to characterize and match their users.
This raises the possibility of using those personality profiles to detect individuals who may be at risk of falling victim. Potentially, the sites where the scams are initiated could identify people at risk of becoming victims and alert them to the persuasive techniques the scammers employ.
To date, little is known about any typical characteristics of fraud victims. Furnell , for example, points out that greedy and naive individuals are more likely to be conned by such scams. thinking few businesses try to mislead customers, not knowing who to turn to with consumer problems. They found that people with higher vulnerability scores tended to be older, poorer, less educated and single.
However, these findings differ from those of Titus and Gover , who reviewed data suggesting that younger and better-educated people are more at risk. That work was based on data from a survey of people reporting actual victimization by any of 21 categories of personal fraud, rather than general vulnerability or experience of specific scams. A problem associated with such studies is limited granularity in the analysis, with vulnerability to different types of scam being considered together rather than individually.
Button, Lewis and Tapley , in press make the points that victims of fraud have received little attention from scholars of victimology, and also that because there are a wide variety of types of fraud there will be a wide range of victims Button et al. Thus, it makes sense to examine individual fraud types in detail.
It is possible that the online romance scam might differ from other frauds, given that the prize being dangled before the victim is initially a romantic relationship, not money though this may enter the equation later in proceedings.
At present there is little! empirical work available to draw upon to develop hypotheses about the types of people most likely to be conned by a romance scam. One incentive for going along with the fraud is obviously the quest for a loving relationship. However, that is shared with most other users of the online dating sites — and most other users avoid being defrauded.
The question thus remains as to why some individuals are willing to give up their personal savings for someone they have met online. Loneliness is often advanced as a reason for individuals to use online dating sites.
Lawson and Leck argued that loneliness was among the factors motivating people to date online, and their participants reported online relationships reducing their loneliness. Therefore, the first hypothesis is that victims of the romance scam are likely to score high on measures of loneliness compared with others using online dating sites H1.
While there is a dearth of research on the personality characteristics of fraud victims, it is likely that some personality traits may be relevant to the question of why some people trust the scammers and others do not. Evans and Revelle ! Specifically, dispositional trust was associated positively with Agreeableness more agreeable people were more trusting and Extraversion more extraverted people were more trusting , and negatively with Neuroticism more neurotic, less emotionally stable people were less trusting.
Furthermore, Evans and Revelle found that dispositional interpersonal trust predicted participant behavior in an economic simulation called the Investment Game. This simulation involves participants exchanging funds with an unseen partner reminiscent of the way scam victims may send money to the fraudsters. Accordingly, it is predicted that scam victims will be more extraverted H2 , more agreeable H3 , and less neurotic H4 than those online daters who do not fall victim.
Romantic beliefs. Therefore, views on love might predict being drawn into such a scam. Romantic Beliefs scale consists of four factors: Love Finds a Way i.
The fifth hypothesis is that victims of the romance scam score higher on romantic beliefs compared with others using online dating sites (H5). Sensation seeking Sensation seekers · The online dating romance scam is a relatively new and under-reported international crime targeting users of online dating sites. It has serious financial and emotional · Security Journal. Online romance scams defraud dating website users of large amounts of money and inflict serious psychological harm. Victims of these scams often High scores on the romantic belief of Idealization were associated with likelihood of being a romance scam victim. Victims experienced significant emotional distress as well as financial The online dating romance scam: causes and consequences of victimhood Tom Buchanana* and Monica T. Whittyb aDepartment of Psychology, University of Westminster, Online dating offers new opportunities for individuals to seek a romantic partner; however, the platform has also been exploited by criminals seeking to perpetrate scams, classified as ... read more
Personality, gender and self-perceived intelligence. Related topics. Sensation Seeking in England and America: cross-cultural, age, and sex comparisons. Both the first and subsequent submissions were deleted. Internet threats to end-users: Hunting easy prey.Data from Study 1 suggest that gay men and women are at risk in the same way as heterosexuals. What's in a screen name? However, when one considers emotional impact only among victims in Study 1 most of whom had not lost moneythe full range of the scale is still used. In Press. Loneliness is often advanced as a reason for individuals to use online dating sites. Human-Computer Interaction. Using Multivariate Statistics 5th ed.