Academic journal article Journal of Psychological and Educational Research

The Online Romance Scam: A Complex Two-Layer Scam

Academic journal article Journal of Psychological and Educational Research

The Online Romance Scam: A Complex Two-Layer Scam

Article excerpt

Online dating has evolved very quickly from its beginnings as a site of relatively marginal interest to become an influential mainstream social practice facilitating the finding of a partner (Magrina, 2014). In 2003, Edelson (2003) reported the online personals category was one of the most lucrative forms of paid content on the web in the United States. At this time, it was predicted that the market would be worth $642 million in 2008 (Greenspan, 2003), but by 2009, Rege (2009) predicted that e-love networks would generate $1.9 billion by 2012. These revenues are now estimated to be growing at a rate of 10 percent each year (Bridges, 2012) and it was claimed that even in these early years, social networking of this kind had become the fourth most popular strategy in finding a date or a romantic partner (Valkenburg & Peter, 2007).

Indeed, this industry has now grown exponentially in many Western countries. For instance, one in ten Americans have used an online dating site or mobile dating app, and of these users, 66% have gone on a date with someone they met through a dating site or app and 23% have met a spouse or long term partner through these sites (Smith & Duggan, 2013). It is estimated that the industry is today worth more than £2bn globally (Magrina, 2014; Wendel, 2015). The influence of this industry is further shown by the observation that the value of the UK's online dating market alone was £165 million in 2013, but is predicted to grow by 36.4% to £225 million by 2019 (Online Dating, 2015).

Inevitably, unscrupulous individuals have recognized the monetizing potential of Online Dating in the cyberspace. Indeed, given the popularity of the online dating market and the significant economic implications of the area, it is perhaps not surprising that this has become a key focus of fraudsters and scammers (Fair, Tully, Ekdale, & Asante, 2009; Rathinaraj & Chendroyaperumal, 2010). In 2014, it was reported that dating and romance scams remained in the number one position in terms of financial losses, showing an estimated loss of $27 million, but it has since increased more than 10 per cent in 2015 (Australian Competition and Consumer, Commission, 2015). In addition, earlier figures suggested that victims of this type of fraud have lost an average of $17,000 per person, an amount which is almost twice that of victims involved in other advanced fee scams (Ross & Smith, 2011). With such a high return, it is understandable that scammers are prepared to invest significant time, energy and ingenuity in building spurious romantic connections.

The internet appears to be the perfect platform for this kind of scam. In the online world, people can manipulate and improve their personal presentation in a quite independent way from their actual appearance and circumstances (Samp & Palevitz, 2014). They are able to strategies their selfdisclosure and identity-management to construct an ideal self-representation which, for example, minimises any feelings of social awkwardness (Ellison, Heino, & Gibbs, 2006; Ellison et al., 2006; Walther, Anderson, & Park, 1994). Furthermore, the transmission of somewhat misleading information regarding the sender's identity (Caspi & Gorsky, 2006) has become a common and accepted phenomenon in online social networking and dating sites (Toma, Hancock, & Ellison, 2008; Ellison et al., 2006). In the light of this somewhat paradoxical acceptance of ambiguity in these early exchanges, it seems that people in these situations are willing to accept a certain level of uncertainty in the initial phase of a new virtual relationship, and appear to intentionally overlook potentially unpleasant characteristics of the new partner. This is also noted in incipient real world relationships (Kee & Rashad Yazdanifard, 2015), where potential partners tend to initially cut out aspects of character which do not fit in their romantic imagination of the appearance of a new partner. …

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