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Anatomy of the online dating romance scam

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The Online Dating Romance Scam is a relatively new form of online fraud. This article draws from three qualitative studies: an analysis of posts from a public online support group, in-depth interviews with victims of this crime and an interview with a Serious Organised Crime Agency officer to outline the anatomy of this scam. It is argued here that there are five distinct stages of this crime. In Stage 1, the criminal creates an attractive profile to draw in the victim; in Stage 2, the criminal grooms the victim, priming them to send money; in Stage 3, the criminal begins to request funds from the victim (there a four potential trajectories at this stage); in Stage 4, which only a few went through, the victim is sexually abused via cybersex; and finally Stage 5 is the revelation. Understanding the anatomy of this scam is important for prevention as well as psychological treatment.

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The work reported in this article was supported by award RES-000-22-4022 from the UK Economic and Social Research Council. I would also like to acknowledge the valuable assistance provided by the UK Serious Organised Crime Agency and PARSHIP GmbH.

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Whitty, M. Anatomy of the online dating romance scam. Secur J 28, 443–455 (2015).

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