Online Dating Scams Take Big Emotional Toll, Expert Says`

The internet has brought people together in a million different ways (even when we lament that it has reduced face-to-face contact somewhat) but online dating can be an entirely different animal altogether- one that also brings some hugely plus plusses and some relatively massive downsides as well.

In the interests of full disclosure, I’m personally a massive proponent of internet relationships due to the fact it enables one to find their entirely most ideal partner (or partners, if that’s your thing), and when precipitated organically, online dating scams are few and far between. However, online dating for the purposes of online dating seems to be less efficient from what I’ve observed anecdotally- that is to say, those who meet naturally on World of Warcraft have a far better crack at it than a couple who viewed one another’s profiles on Match.com or OKCupid.

Fear of duplicity has long been the biggest enemy of finding love on the world wide web, and online dating scams are not entirely uncommon. It seems every few months, a news story hits about some unfortunate lovelorn suitor or mistress who was financially devastated by a scammer online who emptied their bank accounts before breaking their hearts, and not surprisingly, the toll taken isn’t entirely to one’s credit rating.

A small British study of fifteen people (11 women and four men) found that not only are the crimes underreported, often likely due to intense shame and confusion, but that the psychological damage done may outweigh even the direct impact in financial loss. Those who fell victim to the predators in online dating scams were not only victims of what amounts to theft, but often severely traumatized by the loss of what they believed was a genuine relationship.

Professor Monica Whitty of the University of Leicester commented on the findings of the study, in which online dating scam victims were asked to recount the details of their relationship and the resultant discovery that they’d fallen for a scammer:

“Our data suggests that the numbers of British victims of this relatively new crime is much higher than reported incidents show. It also confirms law enforcement suspicions that this is an underreported crime, and thus more serious than first thought.”

Whitty continued:

“This is a concern not solely because people are losing large sums of money to these criminals, but also because of the psychological impact experienced by victims of this crime. It is our view that the trauma caused by this scam is worse than any other, because of the ‘double hit’ experienced by the victims- loss of money and loss of romantic relationship.”

Although it’s difficult for online dating scam victims to see the trauma coming, the study noted those most likely to be drawn in tended to idealize romantic partners and espouse deep-seated romantic leanings.