Victims of online dating scams traditional dating services

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In the first major study into online dating scams, researchers at Leicester and Westminster universities found that over 200,000 Britons have been directly affected by online scams, while over a million people personally know the victim of the crime.

Professor Monica Whitty from the University of Leicester said: “Our data suggests that the numbers of British victims of this relatively new crime is much higher than reported incidents would suggest.” Researchers questioned 2,000 people through an online You Gov survey.

Ms Rickard said the ACCC did not have the resources to police the huge number of incidents being reported to them each year and catching just one scammer was incredibly difficult.

"It is incredibly resource-intensive and requires cooperation with overseas agencies to catch just one person," she said."In terms of the amount of romance scams out there, catching one would have very little impact."Ms Rickard said reporting scams to Scamwatch helped the organisation form an understanding of the size of the problem, devote resources to the issue and develop educational campaigns to warn the public.

But as Valentine’s Day gets closer, we want to warn you that criminals use these sites, too, looking to turn the lonely and vulnerable into fast money through a variety of scams.