Popular British current affairs program "Victoria Derbyshire" has revealed that online scams reached a new record high in the United Kingdom in 2016, with more and more romance fraud victims handing over money to criminals.
According to the BBC, a British business owner was one of the women who had fallen victim to cyber-crime loosing between £300,000-350,000 (TRY 1.5 million) to a fraudster who claimed to be living in Turkey.
The 47-year-old victim is a single mother from North Yorkshire, who runs her own business for a living. After her divorce in 2015, she began searching for a new partner on the dating site Match.com.
An Italian man, who called himself Marcelo and claimed to be from Manchester but working in Turkey, contacted the woman and impressed her with his "rapport and values".
After talking day and night on the dating website, Marcelo persuaded the woman to continue their chat on an instant messaging service.
He then said that he had been robbed in Turkey and could not return to UK to meet the victim, unless he paid his workers. The fraudster also claimed that his son was receiving medical treatment in a hospital and needed surgery.
The woman initially sent £3,160 to Marcelo, and continued to give him more money for medical feeds, food, rent and taxes to get him out of Turkey.
"I wasn't comfortable, and then I got so far in I couldn't get myself out, and I didn't want to walk away having lost £50,000 or what-have-you, so you keep going in the hope that you're wrong and this person is genuine", she said.
The 47-year-old victim is only one of many who feel emotionally "brutalized" after finding out her lover was a scammer. She eventually ended up facing bankruptcy after having lost £300,000-350,000 of her money.
UK's National Fraud Intelligence Bureau reported that there were 3,889 victims of romance fraud last year, who sent over a record of £39 million.
Over 350 reports of such scams were received in a month, cyber-crime reporting center Action Fraud announced, adding that each victim lost £10,000 on average.
"A lot of the online dating fraudsters we know are abroad. They're in West Africa, Eastern Europe and it's very difficult for British law enforcement to take action against them in those jurisdictions", Steve Proffitt, deputy head of Action Fraud, said.
Criminals of romance fraud usually decide on their victims after going through their profiles and gathering information about their wealth and lifestyle before starting manipulation.
Most of these criminals cover their tracks by using unregistered phone numbers and hiding IP addresses, leading to the police not being able to recover the money.
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