Preying on lonely hearts is big business

By Tim Harvey, CFE, JP

Global Fraud Focus: Examining cross-border issues

Actress Loretta Young once said, "Love isn't something you find. Love is something that finds you." Unfortunately, it's often not love that's seeking defenseless victims but ruthless, determined criminals who have complete disregard for victims and laugh at their vulnerabilities as weaknesses.

Romance, sweetheart or dating scams are widespread and are becoming even more prevalent worldwide. Once again, the fraudsters are targeting the vulnerable.

A brief web search will show that the FBI, FTC, Secret Service, U.S. Army plus agencies in the Canadian, Australian and U.K. governments have all issued warnings about the dangers of these scams. A  Time  magazine article by Charlie Campbell reported on July 9 that Malaysia is becoming the current crime hub for this fraud.

Some fraudsters are getting seriously rich with these schemes. Media reports show victims in just four countries have recently lost more than US$190 million.

According to the Australian Mail, 2,700 reports were made last year resulting in $25 million in losses. (See  Love lost online, by Amy Ziniak, Aug. 11.) And according to George Haslock, communication officer with  Action Fraud — the U.K. fraud reporting center — 2,183 were victims of this type of fraud between July 2013 and June 2014. That's an average of 182 crimes per month. Haslock said, in an email exchange, the reported annual losses were £28,889,147 in the U.K. alone. Romance fraud is one of the top five crime types reported to Action Fraud.

According to the  Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, Canada lost almost $15 million from romance fraud in 2012. In the U.S., the losses for 2013 were $105 million, according to  Fraud Facts: Online dating scams: The price some will pay for love, by Stephanie Wood, March 10, The Daily Record.

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