Man duped by online romance scams... three times

Dating scammers strike one man three times: could you be at risk?

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It's safe to say that Ben Ivey, a 32-year-old singleton from Sydney, Australia, has been unlucky in love. He has been scammed three times by different women he met online in the last three years - and has lost an astonishing $20,000 to these scammers.

Ivey told the Daily Mail that has been online dating since 2011, after failing to find lasting love at university and his local church. He thought he had fallen in love three times during this period, but each time he has fallen victim to dating scammers.

The scam

This is a rising trend, where gangs of criminals use online dating websites to target singletons and extract money from them. Typically they quickly develop an intense relationship, they move off the website and into private messages, then they start asking for money.

In some instances they tell a sob story and ask for money because of a fake illness, personal or business problem. In other cases they live far afield and they ask for the money to enable them to come and visit, and in some instances they persuade the victims to send intimate photographs and then blackmail them.

In Ivey's case, the first scammer told him she was an actress in London, and used a combination of a sob story (a lost handbag) and a travel tale (she needed money to come to see him). He handed over $1,965: it took him 17 days to realise she had taken the money and gone. The second scammer told him she needed to catch a plane with her dog, and asked him for $11,433. After he sent it she disappeared. And the third was another woman who said she lived in London, but this time she needed to pay legal fees on a property she had inherited in order to take possession of the house and have the money to visit him. She scammed him out of $8,024.

He has now found love with a woman in the Philippines, who he met via a dating app. He plans to propose to her when he travels to meet her for the first time.

Not alone

He is far from the first person to fall victim to these scams - although to do so three times is particularly unlucky.

We reported back in July on the romance fraudster who pretended to be a spy in order to steal money from women. He took a total of £30,000 including £18,000 from one woman who re-mortgaged her home to afford it. He was jailed for three years.

Earlier that month a documentary aired about a group of women who had been conned by an online dating fraudster. He told some of them he needed an operation, and others that he needed the money for a business deal. Some women remortgaged their homes in order to help him out with tens of thousands of pounds.

Professor Monica Whitty from the University of Leicester has been researching the risks of internet dating, and has discovered that in just one year in the UK there were 592 victims of this crime - with more than a third of them losing over £5,000.

Protect yourself

With so many people now finding love online, the risk of falling prey to these scammers needs to be considered every time you start to communicate with someone new.

Action Fraud says there are a number of signs which could help people realise they have been targeted by a scammer. They say that anyone who has developed a relationship with someone they met online via emails, text messages and phone calls should be aware of the risks.

They should become suspicious if their new love looks like a supermodel, and if they ask lots of questions about you but don't tell you much about themselves - especially if they don't answer basic questions about where they live and work.

Other signs include calling you by a pet name or using terms such as 'darling'. You should also be concerned if they want to communicate with you through instant messaging and, texts, rather than through the dating website or chat room where you met. And if anyone ever asks for money it should be the final nail in the coffin.

To protect yourself they recommend trusting your instincts and guarding your privacy when developing an online relationship. They add that you should never send money or hand over credit card or bank account details to someone you don't know - even if it feels like you've fallen in love online.

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