Romance fraud is a cruel crime – it catches people of all ages and social classes – Jane Hamilton

The world has changed.

Chances are if you’re single and under 50 you’re probably on a dating or social media website, hoping you might just meet “the one”.

Gone are the days when the most likely place you met your significant other was the local pub – and pals setting up blind dates for their mates is no doubt seen as very old fashioned nowadays.

We’re so ingrained in living our lives electronically that finding love is a big business for the dot com era – and manna from heaven for the serial fantasists, with artists, sex offenders and organized criminals.

You’re more likely to swipe than stumble into the arms of your one true love but actively searching for your soulmate should come with its very own hazard warning.

Such are the perils of modern dating that you can be anyone you want to be behind a screen – and almost always someone will believe it. Want to meet a multi-millionaire with a high-rolling lifestyle? You got it.

Hard-working but loyal office worker just looking for a nice partner to settle down with? Easy as pie. Humble, loving, trustworthy music lover looking for similar for long-term relationship?

Search for almost anything from all walks of life and you’ll find it somewhere online.

The perfect partner exists – you just need to search.

But beware – has your “perfect partner” already gleaned every bit of info they can on you from social media and search engines and knows your favorite colour, band, holiday etc?

Is your perfect partner looking for the vulnerabilities – you’re widowed, divorced, your last partner cheated – and honoring the skills required to be the very opposite of what you’ve already experienced?

Lisa (not her real name) tells me she met her ideal man through Bumble.

Still recovering from a nasty breakup, she joined the dating app in the hope that she would meet someone for casual fun with no strings attached.

“I was curious. I hadn’t been on a dating site before and I’m not a stupid person at all,” she said.

“I don’t trust easily so when a message came through from a guy my first instinct was to run for the hills but he was drop dead gorgeous.

“My curiosity was well and truly piqued. We messaged back and forth for weeks and I found myself, even at work, checking my phone to see if he messaged me and I always got a little thrill when I saw his name from him.

“We exchanged private details, pictures, stories from our pasts and present and I was so caught up in the ‘romance’ I didn’t stop to think for one minute that ‘Ian’ didn’t exist.

“He spoke about streets in my home town where he said he was from and was plausible.

“We arranged to meet then he said he’d been called away on business. The next time his mum was ill and so on.

“He sent me flowers and little gifts. This went on for a good two months then he asked me for money.

“His landlord had thrown him out and he needed a deposit for a flat and could only come up with half. I didn’t want to leave him homeless.”

Ian turned out to be a fraud – a friend of Lisa’s had become suspicious and had turned detective.

The photo Ian was using was lifted from an American website and the phone number he’d used was just a throwaway SIM card.

Lisa had been caught out in a romance fraud – and was so ashamed she’d fallen for it she didn’t report it to the police.

“There’s no way I was showing the messages to the police, it’s a chapter of my life I want to forget,” she said.

Romance fraud is a particularly cruel crime – it catches people of all ages, all social classes and affects not only emotional stability but finances too.

It can totally destabilize people and leave scars just as deep as those victims who have suffered physical harm.

It’s evil and we can only hope people can overcome their embarrassment and shame and report them to the authorities.

Hustlers will always hustle – daters just need to get smarter.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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