The relationship made me happy.’ About four months later Kerry, who claimed to be 45, began to request money, initially for an air fare from Ghana, where she said she lived.David says: ‘I agreed and sent money through the Money Gram service at a post office.’The use of a money transfer service is another crafty ruse, as payees cannot be easily traced.David became suspicious as the requests for cash increased.But so sophisticated was the scam that Kerry produced a plane ticket, visa and other paperwork that all appeared genuine.Female victims are usually hooked with profiles of middle-aged men.They are often of average appearance, wearing shirts with button down collars, and who claim to have solid jobs in the likes of medicine, the military or engineering.He says: ‘I was encouraged to take up a hobby and have been ballroom dancing several nights a week.It has been great as therapy and for making friends.‘I’ve only just started to be able to trust people again.
Winchester says scammers typically use photos of classically attractive women, often blue-eyed brunettes aged about 30, which are lifted from glamour websites, to reel in 50-something males.
And the mobile number he’d given her was tracked to Africa. The number was no longer in service when she tried again.’Julie, like most victims, feels ‘angry, stupid, duped and impotent’.
Behind the scenes, dating websites try to prevent these nightmares by weeding out scammers.
Matt Connolly, founder of My Lovely Parent, aimed at older divorced or widowed customers, says it checks the IP or Internet Protocol address that pinpoints the location of computers.
He says: ‘If someone says they are in the UK, but the IP address is Nigeria, then that rings alarm bells and we can delete a profile.‘None of the profiles go up on the website until they have been approved by humans.’Dan Winchester works for Scamalytics, a software company that helps protect many dating websites and their customers.