Scammers on dating sites are committing investment fraud

Max meldpunt
Erasmus School of Economics

Dating fraud and investment fraud have been well-known terms for some time, but recently more and more reports have been received about the combination of these two. Sophie van der Zee, Assistant Professor in the department of Applied Economics at Erasmus School of Economics, explains the psychological process of seizure that leads to cheating and fraud.

47-year-old Danny tells his story at Max Meldpunt. The divorced father is looking for a new relationship and meets the Korean Zhang through Tinder. There is an instant click and after weeks of chatting the two fall in love. Zhang is a successful businesswoman and she persuades Danny to invest in cryptovaluta. The inexperienced Danny ends up losing more than five thousand euros.

Dating fraud during the Corona crisis

According to Sophie van der Zee, this type of dating fraud is more difficult to identify in times of Corona. Because of the lockdown, people are much less likely to leave the house and face-to-face meetings are less common. Normally a bell should ring when the other person cannot meet you in person, but the lockdown has changed the standard.

Social influence tactics

Research by van der Zee shows that the fraudsters use social influences to palm their victims. Examples of this tactic are the use of authority and commitment. People listen better to an authoritarian person with knowledge of the subject. In addition, people are more inclined to do something for someone else when there is a certain commitment. In Danny's case, Zhang told him that she could invest well herself, a skill she learned from her uncle, and she showed him the profits she had made herself. This made Danny feel like she knew what she was talking about and he trusted her to help him invest as well. Furthermore, Zhang called him her future husband in her chats, this term refers to a serious long-term commitment, which creates the feeling of connection. All these ways of convincing the victim are built up very slowly. It takes weeks to months to build this up, says van der Zee.

Fulltime job

Even though the victims feel like they're chatting with one person, a whole gang could be behind the scam. Earlier research shows that most of them are men from West Africa, but tracing the scammers is difficult. Half of the victims say they are dissatisfied with how the police dealt with their charges, says van der Zee. The chance that they will ever see their money again is very small. Van der Zee's advice, be alert, but enjoy. Much more often online dating ends happily.

Assistant professor
More information

Watch the entire item of Max meldpunt here, 1 May 2020 (in Dutch).