The online dating romance scam: causes and consequences of victimhood

Tom Buchanan, Monica T. Whitty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

117 Citations (Scopus)


The online dating romance scam is a relatively new and under-reported international crime targeting users of online dating sites. It has serious financial and emotional consequences, affecting hundreds of thousands of people. However, little if anything is known about psychological characteristics that may put people at risk of romance scam victimization, or influence how they react to it. Online daters (N=853) and participants recruited from a victim support site (N=397) completed a battery of online questionnaires. High scores on the romantic belief of Idealization were associated with likelihood of being a romance scam victim. Victims experienced significant emotional distress as well as financial losses. Even respondents who reported being fooled by scammers, but who had not lost any money, reported significant distress. Level of emotional distress was associated with high Neuroticism, and also with high Loneliness and low Openness to Experience among victims not losing money. The findings have implications for the feasibility of crime-prevention measures based on victim characteristics, and for treatment of victims by law enforcement and other stakeholders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-283
Number of pages23
JournalPsychology, Crime and Law
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • fraud
  • idealization
  • Internet
  • online dating romance scam
  • romantic beliefs

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