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Romance Scam Research Center

2019: UK: Who can spot an online romance scam?

Whitty, Monica T.  Journal of Financial Crime; London Vol. 26, Iss. 2, (2019): 623-633. DOI:10.1108/JFC-06-2018-0053



This paper aims to examine predictors (personality, belief systems, expertise and response time) of detecting online romance scams.


The online study asked 261 participants to rate whether a profile was a scam or a genuine profile. Participants were also asked to complete a personality inventory, belief scales and demographic, descriptive questions. The online study was also designed to measure response time.


It was found that those who scored low in romantic beliefs, high in impulsivity, high in consideration of future consequences, had previously spotted a romance scam and took longer response times were more likely to accurately distinguish scams from genuine profiles. Notably, the research also found that it was difficult to detect scams. The research also found that it was important to adapt Whitty’s (2013) “Scammers Persuasive Techniques Model” to include a stage named: “human detection of scam versus genuine profiles”.


This is the first study, to the author’s knowledge, that examines predictors of human accuracy in detecting romance scams. Dating sites and government e-safety sites might draw upon these findings to help improve human detection and protect users from this financial and psychologically harmful cyberscam."

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