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Romance Scam Research Center

2021: US: The Restrictive Deterrent Effect of Warning Messages Sent to Active Romance Fraudsters: An Experimental Approach

Wang, Fangzhou; Howell, C Jordan; Maimon, David; Jacques, Scott.  International Journal of Cyber Criminology; Thirunelveli Vol. 15, Iss. 1, (Jan-Jun 2021): 1-16. DOI:10.5281/zenodo.4766529


Abstract: "Romance scams occur when a fraudster adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim's affection and trust and uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship, eventually to steal money from the victim. Victims of such romance fraud experience suffer both financial and emotional burden. Although multiple studies have offered insight into the correlates of perpetration and victimization, no known study has examined if, and how, romance fraud can be curtailed. The current study used a randomized experimental design to test the restrictive deterrent effect of warning messages sent to romance fraudsters via email. The sample consisted of 405 active email addresses, distributed among three groups: deterrent group, promising group, and ambiguous group. Using the mixed research design, the independent variable was Deterrence; while the dependent variables were Responses, words used by respondents and Seeking Reply Without Denial. The data was analyzed in a stepwise fashion through descriptive statistics, a chi-square test of independence, ANOVA test followed by a tukey kramer pairwise compańson test. The findings revealed that active romance fraudsters who received a deterrence message, instead of non-deterrence messages, responded at a lower rate; and, among those who responded, they used fewer words and had a lower probability of seeking reply without denying wrongdoing. The results provide support for restrictive deterrence in cyberspace. Theoretical and policy implications have also been discussed."

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