top of page

Romance Scam Research Center

2023: UK: Drug mule for love

Whitty, Monica T.  Journal of Financial Crime; London Vol. 30, Iss. 3, (2023): 795-812. DOI:10.1108/JFC-11-2019-0149



The purpose of this paper is to gain in-depth understandings of the stages involved in the case of a romance scam victim who was unknowingly used as a drug mule. The work compares this case with established research in this field. It also seeks to learn more about the strategies used by these cybercriminals.


The research presents a case study of a victim of a romance scam who was arrested for drug trafficking. The research involves a grounded theory analysis of interviews with the victim, legal team and family members and analysis of her instant messenger chat logs and email communications.


The analysis identified a variation on previous stage models of romance scams and re-names this as the “romance scammers” strategy model. It also replicates previous work on scammers’ techniques and highlights some new strategies, including positively and negatively framing messages, unconditional positive regard, activating norms of romantic relationships, cognitive immersion, manipulating role, sleep deprivation and signing is believing.

Practical implications

These findings could be used to help guide future similar court cases. Moreover, they can be drawn upon to advance future research on romance scams, as well as scams in general.


This is the first in-depth case study of a romance scam victim involved in drug trafficking and is the first research on romance scams to examine in depth a case, taking into account textual exchanges. While not undermining previous research, this paper provides valuable insights that are lacking in previous qualitative work on cyber scam victims."

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page