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Match.com: Men guilty of dating website scam

8 September 2014 

Four people have been convicted at Winchester crown court over a match.com scam.

They were found to have used the dating website to trick 12 women out of nearly £250,000 by using fake profiles on the site.

See the video on BBC

Two men have been convicted for their roles in a scam to con 12 women out of nearly £250,000 via a dating website.

Winchester Crown Court heard the fictional “James Richards” told women using match.com he needed money to release a £100m inheritance in India.

One victim handed over £174,000.

Peter Monty Emu, 28, of Portsmouth, and Adewunmi Nusi, 27, of Hermitage, Berkshire, were convicted of money launderingMoney laundering Money laundering is the illegal process of concealing the origins of money obtained illegally by passing it through a complex sequence of banking transfers or commercial transactions. Money laundering can be done through various mediums, leveraging a variety of payment vehicles, people and institutions.. Chukwuka Ugwu, 28, and Emmanuel Oko admitted the same charge.

Oko, 29, of Waverley Grove, Southsea, also admitted fraudFraud In law, fraud is intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain (money or other assets), or to deprive a victim of a legal right. Fraud can violate civil law (e.g., a fraud victim may sue the fraud perpetrator to avoid the fraud or recover monetary compensation) or criminal law (e.g., a fraud perpetrator may be prosecuted and imprisoned by governmental authorities), or it may cause no loss of money, property, or legal right but still be an element of another civil or criminal wrong. The purpose of fraud may be monetary gain or other benefits, for example by obtaining a passport, travel document, or driver's license, or mortgage fraud, where the perpetrator may attempt to qualify for a mortgage by way of false statements. A fraud can also be a hoax, which is a distinct concept that involves deliberate deception without the intention of gain or of materially damaging or depriving a victim..

The four men are due to be sentenced next month and the Crown Prosecution Service will apply for the “ill-gotten” money to be confiscated.

The court heard how fake profiles were created on the dating site.

Women were flattered by the messages from the “attractive middle-aged man”, one of which said: “I knew our friendship would grow from the first day we spoke but neither one of us could imagine the love exploding, no thundering into our hearts.”

‘Elaborate scam’
Once the relationships developed, the conspirators started requesting cash.

The women were first asked for a £700 legal fee by a fake solicitor but then the sums requested rose to up to £100,000.

One victim, Suzanne Hardman, handed over £174,000.

Suspicions were raised when one woman received the same email twice and wrote back to the sender, saying: “I wonder how many hearts you have broken”.

Det Con Darrin Carey, of Hampshire Constabulary, said: “The women were duped into thinking that they were talking to a man who was genuinely looking for love on the dating website match.com.

“Unfortunately for them, they were part of an elaborate scam.”

Abbey Boston, 28, of Titchfield, Hampshire, was cleared of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering.

Eberechi Ekpo, 26, of Portsmouth was acquitted under directions of the judge on 29 August.

A match.com spokeswoman said: “Unfortunately, there is a tiny minority of people out there who want to exploit others over the internet. We advise people to use the same common sense as they would if they were meeting someone in a bar or a pub.

“We give lots of safe-dating advice on our site and in emails to members. This makes it clear that you should never send money to anyone you meet online.

“We invest heavily in the latest technology alongside a dedicated team of people and work closely with the authorities to make dating as safe as we can.”