After a couple of months, he said he had to go to the Middle East for an oil rig refurbishment and even sent Jane pictures of him in his hardhat on the rig.
She was all set to meet him at the airport when he suddenly messaged saying his funds had dried up and he needed £5,000.
In mid December the Department of Justice announced that seven men—six from Nigeria and one from South Africa—pled guilty to conning tens of millions of dollars from Americans via online dating sites.
While the case was remarkable for its magnitude, when it comes to so-called “romance scams,” it still represents just the tip of the iceberg.
Nancy*, a 47-year-old single mother from North Yorkshire was conned out of over £350,000 that way: “I wasn't comfortable, and then I got so far in I couldn't get myself out, and I didn't want to walk away having lost £50,000 or what-have-you, so you keep going in the hope that you're wrong and this person is genuine,” she explained to the BBC.
Nancy is now facing bankruptcy, and although her case is extreme, the average victim of online dating fraud loses £10,000 according to Action Fraud.
A new report by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has found that last year, singles were conned out of £39 million by fraudsters they’d met on dating sites and apps.
Con artists are increasingly creating fake online profiles and tricking people on dating sites into handing over often large sums of money.
“A lot of the online dating fraudsters we know are abroad.
They're in West Africa, Eastern Europe and it's very difficult for British law enforcement to take action against them in those jurisdictions,” Steve Profitt, Deputy Head of Action Fraud explains.
The female profile is in her 20s (29 was the most common age), and also has a high income.
She presents herself as a student, also with a degree and no interest in politics.
It was only when her money transfer was blocked due to a security alert around the man’s name that she realised something was wrong.