Four men are on trial in Winchester Crown Court accused of defrauding women out of £220,000 ($366,000) in online dating scams on the match.com site.
Brooke Boston, 28, of Titchfield, Hampshire, and Eberechi Ekpo, 26, of Southsea, Hampshire, have denied charges of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering. Monty Emu, 28, of Southsea, and Adewunmi Nusi, 27, of Hermitage, Berkshire, have denied charges of money laundering.
They are alleged to have been involved in a scheme involving the creation of a fake profile on match.com of a good looking middle-aged man dubbed “James Richards”, according to Get Safe Online.
After luring vulnerable women to the profile, they then allegedly sparked up bogus romances via text and email – sending out messages to multiple recipients such as: "You make me feel loved, you make me feel safe, most importantly you make me feel wanted."
The scams followed a similar pattern to the classic Nigeria 419 confidence trick.
The victims were asked by a fake solicitor “Rod Thompson” to pay £700 in legal fees for “Richards” in order to release a £100 million inheritance from his father’s estate.
Those legal fees requested by the fraudsters would increase by as much as £100,000, according to the report.
One victim, named as Suzanne Hardman from Basingstoke, apparently lost £174,000 ($290,000) in the scam.
Fake documents were emailed across to the victims in an attempt to support the bogus inheritance story, although they apparently included misspellings and other errors.
Emmanuel Oko, 29, of Southsea, has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud and money laundering and Chukwuka Ugwu, 28, of Southsea, had pleaded guilty to money laundering, the report said.
Simon Eappariello, senior vice president EMIEA at iboss network security, urged site owners to “detect and protect” members from fake profiles.
“Advice via online videos and examples of scam cases would go a long way to highlight the dangers of dating con men,” he told Infosecurity.
“Dating sites can also take the offensive by ensuring comprehensive ‘user movement visibility’, which alerts to any areas of concern in real-time. Understanding interaction ‘norms’ will be even more effective enabling fraudsters to be detected quickly, with more accuracy and responded to accordingly.”
Online dating sites have become a major target for scammers and cyber-criminals in recent years as their popularity with the public has risen.
In June this year users of several sites including match.com eHarmony, Lavalife, Zoosk, and SeniorPeopleMeet were hit by a large scale phishing campaign designed to steal log-ins so that scammers could use genuine accounts to commit online dating fraud.
The FBI also warned back in February about cybercriminals trolling such sites in search of victims – usually vulnerable, single women over 40 – to rip off.