And it’s not just particularly vulnerable people who fall victim either.
“[It’s] not the case that stupid people fall for romance scams - they can be very clever,” Professor Monica Whitty, a cyber-psychologist, explains. Scamalytics, a company which runs anti-scammer software for a number of the major dating sites, are trying to reduce online dating fraud by creating profiles of the average male and female con artist.
There was only one thing that seemed a little odd to Jane: his syntax occasionally seemed a little unnatural for a native English-speaker, and when they spoke on the phone, something about his voice didn’t seem to match his pictures.
“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.
And a lot of the time, you’re not just talking to one person behind each profile - you could be exchanging messages with a circle of fraudsters acting together, according to KIS Finance.
Serious fraudsters sometimes even create further fake profiles and use them to be rude to you, all to make the main fake profile seem more desirable.
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.
By analysing the top 3,000 scammer profiles (that is, those they’ve come across most frequently in profiles blocked by their software in the last year) they’ve discovered what constitutes the ‘most attractive’ female and male propositions to those targeted by romance scammers.
The male profile is in his late 40s (48 is the most common age) with a high income.
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.