The trauma of online dating fraud revealed

More than 200,000 people in Britain may have been the victims of online dating scams, according to a major study conducted by researchers at Leicester and Westminster universities. The research shows that these frauds are hugely underreported, yet can cost people hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Online fraud of this kind typically involves criminals setting up fake identities using stolen photos of attractive people, often models or army officers. They establish a relationship with the victim and then ask for financial help.

Although some of those targeted have handed over hundreds of thousands of pounds, the crimes often remain unreported because victims are too ashamed and upset.

Chartered Psychologist Professor Monica Whitty from the University of Leicester told Channel 4 News:

"It is our view that the trauma caused by this scam is worse than any other, because of the 'double hit' experienced by the victims - loss of monies and a 'romantic relationship'. It may well be that the shame and upset experienced by the victims deters them from reporting the crime. We thus believe new methods of reporting the crime are needed."