The increasing ease of access to the World Wide Web and email harvesting tools has enabled spammers to target a wider audience. The problem is where scams are widely encountered in day to day environment to individuals from all walks of life and result in millions of dollars in financial loss as well as emotional trauma (Newman 2005). This paper aims to analyse and examine the structure of Romance Fraud, in a bid to understand and detect Romance Fraud profiles. We focus on scams that utilise the medium of dating websites. The primary indicators of Romance Fraud identified in the literature include social factors, scam characteristics and content. The approach followed is informed by interpretivist and quantitative research perspectives. From this understanding, Romance Fraud can be viewed as a methodical attempt by scammers to penetrate their victims’ defences by impersonating someone else or creating an avatar (fictitious identity). A quantitative approach was undertaken in order to extract reflective, informative and rich data (Neuman 2003). The research methodology incorporating Knowledge Discovery from an existing proprietary online dating database was adopted to provide the foundation for this research (PiatetskyShapiro 1996). Keywords: Romance Scams in Online Dating, Information Systems Security (ISS), Identity Fraud, Identity Theft and Identity Deception
In the past, criminals have been exploitive of naive and vulnerable persons. With the advent of new technology, it is not so much as new crimes are being perpetrated, but more of old crimes being through new mediums (FDIC 2009, Newman 2005, Silberstein 2009). In particular, crimes that play upon the victims‟ trust and feelings such as Romance Fraud, are perpetuated through specific channels such as dating websites (Henderson 2009). The confidence trick involved in Nigerian 419 type fraud, especially appeals to criminals due to the power that the criminal can be perceived to have in relationship to the victim (Hitchcock, 2009, Jerving, 2007). This can be extrapolated to Romance Fraud, in that the victim will always be in a power struggle against the scammer. This topic is particularly relevant in today‟s climate as it has been observed that cases of Nigerian 419 type fraud tend to be on the rise during financial crises (Levitz and Stecklow 2008). In order to understand the premise of fraudsters, it is useful to look at both the behaviour of legitimate Internet daters as well as the interesting exploits of 'scambaiters'. In the former case, understanding how romance generally plays out in the Internet space enables the researcher to identify key aspects that appeal to potential victims of Romance Fraud (Henderson 2009). Interestingly, Internet users in general and certain online communities such as daters, often feel more at ease exposing their 'true, inner self' often using an alias or avatar in the Internet medium than in face to face communication. Gill and Oberlander (2003) found that people, through an initial, single „zero-acquaintance‟ e-mail message could reliably infer the author‟s level of extraversion from the text alone. Romance Fraud utilises the trust of the victims built through these means to convince the victims to pay for various fictitious escapades - usually...