As international criminal gangs increasingly target online dating and social networking sites, as a means of extorting money from unwary victims, research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council ESRC suggests that new strategies are needed for tackling the crime and supporting its victims. The research, which was carried out by Professor Monica Whitty of University of Leicester and Professor Tom Buchanan of the University of Westminster, argues that the police, policy-makers, doctors and dating companies need to take into account the emotional state of those who have been conned, in order to prevent the crime, bring criminals to justice and support victims effectively. They have to deal with the psychological trauma of being both robbed and jilted by a 'lover'. Almost , people in the UK have been conned by online romance fraudsters since , according to the study.
Dating apps and websites could soon use computing algorithms that 'think' like humans to pinpoint fake profiles designed to con victims out of thousands of pounds. The new algorithms have been designed specifically to understand what fake dating profiles look like and then to apply this knowledge when they scan profiles submitted to online dating services. They automatically look out for suspicious signs inadvertently included by fraudsters in the demographic information, the images and the self-descriptions that make up profiles, and reach an overall conclusion as to the probability of each individual profile being fake. When tested, the algorithms produced a very low false-positive rate the number of genuine profiles mistakenly flagged up as fake of around 1 per cent. The aim is now to further enhance the technique and enable it to start being taken up by dating services within the next couple of years, helping them to prevent profiles being posted by scammers.
Her work uniquely considers the psychological aspects of cyber security. Prof Whitty's academic career began in Australia before moving to the UK and Prof Whitty's academic career began in Australia before moving to the UK and then returning home to Australia