Toward a better understanding of romance fraud

Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre logoThe purpose of this research is to better understand the ways in which romance fraud happens against individuals. In particular, this stage of the research seeks to understand the different methods used by offenders to get what they want.

The research is looking for those who have been in a relationship that was established in an online forum (such as a dating website, social media site, or email) and who realised this was not genuine. Further, the research is looking for those who were either asked to send money and didn’t or were asked to send money and did (regardless of the amount of money or the reason for sending it).

Romance fraud in the context of this project, is defined as someone “who has sent money or was asked to send money, from someone they believe they are in a relationship with established within an online context”. The key elements to this definition are the request to send money (successful or not) as well as the online nature of the relationship.

The participant survey is available online.

Project FAQs

What does participation involve?

Your participation will involve completing an online questionnaire. If this is not suitable for you, you may also provide your responses directly via email. You will be asked to complete what is relevant to you in the questionnaire (noting that you may not have answers to all of the questions). You can provide as much or as little information as you are comfortable with.

The questionnaire will ask a range of questions about what happened during your relationship, with a particular focus on different things that the offender did when asking you to send money. You will be asked to provide examples where you can that relate to the technique being asked in the question.

What are the possible risks if I take part?

There are some significant risks to participating in this project.

For some of you, recalling details of your relationship and the circumstances under which you lost money will be extremely distressing. It may bring up feelings of anger, frustration, shame, embarrassment and sadness. It may also be confronting to be asked to provide examples and specific details of times when your offender asked you to do certain things. It may be very difficult to feel confident to open up and share details of your relationship. This may particularly be the case if you have not been able to share these with anyone else, or you have had a negative experience of sharing these details.

It is important to know that you are not alone and not to blame for what has happened. There are thousands of people across the world who have been in similar circumstances to you, and have lost money through an online relationship. It is important to know that there is no judgement of those who have been in this situation.

This project has been specifically designed to try and reduce the impact that this has on your own feelings and well-being.

There is also a risk that you provide information about potentially criminal behaviour that occurred during your relationship. An example of this would be if you used your own bank account to send funds received from your offender to another account across the world. Associate Professor Cross has no obligation to report any of these activities to any law enforcement agency.

It should be noted that if you do agree to participate you can withdraw from participation in the research without comment or penalty up until the point you submit your questionnaire.

What are the possible benefits if I take part?

It is expected that this research project will not directly benefit you. The outcomes of the research, however, may benefit others who find themselves in similar situations to you in the future.

Romance fraud affects thousands of people across the world. This project is trying to better understand how it occurs, in order to try and improve the prevention of it, as well as better support those who experience it.

It is important to note that you are being asked to provide your experiences of romance fraud for research purposes only. Associate Professor Cross does not have the ability or authority to investigate what has happened to you and will not pass on any information that you provide to anyone else (such as police or banks). Further, this research will not be able to help you get your money back.

Will participants be compensated for their time?

No, but we would very much appreciate your participation in this research.

Who is funding this research?

The research project is funded by the Cyber Security CRC however they will not have access to personally identifying information about you that may be obtained during the research project.

I am interested in participating – what should I do next?

The participant survey is available online.

Alternatively, you can contact Associate Professor Cassandra Cross. Associate Professor Cross will provide you with further information to ensure that your decision and consent to participate is fully informed.

Associate Professor Cassandra Cross
Phone: +61 7 3138 7131