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Women, under-40 most frequently victimized by ‘romance scams’: study

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : May 29, 2023 - 13:56

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An overwhelming majority of those who fall victim to "romance scams," in which a scammer manipulates the victim by abusing his or her affection and trust, in South Korea are women or under 40, a recent study by scholars at Seoul-based Korea University showed.

An analysis of crime reports filed to the National Police Agency between January and June of last year showed that 71.4 percent of victims in a total 280 crimes categorized as romance scams were female, according to the “Current status of romance scams and countermeasures” study by researchers from the university’s school of cybersecurity.

By age, 52.1 percent of the victims were in their 20s and 35.4 percent were in their 30s.

“Those in their 30s or younger -- the generation used to ‘online life’ -- are relatively more familiar with socializing online, and are more prone to become the target of romance scams,” the researchers wrote.

Over half of the scams were related to foreign currency exchange -- 55.4 percent -- followed by payment by proxy and cryptocurrency investigation, respectively at 37.1 percent and 7.5 percent. The scammers would most frequently contact their victims through Instagram, 27.7 percent, followed by dating apps Wippy and Tinder -- 14 percent and 7 percent.

The accumulated amount of damage from the romance scams in the first half of 2022 was 3.77 billion won ($2.84 million), which was larger than the amount for the entire year of 2021 at 2.07 billion won, according to data from the National Intelligence Service.

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Researchers noted that the South Korean law does not yet have clauses that can help prevent such crime. They pointed out that many of the romance scams take the form of the victim making payment via credit on fake websites set up by the criminal, which is not specified as a situation in which payment can be suspended under the Special Act on the Prevention of Loss Caused by Telecommunications-based Financial Fraud and Refund for Loss.

“In order to minimize the damage from romance scams, the new methods of crime and related clues must be forwarded to the investigative authorities to cook up proper measures. Sharing and processing the information collected from the victims is key to reducing such crime,” the researchers said, stressing the need for subsequent studies related to romance scams.

Romance scams, which often involve fraudulent identities created with stolen images, have been on the rise across the world. An October report by the US Federal Trade Commission showed that damages from romance scams in the US hit a record $547 million, more than six times the figure of 2017.

Last week, the South Korean Embassy in Mexico issued a warning about a recently spreading crime victimizing Korean women, in which criminals are assuming the identity of Korean men in well-paying jobs to swindle money.