He claimed to be a widower in his late-40s with a teenage daughter.Julie, then 47, believed he was from the American Midwest, a career soldier and an animal-lover who was fond of travel and looking for a long-term relationship.
He says: ‘We help websites share intelligence, so if a scammer targets someone on one website this will be flagged up to others.’Classic signals that a fraudster is at work include the use of fake photos, culled from other websites, or overly elaborate language on their profile.
Winchester says: ‘Sometimes they use the same photos, but with different profiles, which is another red flag.’Many romance scams are even carried out by ‘bots’ – whose questions and responses are automated using artificial intelligence software.
The relationship made me happy.’ About four months later Kerry, who claimed to be 45, began to request money, initially for an air fare from Ghana, where she said she lived.
David says: ‘I agreed and sent money through the Money Gram service at a post office.’The use of a money transfer service is another crafty ruse, as payees cannot be easily traced.
Police figures show that 3,900 people reported being duped into parting with an average £10,000 last year through dating websites, with two thirds of victims women and one in four in their 50s.