What Do We Know About Online Romance Fraud Studies? A Systematic Review of the Empirical Literature (2000 to 2021)

Journal of Economic Criminology 1 (1) (2023)
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We aimed to identify the critical insights from empirical peer-reviewed studies on online romance fraud published between 2000 and 2021 through a systematic literature review using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) protocol. The corpus of studies that met our inclusion criteria comprised twenty-six studies employing qualitative (n = 13), quantitative (n = 11), and mixed (n = 2) methods. Most studies focused on victims, with eight focusing on offenders and fewer investigating public perspectives. All the victim-focused studies relied on data from the Global North, except for Malaysia. Five offender-focused studies used online data available in the public domain, and three derived their data from West Africa. Our review highlights offenders' techniques to deceive and manipulate victims, as revealed in these studies, and highlights some limitations of offender- and victim-focused studies. The dominant framework used across the studies was found to be the “Scammers Persuasive Techniques Model.” While this framework provides a helpful way of considering the stages of victim involvement, it also faces some limitations, which we highlight. Our study reviews the current state of empirical knowledge on romance fraud and identifies certain gaps and biases in the literature. We argue there is a need for further research into online romance fraud to enhance our understanding of it both from the perspective of the offender as well as the experience of the victim. We also highlight the need for a more inclusive and greater range of regional and global diverse range of data sources and perspectives. Given the scale and impact of online romance fraud, we conclude that its study would benefit from a richer empirical engagement that recognizes it as both a regional and global phenomenon.

Author Profiles

Suleman Lazarus
London School of Economics
Jack Whittaker
University of Surrey


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