The death of Western Australian woman, Jette Jacobs, as a result of travelling overseas to meet her online love, is an absolute tragedy. For all of us who work at bringing awareness to the ever increasing risks and dangers associated with online dating this is the news none of us wanted to hear, but ultimately accepted was inevitable.
It is reported Jette Jacobs had been communicating with her Nigerian born lover for a number of years and was most likely the victim of a romance scam, having already sent over approximately $80,000 to her online love during this time. Having already initially met in person once before, it is understandable why Jette Jacobs may have felt no hesitation in travelling to meet him a second time – and certainly the typical elements of a romance scam do not include the face to face meeting between the victim and criminal.
With an average of $20,000 lost per victim, not only do romance scams break the victim’s hearts and leave them financially devastated, it is now evident they can also cause serious harm as a result of victims travelling overseas to meet their date. Through my own experience of travelling to Malaysia to assist in the arrest of group of romance scammers I was advised by the authorities they could only obtain a report from a victim of a romance scam if they travelled to Malaysia and made it in person! The thought of a victim (who has lost everything) being required to fund a trip to a foreign country simply to lodge a report (let alone the possibility of added returns throughout the Court process) is completely unrealistic.
Although the death of Jette Jacobs is the first case I have heard of where an Australian has lost their life as a result of meeting their scammer, she is certainly not the first online dater to risk their safety travelling abroad to meet their love. Take for example the 2007 kidnapping of Des Gregor from Adelaide who was held hostage for 12 days in Mali. Or the case of Sharon Armstrong, a New Zealand woman who in 2011 travelled to Argentina to meet her Date and found herself in prison on drug trafficking charges as a result of carrying her Dates suitcase on board her flight seemingly unaware narcotics were hidden inside.
So should everyone who is online dating be wary of romance scammers? Absolutely – romance scammers do not discriminate. If you’re presenting yourself online as looking for love then you are susceptible to scammers. They’re looking across multiple channels (dating sites, social networking, business networking etc) and with the functionality of most of these sites it is very easy to target the “single and looking” individuals utilising them. Statistics also show if you are over 45, divorced, have adult children living away from home and do not have a strong support network of friends and family then you are most likely to find yourself a victim of these online lotharios.
The key to staying safe online is staying in control and understanding not everyone is as honest as they claim to be. You certainly wouldn’t associate with criminals in real life, let alone give them money, so why should it be any different just because you’re online?
When in doubt – check them out! As private investigators, CupidScreen.com offers a dedicated background checking service purely for couples who have met online.
Worried you may be communicating with a scammer? Download our iphone app – the “Romance Scam Check”!
 Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Statistics – news.com.au (Feb 14 2012)