A new study, "Quit Playing Games With My Heart: Understanding Online Dating Scams," a collaboration between University College London and Jiayuan, China's largest dating site, revealed the unbelievably creative and involved cons that plague online dating there.
And potential victims are lining up for many of these cons: 20% percent of the "swindler" profiles received at least 70 message before being deleted.
Because the "flower basket" scam is so culturally specific, it may be tempting to isolate it as a Chinese phenomenon. While the cultural particulars of online dating scams may change, the social and emotional forces at play are universal.
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Ask a single American city-dweller about deception in the world of online dating and you'll hear a litany of familiar, if not particularly serious, complaints: exaggerated heights, photos so flattering they border on fantasy, and horndog men who overstate their desire to settle down.
Ask their Chinese counterpart, and you're likely to hear a much wilder story.According to the study, these dates can cost anywhere from 0 to ,000.Afterward, of course, the bilked bachelor never hears from his date again."It's sort of a perfect scam," said Gianluca Stringhini, one of the study's co-authors, "because the person would never realize that they've been scammed." Indeed, as the study points out, the mark may have even had a good time while getting grifted.After some time, the grifter "will start implying that he wants to marry the victim" and will claim his parents require a gesture of good will: an incredibly expensive (up to ,000) flower basket as a lucky charm for a fictional new store.The grifter directs his victim to a local florist — who he knows — and then they share the profit.It's also, according to Stringhini, not strictly illegal, so the conspirators don't put themselves at much of a risk.