419 – The Internet Romance Scam Review: Love Costs

419 – THE INTERNET ROMANCE SCAM: Friday 29th July, C4, 7.35pm

We’ve all laughed at The Fonejacker’s caricature of a Nigerian fraudster with smug superiority because we know that we would never be stupid enough to fall for such an obvious scam. Or would we? Brits lose hundreds of millions of pounds every year to such swindles and as The Internet Romance Scam illustrates, many of the methods used are highly sophisticated, taking advantage of people’s inherent need for companionship.

According to this episode of First Cut, “not only is internet fraud growing – it’s evolvedâ€?, no longer do the Nigerian con artists target unwitting eBay users – you know the ones – now they go for middle-aged women making their first foray back into the world of dating. I’m sure they’re not all upper-class middle-aged women, but all the victims featured in this documentary are. We are shown both sides of the story as the crew fly out to Nigeria and interview “reformedâ€? scammer, Felix, who tells of his torrid past and explains the methods used by those of a less caring persuasion.

Meanwhile, back in Britain we’re shown how two such scamees were severed from their savings. One falling in love with a man who eventually conned her out of over £60,000 by exploiting her maternal instincts and telling her his – imaginary – daughter had been in a hit-and-run accident and amassed medical bills he couldn’t afford to cover. Another even more deluded – to be fair she’s not all that deluded, just completely confused over the legitimacy of her romance, as you too will be by the end of the show – woman whose “boyfriendâ€? came clean and admitted to the scam after a few weeks, only to leech yet more money from her in the following months.

The documentary sends a fairly bleak message to those already weary of the pitfalls of internet dating, but offers slight solace in the form of surprisingly charismatic ex-scammer, Felix, who felt so bad about his deception he eventually saved up the money to pay his victim back.