Online romance scams. Relational dynamics and personality profile of the victims and perpetrators: a scoping review


  • Giacomo Gualtieri
  • Fabio Ferretti
  • Andrea Pozza
  • Fulvio Carabellese
  • Roberto Gusinu
  • Alessandra Masti
  • Anna Coluccia



Digital communication technologies can overcome physical, social and psychological barriers in the construction of romantic
relations. Online romance scams are a modern form of fraud spread in Western societies along with the development of social
media and dating apps. The scammer develops a romantic relationship with the victim for 6-8 months, building a deep emotional
bond through a fictitious Internet profile, with the aim of extorting economic resources in a manipulative dynamic. There are
two peculiarities: on the one hand, the double trauma linked to the loss of money and relationship, on the other one, the victim’s
shame at the discovery of the scam, an aspect that could lead to an underestimation of the number of cases. The present paper
describes a scoping review of the quantitative and qualitative evidence on this issue focusing on epidemiological aspects, relational
dynamics, and personality profiles of the victims and scammers. A literature review was conducted through electronic databases.
Twelve studies were included. We analyse the literature limitations and future directions. Since this phenomenon is as emerging
as still largely unrecognized, understanding the psychological characteristics of the victims and scammers can allow at-risk personality
profiles to be identified and prevention strategies to be developed.