Shirley, 45 years old, met James, who called himself a professor at a British university, on an Internet chat site. A whirlwind cyber romance followed, following which they agreed to marry.
He inveigled her into parting with £13,000 (Rs 11 lakh) to make arrangements for the wedding. It was of course a Nigerian conman - she never saw the professor or her money again.
As Valentine Day nears once again, Valentine Day scams too are proliferating on the web. The lonely and middle aged are particularly vulnerable. The scam, perpetrated by Nigerian fraudsters — notorious for the '419 scam' a year ago — is sweeping Australia, with thousands having already been duped. In Britain, the online scam industry is estimated to make £3.5 billion a year.
Sites like Yahoo have made efforts to prevent romance scam. They have posted photographs of alleged scammers and copies of flirty emails, but it has been impossible to catch them or pre-empt them from springing up on some other site.