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Yonden Lhatoo is the Chief News Editor at the South China Morning Post.

He is a former television news anchor and veteran broadcast journalist.

" data-title="Yonden Lhatoo" data-html="true" data-template=" Why are Hong Kong’s lonely hearts, especially single women looking for love online, such easy pickings for romance scammers?

I would assume that every adult in this city is surely aware of these rackets that have been breaking hearts and draining bank accounts for decades, and yet the steady supply of victims is actually surging.

They keep falling for dirty, rotten scoundrels who strike up romantic liaisons with them over the internet and ultimately persuade them to part with their money on the pretext of some financial emergency.

Turns out they were all duped by a bunch of Nigerian fraudsters churning out love letters from a flat in the Malaysian capital.

In fact, more than 140 people have been similarly deceived to the tune of HK million in the first nine months of this year – nearly 100 per cent up over the same period last year.

“A fool and his money are soon parted,” you might say, but those who dismiss the victims as gullible airheads who deserve it may want to note that many of them are educated and informed professionals such as doctors, lawyers and teachers.

Professional matchmaker Ariadna Peretz of Maitre D’ate has a simple explanation pertaining to inherent human nature: “We never think it will happen to . Once the scammer gets us hooked it is hard to think straight.” Another dating coach, Valentina Tudose of Happy Ever After, has explored the impact on victims of such scams, mostly characterised by trauma, shame, and low self-esteem.

“Being a victim of a dating scam can make someone hyper-vigilant and mistrusting of any human interaction which can ruin their chances of ever being in a relationship again,” she says.

Tudose attributes the victims’ vulnerability to a combination of desperation and age – the familiar “leftover women” syndrome.

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