How a dating romance turned into a nightmare

By Jessica Elgot, June 23, 2011
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A woman who was tricked into believing she was conducting an online relationship with a Jewish bachelor has described her humiliation after the "romance" turned into a nightmare.

Elian Cohen, 37, had been using the JDate dating site because she wanted to meet a British man before relocating to London from Tel Aviv.

She met "Phil" and the pair spoke for two hours online every night. Although they never met, he sent her poetry, described his favourite restaurants and spas in London.

"Phil" also spoke about his well-paid job as an engineer and confided in her when he claimed his young son was diagnosed with a terminal illness.

It was only when he claimed to have been robbed on a business trip to Dubai and demanded Ms Cohen send him $1,300 to pay hotel bills, that she became suspicious.

Ms Cohen searched online and discovered the poems were from a Michael Jackson tribute website and the restaurant reviews were copied from online examples.

It soon emerged that "Phil" was a series of professional internet scammers sending her messages from a script.

Ms Cohen said: "I thought I was a smart, savvy woman and I thought I could spot a fraud a mile away. I replied very selectively to JDate. But he seemed interesting. I wasn't suspicious when we spoke on the phone.

"I've checked the IP addresses of the computers and it could be many different people all over the place sending these emails."

Now Ms Cohen is determined to raise awareness about scams and has started a blog detailing her experiences.

She said: "It's happening to men as well, but obviously they're even more embarrassed. Women are just more likely to talk about it.

"Because we're on JDate, we think we're safe, because we think everyone's Jewish. I have complained three times. This time is a serious case. I cancelled my subscription.

"I will never, ever do online dating again. My heart's very sore and I feel very embarrassed. My Prince Charming doesn't exist."

JDate was unavailable for comment but a message on its website informs members that it does not conduct background checks on subscribers.

    Last updated: 1:20pm, June 23 2011