Liz Ziegler, fraud prevention director at Lloyds Bank, said: “The convincing lies told by fraudsters mean that while romance scam victims think they are falling in love, they’re actually falling for a scam. As well as losing thousands of pounds they also have to deal with this emotional betrayal.
“The sad truth is there was never any genuine connection, with criminals ruthlessly targeting multiple victims at the same time, and disappearing with the money as soon as they get found out.
“While online dating should be a fun and empowering experience, it’s vital that people are able to spot the warning signs, to keep both themselves and their loved ones safe.
“If you’ve started an online relationship and the discussion turns to money – regardless of the reason or the amounts involved – then alarm bells should be ringing.
“Never send money to people you’ve never met in person, no matter how much you’ve spoken online. Talking to a real-life friend or family member can be a good way to sense check what’s going on.”