A divorced mother of three was taken for £80,000 by 419ers posing as a US soldier, the Daily Mail reports.
Kate Roberts, 47, of Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, was hooked when she posted a profile on Friends Reunited Dating in October 2009.
She was soon "exchanging emails with a man calling himself Sergeant Ray Smith and chatting to him several times a day on MSN Messenger".
Smith claimed to be a US soldier serving in Iraq, sadly widowed with an 11-year-old daughter. The gang provided pictures of the apparently "muscle-bound" soldier and his "daughter" to bait the trap, and began to reel in their victim with an initial request for £225 for a phone line.
Then, "a man with an American accent calling himself Mark began ringing her almost every day," the Mail continues.
Roberts said: "I did have doubts, but everything he told me sounded reasonable and I was in love. He told me he couldn’t tell me much about his job for security reasons and I accepted that."
In a textbook operation, the scammers then ramped up the requests for cash, including one for £20,000 to buy the "leave passes" Smith needed to be united with his cyberlove.
In total, Roberts coughed up £80,000 in "regular payments of thousands via Western Union". She "even paid cash directly into what she believed was his bank account as he told her he had no money".
The sad truth was revealed when she organised £12,000 for "one of his friends to pay for his airfare to Britain and he suddenly stopped contacting her".
Roberts explained: "One day he just stopped emailing me and didn’t call me. I drove down to an army base in Cambridgeshire, which he’d told me he had been in for three years, but they had never heard of him. I called the police and my phone company traced the phone he had used back to a mobile number in Nigeria."
The victim was later forced to sell her home to pay off the debts she racked up at the hands of the Lads from Lagos.
She concluded: "Aside from losing the money I feel like I’ve lost the love of my life. I know he wasn’t real, but the feelings were real to me and that’s very difficult to come to terms with. Hundreds of other women must be getting conned right now." ®