A MAN who was conned out of £25,000 by two women he met on a dating website is urging people not to send money to anyone they meet online.

The victim is speaking out as Essex Police revealed it received more than 220 reports of “romance fraud” between November 2020 and October 2021, with victims conned out of more than £2.1million.

One man was scammed out of £25,000 during lockdown by two women he met on the dating site Plenty of Fish.

Initially, they asked for small amounts of cash around £50, before getting up to £300 a payment.

He said: “I looked at the situation and thought I’d been a fool. I was going to write the money off but I thought I’d get the police and bank involved and they were brilliant.

“They were beautiful women and I was suckered in. It’s just natural to be drawn in. I think a lot of men would have done exactly the same.

“I thought I was in love with them both. I wasn’t thinking straight.”

“Romance fraud” often involves the victim being duped into sending money to criminals who gain their trust to convince them they are in a genuine relationship.

A spokesperson for Essex Police said: “Requests might be highly emotive, such as criminals claiming they need money for emergency medical care, or to pay for transport costs to visit the victim if they are overseas.

“Scammers will often build a relationship with their victims over time.”

Chloe Rudd, who was previously the Prevent and Protect Fraud Officer for Essex and set up the victims’ support group, said it is more common than people realise.

She said: “It is estimated that only 20 per cent of frauds are reported and that people need to arm themselves with the knowledge that may prevent them from becoming victims.

“People don’t report fraud because they’re embarrassed and blame themselves, but fraud criminals are doing this all day, every day and become very good at it.

“Criminals spend time researching their targets to build a profile so the victim will feel they have lots in common.

“They then use this to manipulate them. It is more targeted and organised than people realise. It is big business.”