A postman told today how he sank into depression and debt after losing £130,000 in an internet scam involving Nigerian fraudsters.
Shane Symington described how an apparently innocent friendship that he formed with an American woman through the MySpace website turned into a 'nightmare' as he started handing over money.
The 32-year-old said he was friends with 'Angela Gates' for several weeks in the spring of 2007 before she suddenly started asking for money to pay for her mother's funeral and medical expenses.
He said the requests then carried on for money to pay for legal fees so that the woman, who called herself Angela Gates, could free up land that she had inherited apparently worth $2million.
Duped: Shane Symington with the MySpace page of 'Angela Gates', who was really a Nigerian man
The requests continued throughout the year and, by last year, Mr Symington had handed over his bank details and more than £100,000.
He said that he became suspicious when the woman stopped communicating with him and contacted what he thought was a website run by the FBI in America but which turned out to be another scam.
Mr Symington, of Portsmouth, Hampshire, said he then got a text message from his 'friend' Angela who revealed that it was all a fraud.
Exotic beauty: Mr Symington was led to believe that this model was his friend
'It said that it was all false and that Angela was actually a man from Nigeria', Mr Symington said.
'I guess he came clean because he thought he had taken all the money he could.'
But his problems did not end there as he was then contacted by another woman, again from America, claiming she had also been caught in the scam.
He said that he then helped pay her legal expenses and the cost of hiring two ex-FBI agents in an attempt to regain the lost money for both of them.
Mr Symington said that he now believes that these people are also involved in the scam. He said that he had paid out more than £30,000 to them, bringing his total losses to more than £130,000.
Warning: Mr Symington wants others to be extremely careful before handing money over to people, like he did for 'Angela Gates' (right)
He said: 'I feel sick from it all, I feel disillusioned, they have just played on my good nature. I've lost my life-savings, I have two loans and credit card debts, I'm in huge debts because of all of this.
'Before this happened, I used to go out every night, now I just stay in because I've lost all the self-confidence in my life and I don't have the money to go out any more. I've also had five weeks off with depression from work.'
Warning others to be extremely careful before handing any money over to people they have met through the internet, he said: 'It's just wicked people getting everything they can get out of people.
'You just can't trust anyone on the internet. I want to warn people but I know I won't be the last to fall for something like this.'
Detective Constable Jon Knox, of Hampshire Police, added: 'This is a very sad situation, and this man has now parted with a huge sums of money through his own good nature - in trying to help others and then to recover some of what he had lost.
'We do not want anyone else to fall foul of this kind of shocking activity and I would warn anyone who is asked for money over the internet by people they do not know to refuse and not put yourself at risk.'
A police spokeswoman added that there was little police could do to help Mr Symington get his money back.
She said: 'The money cannot be recovered due to the current political situation in Nigeria, resulting in a lack of co-operation from the police in the country.'
***THE DAILY MAIL ONLINE.