If you go looking for a partner online, you can also come across scammers. News sites are full of stories about people who thought they’d found love when they were, in fact, just scammed out of a lot of money. Often the police cannot do anything on the spot, the perpetrators are usually based abroad.

In the case of a gang in Mallorca, however, investigators were successful. The fraudulent heartbreakers had tricked women all over Europe from the Spanish holiday island and stole more than a million euros. The love swindlers pulled out all the stops, even an actor was used for fake video chats, as the Spanish police on the Balearic island have now announced.

For years, the actor fooled the gullible and perhaps somewhat lonely victims into believing that they were dealing with a US soldier deployed in distant countries who had fallen madly in love with them. At some point the first call for help always came, only a quick bank transfer could save the alleged “lover” from alleged injustice.

A Spaniard from Alicante was hit the hardest, transferring a total of 830,000 euros to her internet treasure over the years. In the end, she even took out loans. The scammers came up with all sorts of excuses to get money from the woman. Sometimes the “soldier” surprisingly had to pay some fees, finance urgent certificates, buy plane tickets, take out life insurance, pay bribes – there are hardly any limits to the imagination.

Women from Germany, Italy, Spain, Finland, Luxembourg, Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Croatia and Slovakia were also taken in by the love scammers, a total of at least 20 victims. The police were initially unable to say where those affected came from in Germany. Nor whether they lost as much money as the Spaniard.

The woman from Alicante lost all her savings and even took out loans in order to be able to send more money, according to the police, who became aware of the gang through this case. The desperate woman made a total of 75 transfers, mostly to accounts in Malaysia, Indonesia and Spain. Once, in her distress, she even sent a wad of cash with a courier service. It took the police months to find out what happened to the woman’s money.

The gang are said to have built a criminal network consisting of so-called mules — helpers — who opened bank accounts that were then funneled with money from the internet scam until their trail was lost. Some of the stolen money was also invested in bitcoins.

According to the police, a total of 16 people between the ages of 19 and 31 from Spain, Romania, Mexico and Cuba as well as other Latin American countries have now been arrested in Spain, 15 of them in Mallorca alone.

The suspected gang leader, a 27-year-old man from Nigeria, was among those arrested. They were charged with fraud, forgery and membership in a criminal organization, it said. The police spoke of “one of the largest operations in the fight against cybercrime in the European Union”.

Online love scammers are always looking for their victims in Germany, too. On this page, the Hamburg police give tips on how to recognize love scammers and urge you not to send any personal data or bank details to people you do not know. You should never respond to demands for money.

Sources: dpa, Hamburg police

See this video: When Gunnar Prielmeier clicks on a link that a stranger sends him via SMS, he initially thinks of nothing bad. Then he gets a bill for 500 euros – and the expenses don’t stop. He has become a victim of “smishing”.