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"Money is therefore inadvertently transferred to bank accounts controlled by the criminal group members who then send the money abroad and ultimately withdraw it as cash," Europol said.With internet romance scams, victims are targeted by creating fake profiles on legitimate internet dating websites.They also use many aliases, emails, photos, gender, age and sexual orientation in order to cast their net to catch as many victims as possible.Often the scammers use attractive female photo profiles because lots of men will respond to an attractive woman's personal ad based on the photo alone.They also tend to target middle-aged people looking for stable relationships.

" From internet cafes all over west African countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Senegal etc scammers are zeroing in on their prey - singles looking for love online. The Nigerians call them 'maghas' which is slang for gullible white people.

"The criminal group relied on a network of accomplices who operated a sort of coordinated 'bank run' within a few hours in order to make cash withdrawals from bank accounts chosen as final destinations," Europol said.

The Nigerian dating scams target the lonely and vulnerable.

"Hundreds of individuals and dozens of companies in Europe and beyond have become victims of the sophisticated techniques employed by the criminal group via so-called payment diversion and Internet romance scams," the Hague-based policing agency said.

A payment diversion is when criminals hack a company's communication system and change the account numbers for payments to suppliers and customers.

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