A WOMAN from Grange-over-Sands lost £25,000 in a sinister internet scam.

And her harrowing story, which she has courageously described to The Westmorland Gazette in the hope it will be a warning to others, may just be the tip of the iceberg.

MP Tim Farron said at least 12 other constituents had contacted him advising that they had fallen victim to similar scams.

And horrifyingly, one South Lakeland resident has lost a six figure sum with no apparent hope of recompense, shattering their dream of a comfortable retirement.

The Grange woman, who is in her sixties but did not wish to be named, said the situation arose after she was advised to invest a large sum of money that was already in her bank account.

In the absence of a local branch of her bank to offer advice, the woman carried out extensive online research and came across a website purporting to be that of a prestigious Swiss based investment company.

The 'company' claimed if she purchased a bond, they would invest the money with an reputable US banking giant and promised high returns.

"I'm computer literate and everything looked in order and a family member checked and they believed it all to be genuine," the woman recalled.

After contacting the 'company' by email, she spoke to its representatives several times.

"Everything on the website had been cloned from genuine websites and it was all entirely convincing," the woman said.

The representatives, who the woman said spoke perfect English with a North East accent, even called her back on several occasions to discuss the investment.

The woman subsequently made an online transfer of £25,000 to a German bank account as instructed and was promised an emailed receipt.

When this did not arrive as promised, she emailed the 'company' but received no reply, and further subsequent emails and phone calls were also unanswered.

She realised to her horror that she had been the victim of a scam, and though she immediately contacted her bank's fraud team, their attempts to track down the money via the German bank have proved fruitless.

The woman said in addition to the financial repercussions, the whole affair had caused her untold anguish and had a devastating effect on her mental wellbeing.

"We all think we are too clever to fall for things like this and when I realised I felt absolutely violated," she said.

"The effect was like a family bereavement and it ruins your confidence and self esteem."

The issue has caused increasing concern and most UK banks have now signed up to a voluntary code, which comes into force next month, which will require them to refund scam victims.

However, Mr Farron said this does not apply to current or previous victims such as the constituents who have already contacted him, and the Westmorland and Lonsdale MP has met with banking trade organisation UK Finance and calle don it to revise the code to include past cases as a matter of urgency. He has also written to Secretary of State for Business Greg Clark detailing his concerns.

Mr Farron added pointedly that the Grange case and many others would not have happened if a local bank branch was available.

"The alarming trend of bank closures in our towns and villages means that banks have a duty to start properly protecting people from the huge threats that come with online banking," he said.

"Banks are pressuring people into doing their banking online but it is leaving them open to online scams."

Police advise anyone who suspects they may be victims of such scams to contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

In addition, the Grange scam victim said the takefive-stopfraud.org.uk website and support groups contactable via #Tell2toprotectmany on social media had proved very helpful.