A con artist posed as Hollywood action star Jason Statham to cheat a "star-struck" British woman out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The victim was targeted in a scam through Facebook and WhatsApp, and groomed into thinking that she was messaging the British star of The Transporter and The Fast and the Furious.

The fraudster posing as Mr Statham told her he loved her, tricked her into believing that he was going through financial problems and demanded payments of £20,000 a time, leading to a series of wire transfers amounting to six figures.

The victim said she was going through a vulnerable time after the deaths of her mother and fiancé, and police believe the sick criminal who preyed on her – calling her "baby" and "honey" – was operating from overseas.

The person told the woman, who is from the North West of England, that he could trust only her with his money and he wanted her to be the "special woman beside me for the rest of your life".

The woman, told the BBC she is a strong person but let her guard down when she wasn't "in the right place" given the personal tragedies she had been through.

She said the scam began when she visited a Facebook page dedicated to Mr Statham, and someone contacted her posing as the actor.

The woman said: "I thought 'Oh, that's nice of him, talking to his fans'. I might have been star-struck then, I don't know."

The con artist then switched to using encrypted WhatsApp as they exchanged hundreds of messages over several months.

According to a recreation by the BBC, in one series of messages the fraudster wrote: "Just send £20k this night and tomorrow you do the same then by Friday it's already done.

"Baby. Where are you I miss you.

"Talk to me baby. Baby where are you."

In another exchange, the con artist wrote: "Will you love me and be the special woman beside me for the rest of your life honey.

"I really need you to do this for me honey cause I can't trust anyone but you with my money honey."

He also asked the woman to send selfies.

During that time the woman thought she was building a relationship with Mr Statham.

The fraudster told her he loved her and claimed a film payment was delayed, and asked her to help him through financial problems.

The woman believed his story and sent a series of payments totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds.

She refused to reveal the exact amount.

She added: "It was a substantial amount, which would have made a difference to my life and my family."

After making multiple payments, she eventually contacted Greater Manchester Police (GMP) to report the fraud.

The Economic Crime Unit launched an investigation but determined the fraudster was operating from overseas, and the force was unable to charge anyone.

The woman's ordeal has emerged as police warn fraud has hit "epidemic" levels in the UK.

Det Con Craig Moylon, who was involved in the probe, told the BBC that the GMP receives reports of about 1,000 fraud victims a month, and that is likely just 5-10 per cent of the actual number of victims.

He described it as "the volume crime of the 21st Century".

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