It had all the qualities of a fairy-tale romance to Cassandra Tan (not her real name): meeting an eligible American-Chinese businessman online and falling in love, with the promise of a happy-ever-after.

But she was just being led down the garden path. Over two years, Ms Tan, a clerk in her 50s, was not only cheated of $80,000 by her online “lover”, but she had also been manipulated into being a money mule.

She first met the man on Facebook in mid-2018. He claimed to be a 59-year-old American-Chinese businessman working for “Keppel” and doing so overseas.

He proceeded to spin tales, claiming, among other things, that his money had been “taken by the CIA”, and that he and his staff were “trapped at Customs and needed money to get out”. He also sent images of “himself” in hospital, feigning serious medical emergencies.

“I started falling in love with him. I also took pity on him and wanted to help,” she said.

This ruse went on until October last year, during which Ms Tan transferred $80,000 of her savings to him over multiple transactions.

But it was not over. The man asked her in May this year to allow him to use her account to purchase bitcoin credits. He made three transfers of $5,000 to her account between May and June, telling her to keep $500 each time she bought bitcoin credits on his behalf.

“Every transaction, I kept $500 for my own usage. As he owed me so much money, I thought it is only right for me to keep $1,500 for myself,” Ms Tan said.

The police stepped in after they detected the suspicious transfers. It later came to light that she had not only been the victim of an Internet love scam, but was also being made