RESIDENTS are being warned to stay vigilant after a woman fell victim to a romance fraud in County Durham.

The woman was befriended by a man on a dating site who pretended to be a businessman with links to Dubai.

After grooming her for a several months, he persuaded her to launder more than £100,000 through her bank accounts.

He asked her to set up a bitcoin account and from there she has deposited the money into the man’s bitcoin wallet.

The woman was interviewed in connection with money laundering but officers are satisfied she is a victim of romance fraud and was used as a money mule.

Officers are investigating but want to make people aware of the dangers of romance fraud.

Detective Constable Lindsey Coates said: “This was a particularly distressing incident for the victim who had been groomed for a number of months by the fraudster and genuinely believed he loved her.

“Most of the recent scammers live abroad and they invent a cover story for that - some claim to be in the forces, some are working abroad in construction or oil industry to name just a few.

“Never give out your personal details until you are sure that the person exists.

“Most scammers try to move onto personal communication straight away, however it is much safer to communicate on the dating site’s messaging service.”

DC Coates is advising people not to rush into online relationships and tell family and friends about dating choices – fraudsters will often tell victims not to tell others about them.

He said people should never send money or share bank details with anyone they meet online, no matter what reason they give or how long they have been speaking to them.

To make a confidential report of romance fraud call Action Fraud on 0300-1232040.

For more information about romance fraudsters, visit