Crypto fraud victim: “I realised I’d been had, good and proper”
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A retired Essex businessman who lost £6,000 after being approached on LinkedIn by a glamorous fraudster wants to warn others about the dangers of crypto currency scams.
Stephen*, 68, lives with his wife in the north of the county. Until he retired, he ran his own successful building company. Financially, he said, ‘I’m not desperate for money, let’s put it that way.’
Earlier this year, Stephen was sent a message on LinkedIn by a woman called Alice who claimed to be a finance director in Washington DC. In reality, she was a fraudster who used her good looks and apparent business acumen to lure in victims.
As a long-time LinkedIn user, Stephen was used to being approached on the platform, usually by people making sales pitches.
After some polite chat, Stephen said Alice asked him to move onto WhatsApp.
On there, the conversation turned to crypto currencies.
Stephen said: “I had an interest Bitcoin, but I didn’t understand how the system works. We started chatting along those lines and I went along with it. I thought I might learn something.”
Alice said that her uncle worked in banking in Hong Kong and that she’d successfully made money with his help. She encouraged Stephen to get involved.
Stephen downloaded trading apps and a virtual wallet to keep his crypto cash in. He set himself a limit of how much he was willing to lose.
After some early successes, Alice told Stephen to log into another trading app and talked him through a series of trades her uncle had apparently recommended.
“All of sudden there were three transactions on the screen,” Stephen said. “She was telling me, ‘Quick, buy long. Buy short!’ And by the end of it I’d made $600. I went along with it on several occasions. I was saying to myself this is too good to be true – and it was.”
Stephen transferred another £2,300 into the trading account.
By then Alice was sending Stephen photos of her “looking glamorous” behind the wheel of expensive cars and telling him that he's wonderful and she’d never felt like anyone like him in her life.
Stephen said, “She was also telling me she can help me make lots of money. She asked me to buy $50,000 (for the trading account), then this went down to $20,000. Then she offered to loan me $12,000. I told her that I didn’t need the money and thought, why is she doing this?”
With Stephen’s attitude hardening, Alice bizarrely started asking him why he didn’t love her anymore and then asked him for $5,000 for a first-class ticket to come a visit him - the classic tactics of a romance fraudster.
When Stephen point-blank refused her demands, Alice’s tone changed.
He told her he was in hospital to see what her reaction would be. She told him, “Do you think I care if you’re ill or dying?”
Stephen stopped all communication.
Using an IT expert friend, Stephen tried the recover the $11,000 he thought he had sitting in his trading account. The account was inaccessible. It was a fake trading site.
“I realised I’d been had, good and proper,” Stephen said.
Incredibly, he then found a story on the Washington Post about a retired police detective and how he’d been one victim of a $66m crypto currency scam fronted by Alice. He recognised the tactics the detective described.
At this point, Stephen contacted Action Fraud who forwarded his case to the police.
Stephen is now a member of our romance fraud support group and hopes that by sharing his story it will stop other people falling into the same trap.
He said: “I’ll do whatever I can to help those like me, or those who have lost even more than me. Nobody likes losing money. I didn’t put in more than I could afford to lose but this might not be the case for others.”
If you believe you’ve been a victim of romance fraud, call us on 101. For other forms of fraud, you can also contact ActionFraud – the national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre – by clicking on the link or calling 0300 123 2040.
Read more about the tactics romance fraudsters use here and on the Action Fraud website.
*Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of the victim.