The victim of an online crypto dating fraud in Tennessee claims she lost $390,000 that belonged to her and her father after falling for the hoax.
Nicole Hutchinson, 24, inherited her mother’s house after her mother passed away. She sold it and split the money with her father, who was also 24 at the time. The $280,000 she received as an inheritance was intended to assist her family and start a new life in California.
Hutchinson started using the online crypto dating website “Hinge” to meet new people before relocating to California to meet people. She claimed to have met a man who identified himself as “Hao,” and the two became friends.
Anna Werner, a Consumer Investigative Correspondent for CBS News, spoke with her about how she felt a great connection when he revealed that he was born in the same city in China as Hutchinson was adopted. He was ready to invest and cryptocurrencies, and he encouraged her to consider doing so.
“‘I’m like, ‘I’ve never put money into anything in my life.’ Cryptocurrency is something I am also completely unfamiliar with. As a result, I was skeptical,” she explained. Hutchinson stated that Hao assured her that this was a territory he was familiar with.
In her statement, Hutchinson said that Hao instructed her to create an account on Crypto.com’s legitimate website Crypto.com. Her statement continued with him sending her another link and instructing her to make a cash deposit into a new link, which he said was a cryptocurrency exchange platform.
She said she began with tiny sums of money but quickly progressed to greater sums.
“He simply kept saying things like, ‘Look at this money that can help sustain your family,’ and other similar things.
That’s exactly what I intended to do,” she explained. When her account began to show earnings, she proposed to her father that he invest as well, which he agreed to do.
Their accounts had accumulated a total balance of $1.2 million by December, and Hutchinson thought it was time to cash in. That’s when the website informed her that she would be required to pay a substantial “tax bill” of approximately $380,000 before she could withdraw her money.
She concluded that the bitcoin investments were fictitious. All of her and her father’s savings had been diverted to the scammer’s account. “I’ve made a mess of my life. I made a mess of my father’s life, “Hutchinson made a statement.
He soothed her and encouraged her when she broke down and told her father about the scam.
“All I could do was hold her and tell her that everything was fine. ‘It’s all right.’ And it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy. It was a complete disaster, and we lost everything, “Melvin Hutchinson expressed himself.
According to a recent report, they are not alone: bitcoin fraud victims lost more than $7.7 billion in only one year in 2021.
As a co-founder of Cipherblade, Rich Sanders is responsible for investigating cryptocurrency scams. Upon reviewing Hutchinson’s transactions, he concluded that they resulted from “a pig-butchering scheme.”
‘The name derives from the process of fattening up before slaughter,’ Sanders explained.
According to Hutchinson, her money was discovered to have originated in those legitimate bitcoin accounts. Despite this, the thieves’ links instructed her to transfer the money to digital wallets owned by the scammers, which she did.
Cipherblade’s investigation discovered additional bogus accounts that, according to the company, appear to be related to the same criminals. According to CBS News, the scammers are believed to have stolen more than $20 million from the corporation.
Bernie Sanders believes that the money was most likely used to fund an organized ring of scammers operating out of Asia who preys on unsuspecting people who lack financial sophistication.
According to Hutchinson, “I think he played off the fact that I was naive and didn’t know anything about cryptography, and he took that and ran with it.”
Hutchinson and her father reside in his recreational vehicle, and they hope that sharing their story would help others avoid falling victim to the fraud.
“I sincerely hope that others are not duped in the same way. So if sharing this story may assist in that effort, I am extremely thankful for the opportunity,” she explained.
Crypto.com advises clients to take precautions to ensure that any accounts into which they transfer money are legitimate.
The firm takes a proactive approach to risks and takes down any wallets associated with a scam as soon as they are discovered. Dating service Hinge informed us that it takes fraud “very seriously” and has trained content moderators who check for signs of fraud on its platform.
Crypto romance fraud increases during Valentine’s week
Even though it is just a few days before Valentine’s Day, fraudsters are targeting individuals under the guise of romance, but with a unique spin that involves cryptocurrencies.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States has issued a warning about the surge in romantic scams over Valentine’s Week, with the current trend targeting your digital assets.
When it comes to cryptocurrency, a romance scam is usually defined as creating phony accounts and persuading a vulnerable person to invest or transfer bitcoin funds under the pretense of being in a romantic relationship.
This is the traditional way in which this scam operates. The scammer creates a fictitious identity and attempts to acquire the trust and confidence of the victim by speaking about themes that are relatable to the victim.
This is referred to as “social engineering.” Once the victim’s confidence has been established, the scammer would take the victim to a bogus website or application that offers an investment opportunity, in this case, a bitcoin investment opportunity, to complete the scam.
Afterward, the scammer requests that the victim register with a fraudulent bitcoin exchange. After the victim has made an initial investment on the platform and has seen a supposed profit, the scammers would allow the victim to withdraw a modest sum of money from the account they created for them.
Eventually, the scammer urges the victim to invest more money than originally planned. Scammers invent a reason the victim would be unable to withdraw monies once more when the victim is ready.
The victim is suggested that more taxes or fees should be paid or that the required less account balance has not been met to process the withdrawal request.
At times, a “customer service group” may be involved in the scam, which is also a part of the scam. Victims cannot withdraw any money, and scammers almost always cease contact with the victim once they stop sending new dollars.
Tips to save yourself
- Do not make an investment decision based on the advice of someone you only met online.
- Do not reveal your financial situation to someone you do not know or who you do not trust.
- Make sure you never give out your financial information, copies of your identity or passport, or any other confidential material to anyone on the internet or to a website that you are not sure is real.
- Unbelievable riches are most certainly what you will get if you invest or trade on an online investment or trading site that promises them.
- People who claim exclusive investment options and push you to move quickly should be avoided at all costs.