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Tinder Scammer Cons Victim Out of £6,000 in Cryptocurrency Fraud

APP Fraud

The victim thought she was talking to a potential romantic match, but he was only interested in her life savings.

A woman from Cheshire has shared her story of being duped by a romance scammer who convinced her to plough her life savings into a cryptocurrency investment scheme.

Natalie Foster, a 42-year-old from Cheshire, warned others about cryptocurrency scammers using dating apps like Tinder to target and defraud victims, after she lost £6,000 to a scammer, known only as ‘James’, on the app.

Ms Foster and James chatted for a short time on the dating app about their shared interests before, she says, he began to talk “incessantly” about cryptocurrency. After a week of talking, ‘James’ convinced her to open a crypto wallet, deposit her own money, and begin to make trades, telling her about an uncle of his who had made a significant amount of money with cryptocurrency. A crypto wallet is a piece of online software that holds the owner’s cryptocurrency ‘keys’ and access to ‘coins’.

Over four transactions, Natalie transferred a total of £5,900 into a crypto trading platform that ‘James’ recommended and initially saw ‘profits’ on her trades. She was told via WhatsApp by an individual claiming to be “James’ uncle” that there was an upcoming “once in a century” deal that would give her profits of 800%. She was then told that a subsequent trade had returned a profit of £67,000.

Unfortunately, when Ms Foster went to look at her trading platform account, she saw a message saying that she had exceeded the limit on the amount that could be held before seeing the amount drop to zero. A call to customer services for the trading account resulted in her being told that she owed 20% tax to a New York bank account—a total of £20,000—which ‘James’ transferred £4,000 to help with.

The spell was only broken when Natalie mentioned it to her ex-partner, who told her she had “literally fallen for a textbook crypto scam”. She realised that none of the purported profits had come back to her, and when she confronted ‘James’, he allegedly told her to “go and die quickly” before unmatching her and disappearing.

Natalie’s story is an unfortunate combination of a romance scam – in which the victim believes that they are sending money to a potential romantic suitor – and a cryptocurrency scam – in which the victim is sold an investment opportunity that is either unregulated or does not exist.

Cryptocurrency scams often start on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, either as adverts or fake pages making big claims of high financial returns, but dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, and Plenty of Fish also provide an opportunity for scammers looking for their next victims. Scammers can use fake images, names and bios to reel in unsuspecting singletons, gain their trust, and persuade them to ‘invest’ in their cryptocurrency scheme.

Romance and cryptocurrency scams are common types of Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud in which scammers manipulate victims into willingly transferring money from their bank account to a new payee. In romance scams, the scammers use dating apps and social media platforms to connect with individuals and begin a ‘romantic relationship’ in order to manipulate the victim into sending money or personal information.

APP scams rely on the ‘faster payment’ systems employed by most banks, where the victim authorises an instantaneous payment (that they believe to be genuine) to the fraudster’s account. Usually, the money is then moved straight to another, often overseas, account, and the funds can no longer be traced, leaving the victim out of pocket and the fraudster nowhere to be found.

‘I feel stupid, I feel ridiculous – I can’t believe I’m one of these women I read about in magazines.’ – Natalie Foster

If you are the victim of a romance – or cryptocurrency – APP scam, it is essential to put any embarrassment aside and contact your bank and Action Fraud, the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre. If you have lost money, that may lead to a criminal investigation by the police.

Banks should investigate and try to recover the money from the receiving bank. However, given that most scammers quickly move the money on, getting a refund is usually impossible.

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) has made some important recent decisions about Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud and the banks’ responsibility to their customers, awarding victims significant refunds where banks have been negligent. FOS is an independent body set up to settle disputes between financial institutions and their customers. If you disagree with the bank’s investigations following a scam, you can take your case to FOS, who will conduct an investigation into what happened and how the bank dealt with it.

The nature of a dating app may mean that some intense flattery, an over-keenness to speak to you outside of the app, and over-sharing of ‘sob stories’ may seem like part and parcel of forming a romantic connection, but users need to know the difference between a genuine suitor and a fraudster.

In Natalie’s case, she and ‘James’ bonded over shared interests, his love of dogs, and she said that he “looked like a really good-looking guy… and was being very forward”. Unfortunately, these can all be warning signs of a romance scammer. Some other red flags that the person you’re speaking to may not be as authentic as you had hoped include:

  • Scammers will often use images taken from the internet to make their profiles, sometimes using model or glamour shots to look more attractive, and their profile information will likely be surface-level or vague.
  • They might try to get you to use other chatting apps very quickly, such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or SMS texting apps, to circumvent the safeguards that dating apps have in place to spot scams.
  • To establish an emotional connection and trust with the victim, dating app scammers will express strong feelings such as love at a very early stage, but will never agree to meet in person.
  • As the scammer is unlikely to be who they say they are, they will consistently avoid video calls so as not to be caught out!
  • To avoid raising suspicions with the victim’s friends and family, the scammer will often ask to keep the relationship and any financial transactions a secret.
  • Ultimately, the scammer will ask you to send them money; this may be small amounts at first and for a range of apparently plausible reasons such as ‘family emergencies’, plane tickets, or medical treatment. They may also ask you to invest in a ‘low risk, high return’ cryptocurrency scheme – as in Natalie’s case – but the only person getting rich quick is the scammer.

While none of us want to believe that the person we’re connecting with is, at best, a catfish and, at worst, a criminal, it is important to stay vigilant on dating sites, especially when it comes to your money.

Sarah Spruce, Legal Director and Head of the APP fraud team at TLW Solicitors, commented on the case:

“Natalie’s story is an unfortunate but not uncommon mix of the romance and crypto scams clients come to us with all the time. The scammer has preyed on an individual looking for a romantic connection and used the trust built between them to defraud her out of her life savings.

The main thing to remember if you or a loved one have found yourself in a similar situation is not to feel embarrassed or ashamed, these frauds are happening all the time. It is important to quickly report the scam, and – if your bank refuses to refund – contact my team to discuss next steps, including investigating the possibility of making a ‘no win, no fee’ compensation claim.”

The specialist team at TLW Solicitors is experienced in successfully dealing with claims against banks and escalating them to FOS where necessary, even where initial complaints have been rejected. We understand the time limits to be followed, the technical information needed and the claims and appeals processes. We have robust case management systems in place ensuring that your refund claim is progressed as quickly as possible, as well as keeping you fully up to date at every stage.

If you, a friend or a relative has been conned into making payments to fraudsters through dating apps or online banking, please contact our specialist team for a confidential, no-obligation conversation.

You can call us on 0800 169 5925, email info@tlwsolicitors.co.uk or complete one of our enquiry forms below.

Time limits can apply, and so anyone wishing to bring a claim should do so without delay. Minimum case values apply.

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