A WOMAN IN Ireland who fell victim to a ‘romantic scam’ after meeting a man on Tinder said she wanted to showcase her experience to help prevent others from being scammed in the same way.
A few months ago the woman – she asked us not to use her real name, so we’ll call her Fiona – was using the dating app when she met a man and started chatting with him.
“He was a good looking guy, he had a decent profile with a description of himself and we connected and started talking,” said Fiona, in her thirties. The newspaper.
“It moved pretty quickly to WhatsApp, but it didn’t raise any alarm bells for me because people usually move to WhatsApp if the conversation is going well. “
She said by the time she matched this man the app was showing his location less than a mile from where she lived in Dublin and he spoke familiarly about the area.
His profile indicated that he worked between London, Paris and Dublin. He explained to her that since he often traveled for work, he couldn’t meet in person.
“He was nice, we got to know each other, we asked questions and were completely normal, talking about work, our interests and life in general. “
Looking back, Fiona said he was “pretty enthusiastic” – but she said there was no reason to suspect a sinister reason for that.
“He talked a bit about his job, he didn’t go into a lot of detail, but over time he started to bring up the fact that he was trading cryptocurrencies.
“He said he did it with friends and once he said his friends were coming to his house for dinner and they were going to chat together.”
For weeks, she said, there have been subtle mentions of this business activity. At this point, he wasn’t asking her to get involved.
“It was more about planting seeds,” she said.
“It wasn’t until after the conversation started that he said ‘you should join in and try, I can teach you’.”
The man Fiona was talking to sent her a download link for an app, which she later discovered was a copy of a legitimate website.
Come to think of it, she said, that should have been the first red flag.
“Obviously, you should never download something like the one someone sends you. ”
If I had gone to my desktop and entered the details at the time, it would have signaled that this was not the real site, but I clicked straight.
It was total neglect on my part, but it seemed the same and investing is not something I did myself, I didn’t know it. I thought that was something it would be good to know more about.
She explained how the sophisticated scam is set up in a way that convinces victims that they are investing in something legitimate and that they can get their money back anytime.
“So at the beginning you invest a small amount of money and he shows you how.”
“At this point, you can actually withdraw funds so you can believe it’s real and I didn’t worry about it. Obviously, there is someone behind this trading system who frees money up knowing that it will build trust.
Then you see after you send money you make so much money, you are doing fine with this thing. I probably should have tried removing it again, but since I was making money, I left it there. We did it quite often – every day, sometimes a few times a day.
Fiona said the man she was in contact with wasn’t pressuring her and felt like she was willingly participating in the investments.
“Something was really wrong”
The situation worsened when the bogus trading platform announced an “anniversary bonus” which users could sign up to to increase their funds.
The man Fiona was talking to said he would send money to her account so that she could get that “bonus” and once the transaction was completed she could just pay it back.
She signed up, but he never sent her the funds and she started getting alerts from the website telling him that if she didn’t pay the funds by a certain date, her account would be emptied by 5% every day. .
“That’s when I started to realize,” she says.
No website would do that – maybe they would freeze your funds or charge you a one-time penalty for something but not empty your account. I was under tremendous pressure, so that’s when I thought something was going on, that something was really wrong.
At this point, Fiona had invested more than 10,000 €.
She confided in friends, who advised her to try to get the man she was talking to to chat with her on a video call.
He refused, giving an excuse about a former ex-girlfriend who tried to blackmail him into sending videos to his family. He also claimed he tried to send her funds, but failed to send a screenshot of her attempt when she asked.
Fiona said the conversation had grown “intense” and that evening she had started searching for more information online about the man, but had found nothing on social media or elsewhere.
“I researched the [investment] website and there were pages flagging it as non-real and potentially unsafe.
“Before that, I was still in denial because he had invested so much time in the conversation, it never entered my head, it could be a scam. It was a relationship in a way – I know I’ve never met him and I don’t think I was in love with him – but part of you feels like you’re in a relationship.
The next day, she went to report the incident to Gardaí.
“You feel like it was all a lie and it’s pretty devastating,” she said.
If there was no money at stake you could just move on, but you gave your savings and you are really disappointed with yourself and the choices you made. You feel a lack of confidence in your own ability to make decisions. I wouldn’t say I’m a stupid person, it’s embarrassing.
Fiona shared with her family what happened and her closest friends, who she says have all been supportive of her.
Gardaí confirmed to The newspaper that they investigate the incident.
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They have already warned of so-called romance scams in which fraudsters slowly gain the trust of their victims.
In an incident previously highlighted by Gardaí, an Irish woman was showered with expensive gifts, including scarves and perfumes, before she was asked to invest in her suitor’s business.
Over a period of thirteen months, the woman gave the fraudster € 48,000. The woman initially delayed reporting the fraud to gardaí because she was married.
The scam that targeted Fiona is a common method of international fraud, with new victims every day. Last month, a popular Canadian fashion blogger shared her experience, which was similar to Fiona’s in many ways. (You can watch his video below).
Gardaí said it was not known how widespread this scam was, as many victims are too embarrassed to report it.
Fiona said that was the reason she was motivated to share her story.
“I want to raise awareness, I don’t think it’s going to go away, it’s only going to get worse.”
Thinking back on the situation, she said she could have figured out a number of things.
“There were minor things that didn’t fit and I attributed it to bad English,” she said. The man had voicemailed her early in their interaction, and Fiona said English was not her first language.
“You have to be careful that their English is great when talking about trading, but not as good when talking about other things, so watch out for that.
Check the people you talk to on social media or make a Facetime call with them, find a way to protect yourself. At the end of the day, don’t give anyone money under any circumstances.
Gardaí also provided a number of tips to avoid falling victim to this type of fraud, in particular:
- People need to be careful about the amount of detail they share on social media;
- Beware of conversation snippets that are out of sync with previous chats, as scammers use scripts;
- Never send money to someone you’ve never met, or invest in “opportunities” without asking for financial advice.
“If you think you are a victim, contact your bank immediately. The faster you act, the better the chances of recovering lost funds, ”said An Garda Síochána.
“Don’t be embarrassed to report it to gardaí. You’re not alone. They are professional fraudsters who use social engineering and financial grooming tactics. “