Houston artist scammed out of $130K due to crypto scam | #datingscams | #lovescams

An 82-year-old Houston artist claimed he recently was swindled out of his life savings by a scammer masquerading as a federal agent and now he’s urging others to learn from his mistakes.

Richard Hall, a painter with a studio at Sawyer Yards in First Ward, said a person going by the name of Alan Lee from the Federal Trade Commission contacted him around March, claiming they were attempting to identify hackers in his bank account. 

“A few days later he called me and said he found about 10 or so hackers in my system, they’re going to keep looking, and they are going to put out some wire transfers to see if that gets any activity or interest from them,” Hall said.

Hall remembered the first wire transfer not being that much money — either $4,000 or $5,000, Hall said.

Then the scammer began to pick up in intensity, having Hall install the software AnyDesk, an application allowing the hacker to remotely access his computer.

“He’s going through my emails and so forth, thinking he’s getting data. I didn’t know what sort of data, but he got a lot of it, no doubt,” Hall said.

Over the course of several weeks, the scammer would go into Hall’s account to move money from one bank to another through either wire transfers or cashier’s checks. The scammer reassured Hall they were simply moving money around to protect it and they were purchasing small amounts of Bitcoin to generate interest and bait the hackers.

Throughout the scam, Hall said he was “being groomed,” claiming he would have conversations with the scammer about life and food. The scammer said they were from northern India, and Hall said they would exchange recipes — Hall tried to teach the scammer about gumbo.

“I was being so naive,” Hall said. 

In early July, Hall said the scammer had him move about $130,000 from his retirement account in two $64,5000 wire transfers to a company that flips currency into Bitcoin. 

It wasn’t long after he transferred his money when Hall received a call from his bank informing him he may have been involved in a scam, Hall said. 

Hall said he contacted the Houston Police Department on August 28 and the FBI the next day. The Chronicle confirmed with HPD that Hall submitted his complaint. 

Since his money was converted to cryptocurrency, Hall said the FBI indicated there wasn’t much they could do to get his money back. Although one of Hall’s friends, Rob Gladstone, created a GoFundMe to help Hall, he mostly wants others his age to be vigilant about these types of scams. 

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s 2022 Elder Fraud Report, there were 88,262 victims of internet-related fraud over 60 years old, a total of $3.1 billion in losses. According to the report, cryptocurrency-related losses reported by the elderly increased by 350 percent in a single year.

Cryptocurrency scams are popular because they are harder to track. According to the Federal Trade Commission, only scammers demand payment in cryptocurrency. The most popular cryptocurrency scams involve promises of large investments or through online dating. Scammers will also impersonate well-known companies, law enforcement, utility companies, and in Hall’s case, government agencies.

“I’m trying to tell everybody, all my colleagues at the studios, to be careful, go check with your parents, your grandparents, and make sure that they don’t get scammed,” Hall said. 

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