‘Police closed my £120k dating fraud case the day I reported it – and my banks won’t refund me’ | #whatsapp | #lovescams | #phonescams

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​Dear Sally

I fell victim to a romance scam after matching with a 33-year-old man named “Adam Lambert” on the dating app Happn. I had been using the dating app on and off for a while and met some nice people so felt comfortable with this match. 

He led me to believe that he lived in Waterloo, London, and claimed he had moved from Milan to the UK to set up an investment trading company. When I checked out his name on Facebook and Instagram, he appeared genuine. 

The photos and other information matched up. He even sent me what appeared to be family photos. Nothing untoward came up when I used the Google reverse image application to check his authenticity.

I regard myself as intellectually and technically savvy, but after a difficult year of living and working in a virtual world during the pandemic and experiencing burnout, I became desensitised to what was happening to me.

After some days of talking online to this guy, he offered to teach me how cryptocurrency works. He helped me set up an account with the Binance platform. He then sent me an invitation link to an international trading platform app called ATFX. 

I did some research to determine if it was legitimate and it seemed to be. I now realise what I was using was a scam app and not one affiliated with the real ATFX platform. He got me to make payments from Binance into a fake cryptocurrency wallet exchange, where he made it look as if he was teaching me how to trade and accumulate coins.

The payments started off at a low level and I was permitted to make small withdrawals to prove the concept worked. I felt I was in control. 

However, once the money reached a certain level, “customer services” asked me to provide photo ID and pay 25pc of the profits, which amounted to £30,000. I was told this was tax owed due to Brexit. I tried to withdraw some funds but I was not allowed to as I was told I needed to pay a “risk deposit” of £15,000. 

It was at this point I got suspicious and the penny finally dropped that this could be a scam. I refused to pay the money.

I then suggested to the guy that we should meet and he phoned me for the first time via WhatsApp. His voice sounded Chinese, which did not match his dating profile. I realised then he had used another person’s identity. 

I kept him on the phone for as long as I could to collect more information, even though I felt sick the whole time. Afterwards I immediately contacted my banks, Santander and Barclays, as well as Action Fraud, Citizens’ Advice and Victim Support.

I alerted the dating site, which blocked his profile. I went to the local police station where I had to relive all that had happened. They took the details but closed the case later the same day, saying that due to a lack of information about the suspect, it will not be investigated. 

All in all, I have lost £120,000. Santander refused to refund me and I am waiting to hear from Barclays. I am ashamed that I let this happen to me and am in therapy to understand why I became so trusting and unable to realise what was going on.

Anon, via email

Sally says:

What happened to you is appalling and, tragically, almost a carbon copy of a case I reported on in April, where another young woman was tricked into parting with tens of thousands of pounds by a crypto scammer, after getting to know him through a dating site. You saw this coverage, but sadly it was after you had lost your life savings, possibly to the same gang.

In the previous case, after I intervened, the victim had £20,000 returned by her bank, Lloyds, as a goodwill gesture. The bank said it did this because she had taken out a personal loan for this amount but not gained from it in any way. 

I contacted your two banks, Santander and Barclays, to see if they could find it in their hearts to refund you with at least some of the money stolen by the scammers, as the sophistication of the fraud and the control they employed was obvious. Surely the pattern of payments would have seemed suspicious?

Both banks said they were sympathetic but sadly, despite my best attempts, they did not hand back any of the money you lost to the online love rats.

Santander looked into your case and found it had stalled several of your payments to Binance, as well as one large international payment, when it suspected potential fraud, so it could check directly with you before proceeding. But a spokesman said you waved through the payments, despite being issued warnings both about scams and the risks of cryptocurrency investment.

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