An Ontario man says he has been left shattered after falling for a $260,000 cryptocurrency scam that drained him of his life savings.
“I’m absolutely devastated about it,” the man, who only wanted to be identified as James, told CTV News Toronto. “I couldn’t eat for at least six days. I’m still in the process of recovering … they pretty much flushed me out.”
James said he was on a dating website and met a woman who said she could teach him how to make money investing in cryptocurrencies.
He said he started with $1,000, but started putting in more money when it looked like his investments were going up quickly.
“I went to the bank and I got two amounts of $50,000 and then another one was for $30,000,” James said.
In the end, he said he gave the scammers more than $260,000 and lost it all.
He said he’s been told by authorities that once the funds are sent to scammers they are almost impossible to trace and get back.
“I would highly suggest not to take any financial advice from people online that you’ve never actually shook hands with or met in person,” James said.
March is Fraud Prevention Month, and Toronto police issued a public safety alert this week after noticing an increase in cryptocurrency scam cases in the city.
HOW THE SCAMS NORMALLY START
Toronto police spokesperson Const. Jenifferjit Sidhu told CTV News Toronto it often starts with an invitation using social media to make easy money.
“The emails, the texts, the downloads are sent to anyone and everyone. It doesn’t discriminate,” Sidhu said.
A woman uses her computer keyboard to type while surfing the internet in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, December, 19, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
She said scammers will then ask victims to invest a small amount to earn their trust, and then use fake websites that show massive fake profits.
After that, the thieves will come back to the victim seeking more money.
“Once they obtain your personal data and your personal information it’s given to a fake investment broker,” Sidhu said. “It may look like you’re making money, but in actuality you’re not.”
Cryptocurrency fraud is happening worldwide and the Global Anti-Scam Organization (GASO), an organization founded to help scam victims, said that criminals will use various methods to manipulate victims into giving them money.
“You have scammers who are talking to their victims for months, sort of just trying to gain their trust, and they’ll talk to their victims for hours on end,” Grace Yuen, with GASO, told CTV News Toronto.
Scammers may allow victims to take out a small amount of money to gain trust in the beginning, but once a lot is invested it becomes nearly impossible.
Scammers may also tell their victims they need to pay taxes or others fees to gain access to the funds, but paying mor money is just another part of the scam.
The Global Anti-Scam Organization has about 55 volunteers worldwide and as of December 2021, GASO connected with over 910 victims who had losses of more than $144 million.